And if something was really important, you’d go and find the person you needed to speak to and have a chat, face to face.
As a PE teacher, the most regular form of communication outside of the school would be sending or receiving faxes to organise various sporting events with my counterparts at other schools. And that was about it.
One of the biggest changes I observed in my time as a teacher was the proliferation of communication via email.
I left teaching fulltime at the end of 2012, at which point it would be a quiet day on the email front if I was receiving any less than 40 a day.
Today, I’m well aware that many educators are receiving far more than 40 emails a day, and this – to be quite frank – is ridiculous.
I say it’s ridiculous, because I’d wager that the vast majority of these emails require no action on your behalf, yet you’re compelled to read them, just in case.
Furthermore, due to the sheer volume of emails, many of you are forced to read them, just in case, just before you go to bed.
And this usually impacts your ability to get to sleep. If, as a profession, we’re serious about teacher wellbeing – and it’s clear we certainly should be – then organisations need to recognise that it’s the day-to-day stressors that have a larger impact on teacher wellbeing than the one-off wellbeing day that might be offered.
If you have teachers who feel they need to check their email before bed, just in case, then I suggest you address this.
Back in a 2015 School of Thought column, I shared what I thought could be the start of an email policy.
- The dissemination of information can be done via an as-and-when system where information can be uploaded to a central repository and teachers can access it as-and-when they need it. An example of this could be attendance records.
- Everyone is clear about how quickly emails are to be attended to. As a guide, if parents have access to your teachers’ email addresses, 48 hours to respond to a parent email is sufficient. We are supposed to be focused on teaching after all.
- Mandate a time after which no-one is expected to send or reply to emails – 7.30pm perhaps, or let’s go crazy, how about 5pm? (If you can only get to emails after the mandated time, that’s fine. Write the email and then save it in drafts to send the next day, or use an app to automatically send it at the desired time).
- And never – I mean ever – use Reply All – unless it is explicitly requested that you do so. Ever. Of course, you can argue against all of these suggestions, and we could all come up with scenarios in which they would be unworkable, but typically, these scenarios are not – or should not – be the norm.
In (almost) the words of Prince, “So tonight I’m gonna email like it’s 1999!”