For those of you who have never met me or heard me speak, I used to be a fixer (now I am more of an optimizer). As a fixer, I was the guy who was called in when the situation was desperate, dangerous, or stupidly self-inflicted. What I’m going to discuss over the next two posts is how to avoid the stupidly self-inflicted problems. These are the problems that destroy very smart and capable people because they assume “it will never happen to me.”
Here is practice number one. Get your own private e-mail address and use only that mailbox. Even for your school correspondences. So that also means that you need a professional e-mail address. It’s time to let go of “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Why do you need your own personal e-mail address? Well there are a number of reasons but let’s hit the big ones.
First, your school email belongs to the district and it is being archived. When the new superintendent decides that he wants your position for someone who is on his team, your e-mail is the starting point for making your life miserable. Here’s how:
To begin with, there will be a lot of messages going back and forth. Obviously, you are ignoring your real responsibilities and spend too muck time on the computer.
Next, you have sent and received lots of messages from friends and family members. Do you make a habit of misappropriating all district resources or just bandwidth?
Also, some friend or relative has sent you an inappropriate or off-color joke. Are you a sexist, a racist, or both.
And you seem to get a lot of e-mails that deal with v!@gRah and like products. Exactly what kind of pervert are you?
Readers that’s just the easy stuff. Then there is the fact that by law, districts have to archive every e-mail. This is so it can be used for discovery. That means court cases and hearings. Ever mentioned an employee by name in an unfavorable light? Ever messed up and indentified a special education student by name? Congratulations, you just gave the other side the stick to beat you with.
And finally, there is the issue of public information. Anyone can ask for your e-mail messages and then use them however they wish. And if they are asking, it’s not because that want to name you educator of the year.
All of this is solved if you use your own private e-mail. There is no public information, there is no indefinite archiving, and there is no discovery. Thus, there is no problem.
Now for those of you who think that I’m paranoid, all I can say is one man’s paranoia is another man’s cautious awareness. I’ll close with this one story that happened to a Lead Your School reader. I was working with this school leader and I gave him the same advice I just wrote about. Though he was skeptical, he humored me and started using his private e-mail. Six months later this radical, anti-tax internet paper sent a public information request for all of his correspondences. He responded with a yawn, because there were no public correspondences to give. The radical nut jobs fumed a little bit, gave up and then went and made someone else’s life miserable.
Think. Work. Achieve.