Staying Relevant

As a teacher with almost 30 years on the job, I worry that I will “fall behind”. I am concerned that my habits, practices, and perspectives are no longer relevant/effective. Students are now swimming in a different sea. Understandings of race, gender and privilege have all evolved and in some way been transformed. Social media has changed not only how students communicate, but also how they interact with the world. Since I’m not retiring soon, I have to find ways to avoid becoming the faculty dinosaur while at the same time preserving some of the reasons why I chose to become a teacher.

In this tension, are a number of key questions:

  • How do I stay a life long learner not just of content, but of pedagogy?
  • How do I become more aware of my biases and privilege?
  • How do I translate my (hopefully) greater awareness into a creating a more inclusive curriculum/ classroom?
  • How do I take what I know and make it accessible/relevant to a new generation of students raised on social media?
  • How do I make sure that I have the energy to teach effectively?
  • How do I do all of the above and still get up in the morning looking forward to going to work?

I hope to build on the work I did at the anti-bias workshop in June. That week touched on many of the issues that I hope to explore in my self-study. In our activities and discussions, I looked at topics I thought I knew through different lenses. I was pushed to become aware of the assumptions and privileges that have shaped my understanding of history and my students. The workshop was also engaging and left me excited about teaching. Although the focus of the workshop was ultimately on developing curriculum, I’m hoping that elements of the process can serve as models as I work through this self-study.

How to actually proceed is still not fully developed. I started by choosing some history that I would have said was interesting, but then not read or watched.  I also want to engage with history in different ways. Instead of just reading I hope to explore art, theater, and physical spaces to try on new lenses and to listen to new voices. Finally, I’m hoping to commit to a more consistent program of exercise.

Some of the things I have done already:

Read (or at least started)

  • The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Frederich Douglas Prophet of Freedom
  • Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past Present and Future of American Labor
  • 1619 Project




  • What’s My Name: Muhammed Ali


  • Adirondack experience the museum on Blue Mountain Lake
  • the VIC center Paul Smiths College
  • The Wild Center



  • 30 minutes 5 days a week (I averaged 4 times until Oct.)

3 thoughts on “Staying Relevant”

  1. Tom, thanks for digging into this work. I think you hit on something important when you observe, “I have to find ways to avoid becoming the faculty dinosaur while at the same time preserving some of the reasons why I chose to become a teacher.” In the context of the change that is taking place around you, clarifying and/or reclaiming the core teaching values that brought you into the work seems essential. In our earlier discussions about wayfinding, these core values are essential to helping us assess where we are at any given moment. It’s also likley the case that in a world that has changed a fair amount over the last 30 years, some subset of core values might benefit from some recalibration. The Teaching Tolerance/Anti-Bias work may be useful here. I think the other thing that is important is the value that transfers when students see their teachers as co-learners. In this way, there is real potential for shared value in swimming in these new seas together. I look forward to your next steps.

  2. This is very interesting! I agree that as a teacher for many years there are things that we have to keep up with in order stay “relevant”. Having the energy to continue on this path is definitely a focus that is important. I also work out five days a week in addition to yoga and meditation practices (not always consistent alas) and I can say for sure that these activities keep me focused and moving forward in my endeavors. If you want a bit of encouragement and motivation, I am happy to be someone that you are “accountable” to relating to this part of your project!

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