The year was 2009. My blog had gotten to be quite popular in certain circles and was getting some traditional media attention. I was taking calls from reporters from major publications like the New York Times for perspective on the arts music scene, and my podcast had really started to connect.
At the same time, I was enrolled in a post baccalaureate eduction program and hoping to teach high school orchestra. It was a strange experience fielding phone calls from major media outlets while walking between classes with a bunch of 18-year-olds. I was definitely the odd man out.
My Big Mouth
I got a call from Doyle Armbrust, one of my longtime music friends who was writing for TimeOut Chicago. This was the heyday of the TimeOut franchise, and the weekly magazine could be found everywhere. I was totally thrilled. Doyle is a gifted writer, and I couldn’t wait to do the profile.
In addition to the crazinessinmylife that you probably know about, I had gotten a particularly scary bit of anti-semitic comment vitriol directed at one of my recent podcast guests. Some of those comments were pretty scary, prompting my wife to ask me to remove any mentions of my home address on the blog.
Doyle and I had a great and quite frank chat about the music business, and I was thrilled with the piece when it came out. It made me look way cooler than I actually am! I had forgotten how much I had cursed in the article, and I cringed a bit as I read some of what I had said. I won’t repeat exactly what I said here to keep the blog G rated, but you can read it in Doyle’s original article (third paragraph).
I had just gotten hired for my first high school teaching job when this came out, and it immediately went to the top of the search rankings when looking for my name. I believe that the words “jason heath” came up with this exact quote:
TimeOut Chicago – Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog
Jun 30, 2009 – Jason Heath is not “a facilitator of the Zionist plot to overthrow the Palestinians.” Yet after … published in Time Out Chicago on June 30th, 2009.
Not “a facilitator of the Zionist plot?” Oh no! That’s the exact sort of thing that a potential employer would click when doing some web sleuthing. Clicking on that would then feature me cursing and talking about how music school is a pile of lies.
I had a tense few days waiting for a phone call from my school’s district office. Visions of conversations like “Jason… can you come in and talk with the superintendent?” danced in my brain. Lucky for me, that call never came, and I successfully flew under the radar into my new job.
One of the things that I’ve heard in all three new teacher training programs I’ve done is to not say, do, or write anything that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper. Well, I’d done something that was landing me on the first page of Google!
New Jobs, Old Skeletons
Two years later, I decided to apply for a new job. As I was putting in my paperwork, I decided to chance another vanity search on Google. What did “jason heath” bring up? That same story!
I vividly remember sitting in the principal’s office doing the “final interview” for the job with two former coaches turned principals. I remember tensing up as they began each new question, waiting for the inevitable probe about my “Zionist plot” or how “You are sold a giant lie when you go to music school.”
Though my blog did come up in the interview, thankfully the conversation never went to a dark place. I guess the good news for someone like me is that while there was one story out there in which I let loose about the music business, there were literally thousands of other articles featuring me contributing to the music world.
Despite the occasional scary comment, putting myself out there online has been 99.9% positive. It seems like you don’t even exist if you don’t have a web presence these days. Also, I more or less relinquished my privacy online years ago. Having a policy of openness has worked well for me, but it’s not for everyone. Having a web presence while also maintaining a sense of privacy is very challenging these days, and it doesn’t look like it’ll get any easier in the near future.
Though everything worked out just fine for me balancing these two worlds, it’s probably not a good idea to put out things that make you sound extreme if you are looking to teach children. I think that I was a special case given the totality of what I had been doing, but if a potential employer goes to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and sees a string of questionable content, you’ll probably be dropped as a prospect in a millisecond.
It may be unfortunate, but teachers really do live in a fishbowl in terms of their community, and they are subject to scrutiny above and beyond what they do in the classroom. Partying to the max in the local bar that all the parents frequent is probably not a super-smart move, for example. Nor is buying three cases of vodka at the grocery store where your students bag groceries.
While it all worked out for me, it’s probably good to follow a policy of not putting extreme opinions on the public record in a teaching job as well!