Should we set parents an email code of conduct?
Email has taken over most of our lives.
It permeates all parts of our social and work spaces: our phones ping when an email is received, our laptops light up when a message is incoming and most discussions between colleagues usually start with “Did you get my email?’ However, email communication between teachers and parents is a relatively new concept.
Suddenly parents have a new way to get in touch with their child’s teacher, with the option, and usually expectation, of an almost instantaneous reply. Is this the new way to solve parent queries with the touch of a button or is this 24 hour access asking too much of teachers?
A split verdict
Last week we asked our newsletter subscribers what they thought about this topic; did they think parents should be able to send emails to their child’s teachers?
There was a surprisingly wide variety of responses ranging from positive to negative. The split seems to come between the primary and secondary sector.
Problems are dealt with immediately
One reader talked about how she always replied to her emails within 24 hours which made it easier for her to solve issues before they came a bigger problem, particularly within her tutor group. I think this is a natural consequence of the different relationship primary and secondary school teachers have with their classes. In primary, teachers usually see parents at the end of every day and can bring up any incidents there and then. This results in less emails being sent as the issue has usually been dealt with. Secondary teachers probably won’t see the parent that day as the child will walk home by themselves. Therefore, a pre-emptive email could stop something from blowing out of proportion.
Vital for pupil progress
Another reader went one step further and suggested “Parental contact was vital for pupil progress”. This is a statement I can’t really disagree with, but does it have to be through emails? She suggests it’s part of our job to relay information to parents, sometimes through a weekly update if a child has SEN or behavioural issues.
Email or face-to-face?
I completely agree that the best parent-teacher relationships are secured through regular feedback that is honest and positive, rather than sporadic and negative. However, is email superior to face to face contact? I have often mis-read an email thinking that the tone was rather harsh, then met the parent and realised they were just trying to get their point across.
The working day is often spent chasing our shadows; maybe its time to listen to all these time-management gurus and just send a quick email.
Natasha brought up the final point that I wanted to raise in this post. Emails mean parents now have access to you 24/7 with no filters on what they can say or demand from you. There are no opening hours for email; it is a constant deluge that can continue way after your head hits the pillow. However, you can be in control of it.
I only check the school email during school hours; if it’s an emergency a member of SLT will contact me. I don’t have to read an email if I don’t want to-it will still be there in the morning!
Email code of conduct
Perhaps the answer is to have some universal guidance on how and when to access school-related emails and the window of time for replying to them. Parents should be sent the expectation at the beginning of term so they know when to expect a reply. There should also be a code of conduct for what is acceptable to write to a teacher, and how they are expected to reply. If any of these rules are broken, the email will be forwarded to SLT.
What does the future hold?
Maybe we are living in the glory days of parent-teacher communication, and in years to come we will remember the simpler days of writing a message and pressing ‘send’. In 10 years time, robots may have taken over our classroom duties and will send drones home with a report read to a parent by a hologram. It couldn’t get any worse than that, surely…
Let us know what you think! Are you for or against parent-teacher email contact? Leave your comments below.
Further reading on the topic of email workload…