In today’s world, emailing has become possibly the most common form of written communication. Most people have email accounts and use emails prolifically. Schools and teachers have email accounts, often displayed on the school’s website.
Communication by email is encouraged, including contact between parents and teachers. Notwithstanding the ease with which email communication can be used, it is important consider a cautionary approach to its use. This is because emails are written documents and can be held against writers for years and years to come.
* If parents seek information about homework assignments and work due,
excursion information or similar, response is fine.
* If parents want information on school policy or are confused about particular
whole school policies or school matters, refer them to a member of the
leadership team and forward email sent and you reply to your senior.
* Under no circumstances offer parent value judgements about a child’s
character by email. Written statements can come back in future times to haunt
* Be aware of the fact that emails can be used as documentation supporting
actions in courts, including custody battles between parents. To that end avoid
sending emails that ‘take sides’ or can be interpreted as supporting one parent
viewpoint or the other.
* Never promise by email that a child ‘will’ make certain progress by a particular
time or ‘will’ achieve particular outcomes. ‘Will’ is an absolute and confirms
that a particular attainment will be the result. Use ‘can’ or ‘could’ or similar
non-committing words. The onus is then on the child and not on the teacher to
take prime ownership of possible outcomes.
* It is wise to keep copies of emails sent too parents in a designated folder.
Trashing can be tempting but if a communications issue is raised to the
teacher at some future time, not having a record can be very unhelpful.
The above dot points could be extended and others added. Suffice it to say that the use of emails can be fraught with danger, a situation that all too many people find to their eternal sorrow. Stick to material issues and don’t enter into the realm of value judgements and character comment. Parents may send emails of this nature, asking to you comment on their perceptions. That invitation should be avoided because response means they may quote you and tie you to what is really their position.
Never ever write and send emails in the hear of the moment, while over-tired or while less inhibited than usual because of the use of alcohol. The reasons for this advice should be obvious.
If in doubt on the subject of email correspondence, check with a senior staff member. It is always better to be sure than sorry when dealing with email traffic.