Every teacher has been there. It’s 10:30 at night and an envelope icon flashes on the notification bar of your phone, letting you know you just received a new email. Glancing over, you see it’s from a student, panicked about a test the next day, wanting to know if you will cover certain topics. *Sigh*
How can we better manage email communications between school and home? High-school math teacher Robert Ahdoot answers this question in a humorous blog post on SmartBlog on Education. The post, written in the form of an open letter between Ahdoot and email, addresses common email faux pas and offers steps teachers can take to restore sanity and order to their email communications. Here are just a few highlights from the post:
- Don’t feel compelled to reply to late-night emails. If parents or colleagues want to email at night, no problem, Ahdoot says, but don’t feel obligated to reply to these messages. Encourage parents and students to call or text if there is an urgent or time-sensitive issue to discuss.
- Set time boundaries for replying to student emails. Avoid getting sucked in to the “energy vortex” of students who wait until the last minute to ask questions. Instead, let students know you will not respond to messages after a certain hour.
- Don’t clutter inboxes with nonsense emails. Everyone knows someone who does this—that co-worker who frequently forwards silly jokes, cat videos or other useless information. Respect your colleagues’ time, Ahdoot says. The occasional humorous email is fine but routine offenders risk earning reputations as “nonsense senders” and having their emails ignored.
- Wait before responding to inflammatory emails. Some parents cross the line with their email correspondence. When that happens, don’t respond right away. Instead, give yourself and the parent some time to cool off, Ahdoot recommends. Doing so can give both parties necessary distance for a better, more productive dialogue.
- Handle emotional student emails in person. Students often use email to communicate what they are unable to express in person, Ahdoot says. When you receive emails from worried or anxious students, respond gently with an invitation to talk with you in person. Email is an effective way to convey information but “does not do justice to the heart,” Ahdoot says. In-person conversations are often the best way to address emotional or sensitive issues with students.
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