To email, or not to email?
The art of complaining to your kid’s teacher
There’s a fine line between being an annoying parent and a concerned one. Just ask any teacher who has to deal with the recurring complaints, via email, from parents in today’s technologically inclined world.
As many teachers like to say, nowadays, the hardest part of teaching is the parents.
I admit that I probably sent my daughter’s teacher at least 10 emails last school year, with concerns ranging from social issues to explaining why homework was not done to advocating on behalf of my daughter if she felt wronged.
I am not a helicopter parent, but in these technological times, voicing one’s concerns and opinions has never been easier — especially at private schools where the teacher’s email address is sent out to each and every parent.
It has become so easy! In saying that, will I admit that I sometimes go overboard? Yes, I have. Should I have sent all of them? Probably not.
However, did I always receive a timely and productive response? Yes. Do I know, for a fact, that other parents send more emails to teachers with concerns and, more often, complaints than I have? Yes.
However, not all parents email teachers with concerns. Parenting styles differ across the board.
As one mother recently shared with me, “I have four kids. The youngest is now in Grade 6. I have never emailed or called the school. Not sure if that makes me the world’s best or world’s worst mother, but it works for me.”
And, yet, another mother told me she has emailed teachers, “too many times to count,” and another parent chimed in with, “My son will be going to private school next year. I have a good feeling the emails will become non-existent.” If only!
To make a sweeping generalization here, I find parents who send their children to private school tend to be more prone to voicing complaints. After all, we are very aware of how much we pay for our child’s education and often think, “If I’m paying thousands of dollars, at the very least, my child should be happy at school.”
As one private school mother said, “I complain faithfully every month.”
I even know of one mother who admits that she sent at least 15 emails in the first week of school alone.
Times have definitely changed. As one parent whose children are no longer in elementary or high school said, “I used to walk over to the school to address my concern. I truly was the most hovering parent. Thank goodness they didn’t have email then.”
So, when is enough enough? When is it appropriate to email your child’s teacher, without becoming THAT parent who is just making things more difficult?
For the most part, teachers and administrators at private schools seem to appreciate a parent’s involvement in their child’s schooling. And although email is definitely a great and easy way to communicate with them without disrupting their day (also allowing for a paper trail), teachers don’t always have time to correspond back and forth with parents on a daily basis.
Patti MacDonald, the junior school principal at Bishop Strachan School, says, “Teachers are the ones who are the experts on the child’s experiences.” They do, after all, spend more time in the day with our children than we do!
So attend to the dos and don’ts of emailing. As MacDonald suggests: DO email to share school work concerns or questions (like “My daughter’s homework is taking too long”). DO email to clarify general classroom expectations. DO email to share information that will impact the student’s experience in class (pertaining to medical issues or problems at home). DO email to share good news about your daughter’s progress.
Likewise, there are reasons you should not use and abuse email when it comes to your child and his or her school. DO NOT email if the matter is urgent or timesensitive. DO NOT email if your note is longer than FIVE lines. (They prefer a phone call instead.) DO NOT email if the student could be empowered to solve the problem alone. DO NOT email if it’s an issue that is better handled by the school’s main office than by an individual teacher (e.g., “What time does that concert start again?”).
So yes, it’s OK to email, but think first before hitting “send.” Perhaps your child could and should, at a certain age, advocate for himself or herself. This year, I plan on letting my daughter email the teachers herself, if she has an issue.
And remember: it’s always OK to send an email saying thank you to the teachers and staff for the wonderful and difficult job they do every day.
Email has allowed parent-teacher communication to be more frequent, and sometimes too frequent