Emailing parents versus the phone call/meeting

Discussion in 'General Education' started by CanadianTeacher, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    This is spinoff from the 'smoke' thread. One poster said she covers her behind by emailing parents. I also like to use email because it allows me to keep close contact with parents, do it at my own convenience, and have a copy of our conversations. A few teachers and principals I know like this form of communication as well, but on the other side, our union and some principals recomment against it (although I don't quite see what could go wrong if you are careful to keep your messages professional). What's your opinion and what could the possible cons be against using email?
     
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  3. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Email is very useful for keeping a paper trail.
     
  4. ahodge79

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    I've only been able to use e-mail one of my years, but I found it very helpful and parents loved it. Just for somethings you have to print off a copy for parents without e-mail... never had any cons
     
  5. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I use email frequently with some parents, but our principal doesn't like it at all. She feels that it is too easy to misconstrue the intent behind an email or that someone could maliciously alter the email to make it appear that you said something different. (I don't agree, but this is what we were told at our meeting last night). I would never use email to communicate with a student.
     
  6. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think it's far easier to misconstrue a spoken statement than what's in email, and moreover you can't go back to review a spoken statement. Likewise, malicious alteration has an oral analog -- simple lying -- but with a written trail there's the availability of evidence. Maybe your principal just doesn't understand that both sides can log email conversations.

    Moreover, you can copy in people if you need to have a group conversation.

    The only real downside I see is that email does have a bit less of a personal touch than a phone call. I think this is more than made up for by the ability to engage in frequent and in-depth communication, but could see how some people might enjoy talking.
     
  7. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    I definitely agree there.
     
  8. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    I agree that it's easier to misconstrue a spoken statement. That's also a good point that you can cover your butt against any alterations by copying in someone--it's like having a witness to a conversation. As far as the personal touch goes, in many schools this is gone anyway because of the overwhelming responsibilities teachers have--unless you are lucky enough to work in a very small school, and teach very few students.
     
  9. Hoot Owl

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    Tone is lacking in an email. A parent doesn't know if your'e angry or not.

    I do a lot of emailing with parents and work very hard at keeping it professional.
     
  10. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    I agree with HootOwl about tone. My principal often miscontrues the tones of emails and thinks people are being upset or snotty when they are simply providing a simple, quick answer.

    We don't have a policy but I know emails are definitely not private and our district keeps them on file. When a teacher said the principal had said or not said certain things they dredged up all the old emails to prove her wrong.

    We don't have a policy except we have to have all parents sign a form saying we are allowed to email them.

    One downside is some people will put in an email things they wouldn't say to you face to face and that can get ugly.
     
  11. CanukTeacher

    CanukTeacher Comrade

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    I think in Ontario a few teachers have ended up in a lot of hot water over emails - hence why unions and some Ps disapprove. It may be easy to lie about what a teacher said in a phone call but is hard to PROVE that they said something or that their TONE implied something. A P might agree with a parent about the tone of an email (even if that wasn't the intention or the intented tone). I don't email parents. I do teach online. In that case every correspondance with students is recorded and time stamped. I am super careful. I also know that if I had a bad P I would be nervous because they can see everything.
     
  12. Ms.H

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    I really like using email to communicate with parents. It allows each party to collect and consider their thoughts, and I like being able to think carefully about how to word things rather than being put on the spot during a phone conversation. I do worry about misinterpretation sometimes (I actually sent one out today that I am holding my breath about...), but I think I am more likely to word something poorly and cause offense in a spoken conversation vs. email, where I can choose my words more intentionally.

    At the beginning of the year, on my syllabus signature sheet, I state that I generally use email to get in touch with parents, but I give them the option to either check that email communication is okay for them or that they would prefer a different method, which I gladly do.
     
  13. Ceyber

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    I use email extensively with both students and parents - I don't think I've had a phone conversation with a parent in two years.

    The major benefit has been that it allows me to get my thoughts in order, bounce ideas off of admin (send them draft copies of responses) and keep a paper trail of conversations.

    I find it INVALUABLE to work with students as well - I save myself HOURS of time each week by answering quick questions via email or instant message instead of having a student a) not get their homework done and b) be at my desk at the beginning of class with a quick question. It's all saved (email and instant message) so I never have to worry about a student accusing me of anything.

    I understand some districts don't let teachers email, or IM, but I think it's a shame...
     
  14. Muttling

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    I sooooooo wish I could do e-mails. Less than 1/4th of my parents have e-mail so it is of minimal use to me. (And I have double the number of parents with e-mail this year.)


    I run mass e-mailing weekly. I let the parents with it know of homework assignments, upcoming tests, midterm grade reports coming out, etc.

    I keep a few of my problem children's parents updated through e-mail but I try to avoid sending bad news that way as it is easily misunderstood. A message of "things haven't changed" or "it's getting better" works for e-mail, it's going further down hill is a phone call.


    If anyone knows of a free or cheap method for mass text messaging, PLEASE let me know. All my kids and parents have cell phones. Weekly notices of upcoming events and homework assignments would be a GREAT help to me.
     
  15. Ceyber

    Ceyber Rookie

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    Muttling - depending on the carrier, you can email a text message. For example, I'm ##########@txt.bell.ca where the #'s are my phone number. Set up a mailing list with each student's phone number in email address format, and you can easily text them all.
     
  16. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    Sweet!!!!!!

    I'm definitely going to look into that.
     
  17. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Personally, I've always hated using the phone, but my personal opinion is that most issues are more appropriately dealt with either over the phone or in person.

    I had one student last year whose mother is partially deaf. She requested I e-mail her instead of call. So I e-mailed once... and it bounced back! But generally, unless there was some form of difficulty in communication through the phone, I would use the phone.
     
  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I agree--making phone calls is absolutely the part of my job that is the most difficult for me. I am, however, finding it somewhat easier this year; I guess practice really does make perfect!
     
  19. MissFroggy

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    Our school does most communication via email! I have never had a parent who couldn't get online, so it hasn't been a problem.

    Yesterday I phoned each family, and those that I spoke with were quite surprised, and some worried that something was wrong... in our school, a phone call is usually a bad thing!
     
  20. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    The negative is definitely tone.

    However, I prefer e-mail because I have time to gather thoughts and I never forget anything. Via the phone, I tend to get flustered and forget something. With e-mail, I am able to say what I want more clearly.
     
  21. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    I do use email, but I always copy my principal if it's about a student behavior or a parent complaint. I think I come off as more "together" over email because I have time to gatehr my thoguhts and to go back and change things after re-reading them. For quick questions like, "what time is the field trip tomorrow?" I just answer the question, no copying principal.

    I also coach a girls' running club and have had parent issues before - I copy the head of the local organization and the principal on each and every email dealing with that.
     
  22. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Never email a student? Why? I'm curious.
     
  23. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Me too, a few of my HS teachers depended on email for assignments to be turned in.

    It was very useful especially since I would tend to be rather forgetful about assignments
     
  24. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    As a class email regarding homework, assignments or grades, yes I would, but wouldn't be comfortable outside of that. I teach mostly grade 7 and 8 students, and my Special Ed kids aren't always the best at reading and interpreting social signals and norm. With my students, I feel more comfortable staying away from it.
     
  25. SouthernBuckeye

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    I love e-mailing parents--many times it's easier to contact them through e-mail than it is to try and call.

    I always print off any e-mails I get from parents and put them in my attendance/behavior/parent contact binder. I also print my reply to the parent and put it in the binder. That way if I clean out my inbox I have hard copies of everything.

    It's so important to DOCUMENT everything!!!
     
  26. Ms. I

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    I think email is the best thing since sliced bread! You have everything in writing, not only saved to your computer, but you can print it out if you need a hard copy.
     
  27. Bloom

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    As a parent and a recently cert teacher I can tell you that I prefer email communication. While sometimes (depending on the situation) a phone call is necessary to address the situation, I (as a parent) prefer written documentation of the problem/solution. Even if I need to go forward with a personal call, I always follow up with an email confirming my understanding of the discussion.
     
  28. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Ah, thanks for the explanation. Makes sense.

    I use email with students quite regularly and find it very useful to share class info, answer questions, make announcements, reminders. I tell them that email between teacher/student is not for "funny forwards," jokes, etc. I also take it as an opportunity to teach appropriate email use, I don't allow texting lingo, I require a formal setup.
     
  29. Vegas Art Guy

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    I will use it if I can but most of my parents don't have email so I have to use the phone call method, often with a translator because many parents are not proficient at English.
     
  30. Lynn K.

    Lynn K. Habitué

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    I think the best thing about email is it gives people an opportunity to really "think before speaking." I received a really nasty email from a parent last year accusing me of favoring other children and treating her kid badly (among other things). I was able to take it to my p and get advice before contacting her. When I was ready and calm, I contacted her and we were able to resolve most of her (non) issues!
     
  31. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    My school requires that we phone a parent first. If the parent would rather continue further conversations in email, that is fine.

    Our school has early hours and it's not in a safe neighborhood, so I'm out of there before dark. Most of my parent calls are made from my cell phone at home. Most parents respect my home time and the fact that I'm calling my from my personal phone number.

    Then there are a few crazy ones who like to call at 10:30 at night... or on the weekends. I ignore them and call back Monday mornings, bright and early.
     

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