As we begin a new year, more and more parents, students, teachers, and administrators become more digital communicators. There are some “techie” rules I would like to state. Communication in the digital age IS a 21st century skill. NOTHING replaces f2f (face-to-face) or simply picking up the phone and call. But, many schools still rely on email. Partly due because teachers are not always at their desk, but teaching or in meetings. Many want a digital record. So, I can receive up to twenty school-related emails a day, not just informational but ones I have to respond, from teachers, administrators. and parents. Thought I would lend my thoughts on some basic rules.
Here are my suggestions to communicate via email:
1. Do put your answer in the “re”
Example: re: Meeting changed to Sally’s room
Real don’t: Re: Meeting
This way if I don’t have enough time to read the email, I know the real news. Easy to scan through.
2. The only attachments should be forms that are signed or agendas.
Don’t comment about the agenda in the email, that’s the reason for the f2f meeting.
Example: Attached is the agenda for district meeting 8_23_10 (notice underscore)
Real don’t: Also, don’t use .docx or .xlsx Smart phones can’t read the file.
3. If after 2 emails, pick up phone or WALK down the hall and discuss the issue.
Email was not meant for discussion, it was meant for TELLING.
Real don’t: I would like your opinion,,,,, This should be done in person, wiki, or staff meeting.
4. One or two attachments ONLY as part of an email.
Everyone that is emailed the documents many not need all the attachments. Plus, if this email is lost, unless the attachments were downloaded, after reading them, they are ALL lost. If you have more than three attachments, set up a scribt account and send the link. There can be a district password-protected account for staff and one for parents/students. Password should change monthly. Or better yet, use google docs. The GAFE (Google Accounts For Education) is a wonderful sharing tool, easy to setup.
Real don’t: class lists should in xls or word, not a PDF. Data can be used! (pdftoword.com can be used to convert any PDF to word.)
5. Length, no more than three sentences in a paragraph.
Short, to the point. Lots of spaces. Fine to have uncompleted sentences. This is NOT a letter. It is email. People are typing or reading on a smart phone.
6. Calendar items on the school calendar, not written within a word document. Information for email.
Discuss the events at the teacher’s meeting. One of my biggest pet peeves is a date in a word document, NOT on the school calendar. Additionally, a weekly announcement in a word document with meeting dates. Having a google calendar, you can subscribe, have attachments and alarms
7. Attachments have date on file.
Ex: File name “Announcements” the file should be “Announce_08_23_10”
I save all attachments in a folder, that way if you need to respond to a specific announcement, you know the date.
The date on the file is the DATE sent. If the announcements are for next week, the file should NOT be the date in the future. People remember when the email was sent, not the all the dates it talks about.
8. Do have your “signature” on bottom in your FULL name.
Have your title, website link, phone number, and possibly a saying that represents you. If I have a concern about the email, I like to know who you are and the phone number you can be reached at.
9. Remember this is not a letter, so flowery small talk is not appropriate.
Also, no name to start of email in the beginning. This is not a letter, it is email. Get right to the point. Many people are using smart phones, it takes a lot of screen space. Plus, people reading email on their mobile device, are checking their mail fast.
10. Once they day begins, no emails about the day. Be a day ahead.
Emailing a teacher that her class will be ten minutes late for music, and they have music in twenty minutes, it would be better sending a student or calling teacher. Emailing the teacher at 3:00, asking the teacher to tell Sally to go home with Susy, is problematic. Remember teachers are not sitting at their desk waiting for your email.
11. Use bcc for your email addresses to students and parents, send the email to yourself.
That way you aren’t giving others email address of the students or parents. Protects privacy.