On January 11th, the New York Times published an op ed piece about parent-teacher communication. The article was clearly focused on communication throughout the school years rather than simply during early childhood, however many of the points are relevant to our work.
It got me thinking about email communications and how often they can cause more problems than they solve. As a quick means of getting a message to and fro, email is unsurpassed. You can set up most emails so you can see if the message has been opened, read or forwarded. This means you can rest assured that your message has arrived at its correct destination. I also appreciate having a written record of conversations, so that there is no room for revisionist history (this is especially true for my communications with my students).
However, email communications pose all sorts of other problems that we as educators and as parents should be aware of. It is very easy to misconstrue the tone of an email message, since you cannot hear the voice of the speaker, nor can you see their body language. It is also possible that a typo can change a message completely, from “I would like to get together,” to “I wouldn’t like to get together.” Once written, it is hard to take it back or fix it.
It is also really important to write correctly, without spelling or writing errors, so you are seen as a literate, well-spoken professional. Once you send out an email riddled with (or even having one error) you may forever be seen as the “teacher who can’t write”.
For these reasons, I think we should tread carefully when sending emails. Be sure to check your emails carefully for any mistakes, and if you think the tone may be problematic, have someone else read it first and see what they think. It is better to be safe than sorry when communicating between parents and teachers.