To email, or not to email?

The art of com­plain­ing to your kid’s teacher

The Kids Post - - Private School Life - RE­BECCA ECK­LER Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist Re­becca Eck­ler is the au­thor of Knocked Up, Wiped!, How to Raise a Boyfriend, The Lucky Sperm Club and her lat­est book, The Mommy Mob.

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

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