[Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this guest post from Amanda Kuznia, K-12 Digital Integration Specialist with the Boise Independent School District, and NCCE 2020 speaker on the topic of virtual field trips.]
As educators, we are morally (and legally) obligated to teach our students about digital citizenship. However, I often feel that as our generation didn’t grow up learning these lessons in school and missed out on having netiquette embedded within our own culture. Read the comment section of any online newspaper or magazine article to see adults at their worst. While students certainly have lessons to learn, adults could use a tune-up as well from time to time. Email, though some often call it antiquated, emerged with the internet and still stands the test of time as the number one platform of communication for businesses, including educators.
Be Careful About Reply All
Don’t. Just don’t. Just because someone sends a mass email, it does not give you permission to hit that reply all button. Even more so, just because someone else replied all doesn’t mean that you should too.
There are exactly two times that you should use the reply all feature:
The original emailer asks you to please “reply all.” There are situations where someone is trying to facilitate a conversation among a group via email. I’ve done it, I’ve participated, and it can be an effective way to hammer out details of a project without having to stop and meet face to face. “Thanks for doing a great job this morning!” Should not instigate a reply all snowball that floods the inboxes of the staff for the next 48 hours.
There is a piece of information that everyone needs to know. Perhaps there is a date or time left off of the original email. This is not, however, an opportunity to publicly humiliate the original sender with a correction of grammar, spelling, and broken links or to disagree with them and their ideas. If you want to do the latter, do it privately and allow them to remedy any errors or address your concerns the same way.
If you work in a group that is really bad about this, try a Bcc group send.
Identify yourself! State who you are and what you do as well as all your contact information. Don’t assume that people know, better yet use a signature line, so this is done automatically. Parents often have multiple students attending school, and they may not know who you are, so help them out! Or, if you are reaching out to the central office for help, you can expedite the help you receive by including this information. It saves a lot of back and forth, figuring out who and where you are before the meat of the problem can be solved.
Ask for specific help. “My computer isn’t working!” can mean many things, try to be specific, so the person responding can do so with help, not more questions. If you’d like to meet with the person you are emailing, offer some times that work for you up front rather than just, “Can we please meet?” Again, it allows for a prompt, more direct response.
The goal for both of you is to solve your problem. They can’t do that if they don’t have all the information. Be sure you have it all included before you click send.
Be Mindful About Responses
People tend to be quite bold when responding via email. If you’re in a sensitive situation, read the email out loud (to another party if you can) and imagine saying this to the person’s face. Would you be able to? If not, it’s not appropriate for email. Hiding behind the safety of a computer screen doesn’t mean that manners and etiquette go by the wayside. Even more so, as an adult, we should be modeling this behavior for our students and children. Let’s practice what we preach in those digital citizenship lessons!
Assume positive intentions, not that the email has a snarky tone. I’m guilty of this one. If I am tired or cranky, every email I read tends to be chirping at me. However, this is usually not the intention of the sender (98% of the time). Before I ever reply to one of these “chirpy” emails, I take a walk, do some yoga, listen to my favorite song, or, if appropriate, have someone else read the email (never read it to them because of your interpretation of tone will carry over). Then once you’ve relaxed, respond in kindness.
Don’t Reply Without Reading
If someone takes the time to send you information, take the time to read it before you respond with questions or clarifications. It’s frustrating for the sender (and embarrassing for the responder) when you receive an email full of instructions, only to write back, asking someone to provide you with the information they literally just sent you. When you get an email that says, “as per my previous email,” you can be certain that you have definitely committed this faux pas. If you have a list of questions that you plan to send to the original sender, go ahead and look through the email again for those specific answers (read with intention, right?!). If they are not there, and there are no attachments that you missed that might also include the information, then you can reply (not reply all) to the sender asking for clarification.
Amanda Kuznia, Ed.S, is the K-12 Digital Integration Specialist for the Boise Independent School District in Boise, ID. She has taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, including combination classes, and loves the realness and sassiness of upper elementary students. She is passionate about igniting change as a leader and a learner for the teachers and students that she serves. When she’s not at work, she enjoys skiing, camping, traveling, and riding bikes with her husband and three wonderful children. Instagram & Twitter @bsdgoesdigital