What if no parent-teacher emails are allowed?
I have a confession to make. I, an educator, recently replied to my daughter’s teacher in an email saying how we all fear them. She had found out about several missing tasks, which I really appreciated. It also implied that my daughter, a high school girl, had purposely not made herself available that morning during the online class. We were in the middle of a move and that day my daughter logged in to class from our real estate agent’s house. She was having trouble connecting to the internet and kept her camera off with people coming and going in the background.
Still, I should have let go of it 100%.
Or dealt with it more diplomatically. It was the last week before the winter break. The teacher was tired. I was tired. My daughter was tired. Instead, I released my stress and frustration. I wasn’t very nice I later emailed me to apologize.
I always tried to be careful how I communicate with my daughter’s teachers and wanted to send the email I wanted to receive. And yet, in that moment, I forgot my own rule – it was as easy as hitting the send button.
Teacher made assumptions and I made assumptions again right away.
I know I am not alone when I say that one of the most terrifying aspects of teaching is the daily burden of parental email exchanges. Parents are worried, frustrated, and sometimes downright angry. Email is a far too easy way to get teachers to receive these emotions. The toll on these exchanges is substantial. Recent research has shown that rude emails can have a lasting and detrimental effect on the daily lives of their recipients. These effects extend to sleep, family life, and general wellbeing. Rude emails also decrease productivity.
Simply put, stressful email exchanges make teachers less effective in the classroom and have a lasting impact on their health. In all fairness there should be no emails between the teacher and parents.
I wonder what it would be like if schools simply banned email communications between parents and teachers.
My parents couldn’t email my teachers when I was in high school. They sent letters or made phone calls. A certain amount of time had to pass between the exchanges so that perspective and emotions could cool down. This also meant that communication between parents and teachers was significantly less. This may not sound attractive to a generation of hovering parents, but I think it is a good and necessary thing if we are to reduce the number of teachers who drop calling because of burnout.
If I had known that the only way to communicate with my daughter’s teacher is by phone, I am absolutely certain that I would not have agreed to talk about it. It was unique. Likewise, it is unlikely that your teacher would have reached me. This would have given my daughter more impetus to be the communicator and it would have saved both her teacher and me a stressful weekend.
By connecting over the phone, both parties can see the humanity of each other.
Hearing someone else’s voice creates compassion and empathy that is seldom activated by the back and forth of email. I’ll be honest – I hate talking on the phone. But if I had to choose between one call at the end of the day or eight emails, I would definitely choose that call.
We have the illusion that more communication is a good thing. But research suggests otherwise. Banning email wouldn’t end the many technological capabilities and apps parents have to access their students’ grades and progress. It would just mean that small problems would just stay so … small. It would also provide a better means of protecting teachers’ time and energy. For example, schools could implement office hours with multiple short login periods allocated for phone calls. This would limit the length of conversations (and protect teachers from an hour-long tongue whip). Problems that require more attention could be planned more precisely after an initial chat so that administrators can participate as support.
Can you imagine how much time a no-email policy would free teachers to … teach? It would also greatly reduce the emotional strain and burnout that educators face. Maybe I’m an idealist with a vision of a utopian email-free country. Still, I think the time has come for schools to consider guidelines on protecting teachers’ time and emotional energy. If we have learned one thing in the past year, anything is possible!