Friday, July 8, 2011

On Being Relevant

I haven't touched base with my Teaching Underground partner too much this summer break so far, but before the last day of school, we struggled a little trying to figure out what the Teaching Underground would look like over the break. The online community is fickle. We've noticed that a catchy title will generate traffic and a reference to something popular (new Harry Potter movie) can boost visits. Mostly, we find that when we add meaningful content regularly, more than once a week, we have a pretty strong following. When the posting comes more sporadically, the obvious occurs.

I find it hard to stay relevant to the online community. Creating something meaningful that only lives for 2 to 7 days before becoming stale is difficult and sometimes discouraging. Especially when you're engaged in a career in which you hope that your impact will last a lifetime. I find it easy to post during the school year when my schedule is fixed and predictable. But my summers are anything but that.

My last week was spent with over twenty teenagers serving a community three hours away. We lived together and spent our days running a day camp for children and fixing up homes in the neighborhood. I strengthened relationships with teenagers that I work with regularly in our church and created new relationships with people in the community we served. I didn't have time to write because every minute of my day was spent interacting with others.

That's what most of my summer will look like. I will be away from my home, away from a reliable internet connection, often disconnected from the world of news and information for days at a time. I don't feel irrelevant because of that. If anything, I think that sometimes we mistake relevance as understanding the big picture. If we worry to much about the big picture it is easy to forsake the smaller world that we move about in every day.

I'm not sure if this fits in so well with the theme here at TU, but I think that as a teacher, it might be one of the more important lessons to remember. We may not be celebrated on the front cover of magazines. We're likely to be the last voice interviewed on the six o'clock news. Not many of us have a national platform or get called to the big speaking gigs. Honestly, if we are, we just might be worried so much about being relevant that we forget to be relevant to the people that matter the most-- the ones within our eyesight and earshot day in and day out.


  1. I enjoy your blog. It's humble, thought-provoking and honest. While posts may feel "stale" after a week, it's not quite like that. They last, just as conversations last. They endure in the minds of your loyal readers. Keep up what you're doing. Over time people are bound to find a blog that's this good.

  2. Steve,
    Sounds like you are doing "good" this summer. But based on our lack of contact and your inability to win another award for your writing I have decided to begin my own blog titled "Teaching Deeper Underground." It will be similar to the original TU but written with less knowledge and even less skill. Mostly it will strongly profess ill informed positions and spread misinformation. Just like when I am teaching. :) I think it has a chance to be as relevant and change the world like New Coke did.

    As for this have again lived up to your billing as the "thesis man"...someone able to clearly articulate a jumble of thoughts in a meaningful way. To avoid being redundant I will simply add that the concept of summer is really very important. It allows for a change of perspective and mindset that is both liberating and meaningful.

    To make you feel better I will try to continue think of ourselves as completely and totally irrelevant, mirroring the opinions of all influential people in education. I think my opinions serve to keep us grounded and humble (since we author the greatest most amazing life-changing blog ever created). Until TU develops content as poignant and un-annoying as the commercial below, I feel we will simply remain lowly teachers that most of the world looks past most of the time for their views on things. Left to build and forge relationships with those we meet each August and also each year. And I reckon there are far worse fates in the world.

  3. PS
    I'll see your New Harry Potter and raise you a
    US Womens World Cup
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    minnesota government shutdown