Open communication between teachers, their students, and parents is one of the keys for students doing well in classes. Many parents rely on e-mail as a quick and efficient way of maintaining communication with teachers. However, the communication between home and school can quickly get sidetracked when parents send e-mails to teachers like the one below.
“My child just told me you wouldn’t accept her assignment. It’s obvious that you hate her which is probably because you are bitter about your divorce and are such a witch. Accept the assignment or I will go to the principal and get you written up.”
The teacher received the above e-mail and sat back with a sigh. Did the parent understand how the e-mail he just sent would be perceived by the person who received it? Most people who receive such e-mails are more likely to do the exact opposite of what the parent wants. Furthermore, some might make the life of the student even more difficult. This is how one e-mail can start the cycle of poisoning the home-school relationship.
The advantages for parents using e-mail is that it is quick and efficient. These advantages can turn into drawbacks when parents write threatening or emotional e-mails. It can be too easy for parents to hear something from their child about events that happened in school and then immediately turn around and shoot off an e-mail.
A better strategy is for parents to wait at least an hour between hearing something from their child and e-mailing a teacher. In that time, parents need to think about the events from the teacher’s perspective and then write an e-mail that is appropriate to send to a professional.
Many times parents forget that a teacher is considered a professional which requires a more formal communication style. Parents should think about their interactions with other professionals such as doctors or accountants and use the same style of interaction with their child’s teachers. An e-mail should send the right tone and not be overly demanding. The tone of an e-mail can make all the difference in having a request granted or not.
Below is a brief guide for parents on how to send e-mail to teachers and things to avoid.
First, use a subject line that gets to the point of the communication. In the situation where an assignment was late, an appropriate subject line could be, “Missing Homework Assignment for Math.” This lets the teacher know right away about the purpose of the e-mail.
Second, use a salutation at the beginning of the e-mail. Even though these are frequently left off of e-mails, it sets the formal tone. A classic example of a salutation is “Mrs. Smith” or “Dear Mrs. Smith”.
Third, start the body of the e-mail stating the student’s name and what class the student is writing about. This is particularly important if the parents are writing on the behalf of the student.
Next, the focus should be on why the e-mail is being written. In the above example, the parent would like the teacher to accept a late assignment. The message should be brief and to the point. Too often parents will feel impelled to go into lengthy explanations or devolve into personal attacks which muddy the message and don’t serve the purpose of the message
At the end of the e-mail, parents should thank the teacher for considering their request and sign their name. This serves as a way to acknowledge that the teacher is doing a favor and the signed name marks the end of the e-mail.
Once the e-mail is completed, it is very important to read it over for any grammatical errors. Misspellings in an e-mail can send unintended messages regarding the time and care that was spent making the request.
Open communication between home and school is important for student success. E-mail is a quick and efficient in keeping that communication active. Parents should make sure their e-mails maintain a professional tone and are respectful to ensure their child will get the most out of her education.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on August 10, 2014.