She cannot POSSIBLY be giving advice again...

I’ve learned many valuable lessons these past 18 months of blogging. Some have warmed my heart and others have sent me to my knees in thanks. Then there are those that have been a bit more painful – but just as important none-the-less.

When I first began this journey, I had NO idea what I was getting into. NO IDEA. I was in the early stages of this “writing” path, and jumped in with both feet, holding my nose in one hand and my laptop in the other.

Throughout this process of growth I’ve learned that there are four (or a billion) VERY valuable lessons that I am compelled to pass on to others who are blogging, AND hoping to keep their jobs.

Most of you know about the “Sharp Right Turn” that my life took when the “powers that be” in my school district (here in South Dakota) found out about my blog. I did, however, make it VERY EASY for them to find me. I, well, let’s see, I used my REAL NAME, the NAME OF MY SCHOOL, and managed to slip in the real names of some of my kids a couple of BILLION times.

“I am never being mean, or hurtful,” I thought. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t change my name.

Guess What?

It does.

It was in the middle of the day while teaching, that I received “the call” that shook me to the core, and forced me to evaluate what I was doing, and why.

(Here are a few posts from then, if you care to catch up.)

What have I learned up to now throughout this healing process? I would LOVE to share. (And because I LOVE lists, here’s the “crap I learned” list. Feel free to print and post in the “teachers who blog” newsletter.)

1. Never, never, NEVER use the name of your school, town or state while writing your blog. There are no first amendment rights for teachers. Did you hear that? No. First. Amendment. Rights. Just accept it, and move on.

2. Do NOT use your own name, or the names of ANY CHILDREN in your classroom on any blogposts. Don’t ask, just do it.

3. Do not blog, or check other blogs while at school. A school/writer friend of mine looked me in the eye (when I was crying the blues) and told me, “Vodka, they are not paying you to blog. They are paying you to teach.” And you know what? He was right. So, when you don’t hear from me between the hours of 7:30 and 4:00, and do not see any tweets, it’s because I am fully present at work. I am re-committed to that job that I love, and will not jeopardize it - no matter what hopes and dreams are alive in my heart.

4. Do not say anything in your blog that you wouldn’t want your co-workers, your friends, your FAMILY members and your loved ones to see. Because guess what? One day they WILL see it. I write with that knowledge tucked deep into my soul, and it keeps me honest, and real.

In a nutshell, I think what I keep close to my heart are these truths- be authentic, be who you are, and be anonymous.

Your blog reflects who you are, what you are made of, and what you hold in your heart.

And I, for one, always strive to be proud of it.

(By the way - thank you all so much for your votes over at Babble. I am honored to be in the top ten. There are some big names pushing some of the others up the ladder, and I promised my friends and relatives that I wouldn't beg anymore. I can't offer donations, or any more chidlren, so I bow to you all, and tip my hat. Some days it's just better to let the chips fall where they may. As long as they're bar-b-qued and land in my BOWL, I'm a happy camper.)

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Grace's Mom said...

Unfortunate you had to learn all of that the hard way - thank you for sharing!

When I first started my current job at a TV station, a gal was fired because she was writing really awful things about our company and coworkers in her blog. Quite the scandal!

Your advice applies to every profession.

SweetPeaSurry said...

Those are excellent ideas to live by ... which is exactly why I try to stay as anonymous as possible when it comes to the interwebs, with the exception of Facebook. There's the rub sistah!

Anyway ... all names have been changed to protect the innocent, including my own, and I plead the fifth ... I have the right to remain silent.

brightest blessings dear!

Irene said...

I created a whole other Facebook person to play games because even though I'm an independent contractor my clients would comment that I played too many games. Even though it has nothing to do with my work.

Just one of those things.

mo.stoneskin said...

All valuable lessons. And all this time I thought your first name was Vodka.

LadyFi said...

With social media making our lives so transparent, we must think of our online persona as an extension of our own and never ever post something that we would be ashamed of if our kids read it...

Compassion and kindness are the words here!

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Trac~ said...

Great advice, for sure! I'm sorry that you found out the hard way but either way - definitely something for us all to keep in mind. My office has completely blocked my ability to comment, much less post, at work, so I am safe in that regard - however, I am still able to at least read my favorite blogs daily - YAY! :o) Have a great day! xoxoxo

cheatymoon said...

Thank you. Very smart to share it all. I think I'm good, but when I sneak and read a blogpost in google reader during snack time, I get nervous. So I guess should stop sneaking, and eat a snack.


Deb said...

great advice. i didn't know, however, that you had moved from oregon! ; )

citymouse said...

It takes a strong person to learn from a mistake and then turn it around in their favor. I didn't read you before the shoe dropped, but I love you now. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Brian Miller said...

great words of wisdom VM...you never know who is reading...

PippaD said...

Great advice, and I also think that we should arrange for all new bloggers to read this so that they don't make thesame mistakes that we had to learn ourselves!

Mrs. E said...

Great advice! I've learned a lot through you. I saw your blog within the first 3 months of starting my blog--and then you were gone for a bit. I paid attention. (We don't have to make all the mistakes ourselves!) And I thank you. You make my life a little easier- and I rarely leave your blog without a good laugh or a few tears! You are the best!!

Lori P said...

Thanks for the advice. So true. It's hard to remember the rules when you're in the throws of writing. Guess that brought it home, huh?

Carrieann said...

I did tell you that I got fired from my job because of my blog, right? I was a manager for a clothing store at the mall, and I was careful to never name my company or spill confidential info. I did, however, name my pregnant assistant and say that I hoped her baby would be ugly. (She was a heartless bee-yatch.) I hate that I got fired, but I still hope she has an ugly baby.

Michele said...

Never for a million years think that employers don't know where you are. Guess what the first thing they do when you apply for a job? Yep, check the all the social networking sites on each candidate.

Cora said...

Yeah, I keep thinking about this kind of stuff too. You see, my ex is just likely to find my blog one day, I know it. He found me on ebay and stalked me there, then confronted me about things of mine I'd been selling which he believed I should have kept. It was ugly and scary. I felt violated.

At first I figured he couldn't find my blog because I don't use my last name there. Wrong. I googled my name and can find my way to my blog pretty quickly. Ooops.

And, well, since I'm marrying a man I met in Blog World it's just bound to come out sooner or later, isn't it? The ex is going to want to know how we met. Everyone in my family knows how it happened, so there are plenty of people who could blab.

*sweating profusely*

Sometimes I just want to confess and let him know I have a blog so I can stop worrying about it. But that would be the death of my blog, for sure. There's not much I want to say if he is in my audience.

Somehow I think this is all google's fault. Grrrrr.

Rick Daley said...

I saw a news report of a teacher who was suspended for 30 days becasue she went to a bachelorette party where there was a male stripper, and someone else took a picture and posted it. From what I understand, she was just there, not photographed doing anything depraving.

But then again, a school in southern California recently banned the freaking dictionary from its shelves because of obscene content. What can you do?

Stacy Uncorked said...

Well said. Sorry you had to learn the hard way, but I'm glad you were able to find a way to keep going! :)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Yes we have to make sure our blogging and our internet use at work don't get us into trouble.
I never had a problem with Vodka, I mean VodkaMom at work.


The Good Cook said...

Great advice to longtime and new bloggers alike. I tell my teens all the time - be careful what they post on facebook - theirs and their friends. EVERYTHING comes back to haunt you sooner or later.

justmakingourway said...

Very good advice from someone who knows where you're coming from on the anonymous thing!

I (blushingly) admit that I have been using a lot of time at work to blog. Lately I'm being asked to do a lot of new and different things which is good, but it's also really cutting into my blogging time! I have to learn to carve it out at home.

Shannon said...

I work as an HR consultant for a huge company. I decided right up front to never, ever mention who I work for or the more remote thing related to work, except for the fact that I am over the top stressed on some days. I have scanned blogs during lunch, rarely. But, since I do consulting, I am well aware that any client could look up my name and find me on google in about 1/2 a second. I don't censor myself, I drop a few swear words, but I just keep it all strictly non work related. Also, I can tell you that first amendment or not, most companies now are developing actual blog policies related to employees blogging about work activities. It's such a fine line we walk. My blog was listed in the NY Times. I didn't tell a soul at work, I was terrified. My boss called and said, THIS IS SOOO COOL! WHEW! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you :-) take a look this emo boy style on this blog:

Kim said...

Yep, blogging as if you are in the witness protection program is the way to go. I learned the hard way, too!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Way back when you and I first started blogging (within a couple weeks of each other) I wondered how you handled having everything so "out there". I worked as a para-professional at our elem school and was terrified they'd find out about mine. Parents and school boards can be so damned nitpicky about teacher's personal lives which I don't think is fair. Though changing names and not using pictures of non-family is the wise way to go. Was it the little girl who had the funny outfits' mom? What exactly "got you"? I try to be as anonymous as possible.... don't want discovered.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I blogged at school in my downtime, too. You aren't the only one.

Anonymous said...

kep it real, very well said my friend;)

Formerly known as Frau said...

all great advice!

TC said...

If only people would care that much what I say??
Seriously I just took some identifying information off of one of my blogs, I'm sure someone could still find it but it will take a bit more digging now.
THANKS for the reminders.

TC said...

If only people would care that much what I say??
Seriously I just took some identifying information off of one of my blogs, I'm sure someone could still find it but it will take a bit more digging now.
THANKS for the reminders.

shrink on the couch said...

I hear you need to drink a lot of vodka to keep warm up there in South Dakota.

Anonymous said...

At least you didn't have to learn the hard way like I did. I got fired.

w said...


that's about all there is to say about that.

Juli said...

I have a post brewing on this topic. I use a version of MY REAL NAME, and my blog is not a secret. Sometimes I've written about people I know (mostly without using their real names). These people were upset that I wrote about them.

Lesson learned? I'm really not sure yet, because I wrote the exact same stuff that I told these people to their faces. I guess the written word is more powerful than I thought.

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The Mind of a Mom said...

I don't mean to be ignorant and I may be looking at this differently but why would you get in trouble? Why would someone get fired? In less you are slandering people, places and things these are your thoughts and feelings. I'm glad to know you are happy. Cause I love your stories!

Yankee Girl said...

This is my very first time at your blog and my heart is hurting for all that you went through. Those are GREAT pieces of advice.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant wisdom often comes from life's hardest lessons. You're better, stronger and smarter for having survived the shitstorm.

justsomethoughts... said...

i'd prefer that they be kept in the nutshell
but thats a whole other story...

North West London Girl said...

I think when I began blogging I knew that keeping my identity private/secret would allow me to be more open and honest about what goes on here. Thank you once again for sharing your wisdom. xxx

Coffee with Cathy said...

Thank you for reminding us of this hard-won advice, Deborah -- but sorry for your painful experiences in learning it.

Carol said...

This is great advice for those of us just starting out! I'm sorry you had to go through all that but thanks for sharing your experience with us. I have to confess I have checked your blog a couple of times at school but fortunately I can't post to my own. (I also can't access Ebay which is a very, very good thing!) I am seriously going to print off this post and hang it by my computer!

Unknown said...

I was also just recently shocked with the sleuthing capabilities of some family members. My blog is foremost to update my family/friends on what's going on with us. But, I'm a little more liberal on Twitter. I have my tweets go directly to facebook, but I always go over to facebook and delete anything not meant for loved ones to see. I have a link to my twitter account on my blog and always make sure to stack some tweets on top of a more private tweet so it doesn't show up on my "most recent tweets' on my blog. Well, my sister...who is VERY new to having internet at home recently shared that she reads everything I write now. My blog, my twitter account...the archives of my twitter account. gol-LY! I was wondering how my mom found out I was asking advice about anti-depressant side effects on twitter. Now they are SO worried about me! Learned my lesson for sure and I can't believe I was so dumb about it!

Vodka Mom said...

and Rule number FIFTY- I take my tweets off my blog.


G. B. Miller said...

Good advice.

Me personally, the only person that gets identified from the personal stuff I write about my job, is me. And only me. All screwups that I was involved with, identify me by name. I've been doing that since I stated in May '08.

Beyond that, the only other identifiable people are the wonderful politicians that have been running my screwed up state into the ground.

Everyone else gets psuedonyms. Makes life easier, plus I tell the people who I plan on writing about, that I'm writing about them.

One more thing: I definitely don't do it from work. Electronic survelliance and all that good stuff.

Suzy said...

Be authentic
Be anonymous


I'm glad I don't have to hide any info on my blog because if I speak ill of a family member or group or friend, it's because I want them to know THAT I'M TOO BIG A COWARD TO SAY IT TO THEIR FACE.

And as a comic, anything I say on a blog has already been said in my act. Only with more swear words although I know you find that hard to believe.

Kate Hanley said...

I got it once (from my bosses) for some posting on Facebook which I didn't mean in the way it was taken. Anyway, good words of advice. I try always to be positive on my blog because honestly I don't want to offend anyone no matter how offensive they are!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This was such a great post! Thanks for the advices!

Krystal Grant said...

Start working on your book. Seriously, teachers have soooo much to write about. We deal with 25 little characters in our classes all day long and we have endless stories to tell. You can make your superintendant the big bad wolf it you want. Just don't use his name. LOL. That's what happened with the movie Shrek. Shrek is actually modeled after Michael Eisner! It made Dreamworks a lot of money! I wish you all the best! Let me know when you're coming to Atlanta for a book signing. I'll be the first one in line.

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Kate Coveny Hood said...

#4 is so true for EVERYONE! While I don't have a "job" anymore - this SAHM thing requires being present and not glued to the computer. This is one of the reasons why I am usually very behind on reading and commenting. I no longer have a lunch hour, time before the work day officially starts and the odd break here and there.

Interesting how advice so specific to teachers and actually ring true for all.

I'm so glad that you were able to weather that time and keep your job and you blog AND your sanity. You are a wonder...

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A Woman Of No Importance said...

You are wise, witty, wonderful, and also very, very generous VKMom!

What's with those spammers! How dare they sully your shining doorstep! Bless you for your goodness in passing on your hard-won knowledge, precious! xox

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mepsipax said...

See... this is why I am ever so secretive about my blog. I never associate my work, name, kid's name, eye color.... ok you get the point. Good advice though.

Rachel Cotterill said...

My absolute non-anonymity is what keeps me sane (and on track with #4). But then I don't teach, and nor do I have kids of my own to worry about, so it's a different game.

Everyday Goddess said...

I love this post!

I had to do some 'splaining, and it wasn't fun at all!!

I love you too!

Vodka Logic said...

Makes a lot of sense. I work in a hospital and we have privacy drilled into our brains. Only seems fair.

Thanks for the wise words

Captain Dumbass said...

Good advice, and you deserve to be in the top ten.

Lorraine said...

I was not that concerned about my "school" blog before, but have taken your well-respected advice and hope it doesn't come back to bite me in the ass some day. (I don't mean the advice.)

Lori P said...

Hi! Oops it's me again. I posted above. But that's not why I'm posting now. Being the fabulous teacher that you are and, well since you have more than my 28 followers, I thought you could spread the word better than me. I've posted about stillerstrong.org, a charity set up by ben stiller to build temporary schools, clean water, etc. for the Haitian children. Here's my link: http://whatsafter29.blogspot.com/2010/02/ben-stiller-and-slacker.html and here's the link to SS: http://stillerstrong.org Use whichever one you wish. I'm not going for a plug here, just someone to successfully pass the word along. :)

Thanks a bunch!!

Erin said...

Wow - that sounds like a really scary experience. My blog is currently small and anonymous. I like writing for an anonymous audience. It's hard to imagine knowing people reading.

Enjoy your SITS day!

Ron said...

you got my vote!

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