Monday, August 5, 2013

Don't Let Your Mugshot Define You

Recently I spoke with a friend who feels trapped in his current position as an administrator because a mistake he made over ten years ago has been routed out by his tech savvy students and is now the first thing that shows up when his name is Googled.  My advice to him was, Don't let your mugshot define you.  

Who hasn't done something stupid during that treacherous age between 18-21?  This is the time for many of us we leave home and are on our own.  Mom and Dad aren't there to guide us any more and more than likely a group of 18-21 year old friends become our sounding board for what is "appropriate" behavior.  Group mentality kicks in due to the lack of reliable adult supervision leading many down a path that comes back to bite us once we have matured enough to think like our parents; not our drunken friends.  For me, my careless behavior made me a single teen mom on welfare.  For my friend, an arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct created the mugshot his students gleefully Google and throw in his face.

Own it.  You made a mistake or two when you were younger.  Trying to hid it never works and lamenting over it surfacing just keeps you a victim to your mistakes.  Instead, claim it and turn it to your advantage.  So you were an angry young man with a grudge against authority.  The drunken parties and friends egging on your anger and feelings of injustice didn't help either.  Are you still behaving the same way you behaved ten years ago?  Do you run with the same friends?  Are you making the same mistakes? No? Then you have a powerful, real life story to share with your students.  Own that mugshot! Admit to your students that you made mistakes, you are human after all.  Admit that you know "driving while black" is a sad reality that makes your blood boil and is a seething injustice, but driving while drunk is all on you.  Let them know behavior and reactions to situations set the tone for encounters whether with authority figures, parents or friends.  Remind students that youthful indiscretions and skewed societal views do not have to be the defining realities in your life.  Now a school administrator, a father and on the verge of finishing a doctorate degree YOU get to choose your path, even if there are bumps in the road.  

But what about those of us without glaring mistakes popping up on the Internet for all to see until the end of time?  If a parent or student Googled you what would they find?  If a potential employer wanted to know more about you beyond your resume what would they find?  If the most they can find is your name on your school website is that good enough?  

Audre Lorde,  Caribbean-American writer and civil rights activist, said "“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”   I have taken Ms. Lorde's words to heart and have worked diligently to define myself beyond single teen mom on welfare.  My journey of self definition started with this blog and lead to the development of my eportfolio.  I know that the prospect of putting yourself out there is scary to many educators, but if we don't define ourselves and share the amazing things we are doing in our schools, then the politicians will define us on their own terms.  Is that what you really want?  

Click HERE to access the Google Presentation for my 3 hour hands on ePortfolio session presented at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference June 2013.  Please contact me if you have questions or want some one on one assistance in getting your portfolio/blog started.

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