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Parents & Work Email

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by lpodstawka, Jul 20, 2019.

  1. lpodstawka

    lpodstawka New commenter

    Everyone at my school has a 'work email', which is not shared openly with all parents. However, some parents, who are seen to have 'special treatment', have been allowed access to teacher emails by our Head Teachers. This has not been done with our consent and have occurred when the Head Teacher copies us into responses to parents. We have no policy around parents and staff emails and as we work at a school for students with special needs we have a variety of ways for parents to get in touch - home school books, meetings or phone calls. I have a two parents, who are also school governors, who email at night and demand answers ASAP. One parent will write excessively long emails and when I answer will pick apart my email in order to continue dialogue.

    I want to communicate to my parents that my work email is not for them and if they want to communicate they need to do it like all other parents. Has anyone else had to deal with a situation like this? How have you approached it?
  2. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    Set your email to produce a standard reply out of work hours saying that you'll try to deal with the email during the next 3 working days.
    sabrinakat, Stiltskin, blazer and 9 others like this.
  3. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    As in post #2. I'd also tell your HT that, as the work email has been shared with parents, you won't be looking at it except at school during the hours you are at work. And stick to it. When he/she needs to contact you and can't the consequences of sharing the work email will become clear!;)
  4. Easyasabc

    Easyasabc Occasional commenter

    Do not reply via email to a parent request.But do deal with their concern asap and let them know.

    So let them contact you via email but YOU only contact them via phone or student planner or letter. They will soon learn that you prefer a more business and practical approach. You are a teacher - not a secretary.
  5. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Where parents guessed my work email or used it regarding their own child as governor or governor’s partner (!), I made point of forwarding to the school main contact email and asking the secretary to reply with a standard ‘received, acknowledged’ reply just after 9 am on the next working day. This was in a HT role.

    After having parents email 10 pm on a Saturday night or 6 am on a Sunday morning, expecting instant reply (and then berating me for not doing this), I immediately set further boundaries for all around emails from parents. In a school with nearly 700 children, and in a high social media use context, boundaries needed to be really really clear. All staff also needed to not do one thing for one parent and something different for others.

    Boundaries were:
    All contact to / from school via contact email;
    Secretary to send standard reply on next working day if after school hours and same day, if received during school hours;
    Clear message regarding responses to parents being within Secretary’s hours (8-5) 9-4;
    Secretary to aim to answer any queries she could (some contact is unnecessary and could be found on website- so link was shared);
    Staff to aim to contact by phone, face to face or to forward email reply by end of working day or next, depending on the time email received - secretary or staff member to update if delay on full response due to circumstance or investigation- key to be clear on timing of response;
    Staff discouraged to use their work email for direct emailing to parents.
    The above was communicated to parents.

    In some contexts, parents can be lovely and completely appropriate, yet in others can be something else.

    Governors can be dealt with by the Chair and protocol. If parents are persistent with long emails, then additional boundaries may need to be set.
  6. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    Just having an auto-reply will help.

    Some staff in our school also have an email signature which states that our organisation believes in fostering a healthy work-life balance and as such, staff are not required to respond to emails outside working hours.

    I've never hidden from anybody the reason for a lack of response. I've just said, "I don't check my emails during the weekend/evening." No further explanation required or offered as far as I'm concerned.

    I don't think this is something you can deal with single-handedly though. I think your SLT need to be acutely aware that you are being emailed and expected to respond at unreasonable hours. The emails themselves needn't be an issue although I personally don't think parents should be able to send staff emails. It is the expectation that you make yourself permanently available and respond whenever they are received which is a problem.

    Your workplace needs to agree an approach to this whole thing and SLT need to support in setting boundaries for parents. In the meantime, do not reply to parent emails outside working hours! You're under no obligation to do so.

    Regarding the parent who wants a dialogue, copy in the office email and finish your initial reply with, "If you have any further questions about this matter, please contact the office on xxx who will be happy to arrange an appointment at a mutually convenient time to discuss it further." This will hopefully demonstrate that you are not prepared to get into a back and forth.

    One face to face meeting (and time limit it from the start!) may just about stave it off. I always begin my meetings with "I have until x pm before I need to leave/attend another meeting/take my cat to the vet/engage in a life outside school. How can I help?"

    Good luck!
  7. lovejoy_antiques

    lovejoy_antiques Senior commenter

    This seems to happen more and more. One school I was at put staff email addresses on their website. I made the mistake of trying to bat parents emails off as quickly as possible when I got the chance. This led to an ongoing ping pong effect throughout the day!
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    We had a policy of not allowing parents call teachers direct.

    However we had a parent who called all of the schools numbers in sequence during the night in order to receive the answering machine message, This way she generated a "telephone directory" so that she could call you direct in order to make her perfectly reasonable and well formed complaints. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
    Piscean1 likes this.
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Sharing a work email with parents isn't really a problem.
    Not having clear expectations around the use is.

    Either set an out of hours response, add a signature to the effect you only answer during school hours or reply via channels you prefer.

    Our parents all have teacher emails, but we have a clear policy for use and SLT support said policy.
    Ask your HT if such a thing can be discussed and organised with staff ASAP in September.
    DYNAMO67 and nomad like this.
  10. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Why not? What makes you so special that parents cannot contact you directly?

    It is a WORK email.

    Which means you will reply during your working hours. It is up to you to make that clear, either by auto reply or directly.

    Yup. It is called working with people. Do you think the Head and SLT do not have to do this all the time?
    Faidha, afterdark, Stiltskin and 3 others like this.
  11. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I struggle to understand why you see it as inappropriate for parents to have your email address... sorry. It’s a work email for correspondence as part of your work.

    Now. I do think there ought to be clear expectations of what parents can and can’t expect via email. And a code of general conduct.

    Good luck if you feel you can honestly communicate to parents that emailing you is a no-go.
  12. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    A few parents have ‘cracked the code’ concerning the way staff email addresses were created (it’s really not hard...) and so, in addition to ones forwarded from the school admin account, from time to time, I also get a congratulatory, supportive and grateful emails popping into my inbox during the working day. These I reply to as and when I have a moment during the day. The parents appreciate a response, and it all pays off at the end of year when the loot comes in.

    Strangely, the ones which aren’t congratulatory, as well as those DEMANDING an IMMEDIATE response from me always seem to get caught by my spam filter and end up in the junk email folder, so I never see them.... I can’t think how it happens... but it means these parents have to contact me via the admin account, as they should.:rolleyes::D:D

    I also make sure I can’t receive work emails at home, and advise all colleagues to do the same.
    Piscean1, blazer, nomad and 1 other person like this.
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    This is key.
    agathamorse and bertiehamster like this.
  14. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    God, people who have work emails on their phones...... I look at them in disbelief.
  15. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Our email addresses are obvious. Parents use them well on the whole. The SOP is that all incoming email should be acknowledged within 24 hours; if an answer can't be given then the acknowledgement should indicate when a substantive reply would be sent (and by whom), and this must be within 7 days.

    The 4D approach to email (and other correspondence) is helpful:
    Delete - right away - if it's irrelevant to you
    Deal - right away - if it'll take less than a minute or two
    Delegate - right away - if it's not your job to reply
    Defer - to a scheduled time when you can plan enough space to reply in full (not just leave it lying around in your inbox).
  16. Sally006

    Sally006 Senior commenter

    Sounds sensible to me. I take it you don’t have Class Dojo! That was the bane of my life. Got some nasty bullying via that so will not be using in the future. Back to face to face or phone. That way you don’t get the “ping pong” effect! Also, in my experience, if the onus is on the parent to make the effort to come in then you weed out utter trivia which we certainly get on Class Dojo!
  17. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Does anyone actually manage to respond to all their work emails during the working day...?
  18. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Schools have used Class Dojo but I’ve not used it. Any such things open up the contact, which can be so positive but equally opens up to the potential abuse and demand. I’ve had nastiness from parents via email, school blog and Twitter. I had demand on Twitter for contact at 9 pm when I was off work poorly, with threat of formal complaint if I did not reply immediately! I agree re utter trivia and the “ping pong effect”! I’m sorry you’ve had horrible treatment- I understand completely how that feels.
    Sally006 and agathamorse like this.
  19. Piscean1

    Piscean1 Senior commenter

    It is a no go in my school. There are plenty of other channels to go through, as in the case of the OP so email is unnecessary. I personally view it as inappropriate for 2 reasons:

    1) The expectations of an immediate response or a response outside working hours. Parents having direct access to teacher emails fosters a culture of on-demand availability.

    2) Prior to email, you could not just directly contact a teacher on a whim. You went through the admin staff which, in my view, is as it should be.

    That's an important part of a professional being able to get on with their job, manage their workload appropriately and switch off after a working day. Parents need to understand that we are not permanently available for correspondence and having a system in place which means they go through admin supports that.

    It also enables the school to have an overview of parents misusing communication systems and allows trivial queries not requiring the teacher's time to be dealt with more quickly by somebody who is being paid to work at a computer and do basic admin tasks.

    You don't phone or email the doctor's surgery and get the doctor directly. You get a receptionist who filters things.

    Yes, HTs and SLT might have to constantly field emails. Most HTs I know have PAs and they also don't have a teaching load. Most SLT I know have a significantly smaller teaching load. I don't doubt that they are still very busy and struggle with the influx of emails but they will at least be more able to dedicate time in the working day to deal with them. That's not as easy for somebody who needs to be in front of a class the majority of the time.
  20. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Does anyone contact their GP directly by email, demanding an answer within a specified time? Or at night? o_O

    No? Then neither should they have the right to do so to teachers...;)
    afterdark, Piranha, bevdex and 8 others like this.

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