Parents are invested in their children’s education, and they’re going to ask teachers questions. That’s something that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. However, when teachers are flooded by emails and messages from enthusiastic parents, this can lead to unhealthy out-of-work practices and a poor work-life balance.
Prior to outlining his new EdTech strategy at the Schools and Academies show, Education Secretary Damian Hinds argued for the need to ditch email culture to cut school workload. Educators need a solution to the issue of email overload, and the DfE is aware of this, but the problem isn’t always easy to diagnose. Technology isn’t the cause of the problem — the problem is that teachers’ email inbox is a white bear.
Your Email Inbox is a White Bear
Modern technology is capable of fantastic things, but it also forces you to be connected at all times. Switching off your phone or email inbox is a big no-no — besides, the second your phone buzzes or your computer pings, you just have to check it. In fact, just by trying to tune out an overenthusiastic parent, teachers cause themselves to think about them more often.
So why can’t teachers switch off and escape from school once they leave the classroom?
Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.
This is known as the white bear problem, or “ironic rebound”. The more you try to suppress a thought, the harder your subconscious works to make you think of it. If you try not to think of a white bear, for instance, it’s impossible not to.
This can give your email inbox an irresistible lure, and it’s a major cause of stress and anxiety. You don’t know if that message that just pinged into your inbox is important, and it’s gnawing away at your mind, much like the white bear that you shouldn’t have been thinking of. The more you try to resist thinking about it, the more present and threatening it becomes.
Solutions to Always-On Availability
Teachers already have enough stressors in their life, but email anxiety doesn’t have to be one of them. Rather than bringing their work home with them overnight, teachers should leave it at the school gate (marking excluded).
So how do we scare away the white bears?
The Usual “Solution”
Rather than replying to incoming emails as soon as they arrive, teachers can instead drop them into one of several different inbox folders. If emails are marked as urgent, they can be replied to as soon as possible — but not necessarily straight away.
This is a great way to stay on top of the flood of emails, but it doesn’t solve the white bear problem — it just delays it.
Your social media accounts are a great point of contact for parents. Not only can you answer their questions directly, but you may find that the school community and other parents will help each other. This makes it optional for staff to join in the conversation, and their inboxes remain clean — not a white bear in sight.
A healthy school community has trickle-down benefits through every level of the school. It’s proven that strong home-school links and parental engagement have a direct positive influence on student attainment.
However, despite its benefits, you can’t rely on social media messaging to contact parents. What happens if they don’t see an important post in time?
If you provide parents with all the information they need when they need it using anti-white-bear technology, parents won’t have as many queries for your teachers.
ParentMail is a white bear killer. It’s a one-way home-school communication app designed to prevent teachers from being bombarded with messages from parents. It makes it easy to provide parents with all the information they need, so there shouldn’t be a need to contact teachers for information.
Rather than sending home letters en masse, staff can send personalised messages to individual parents, so the information is fully relevant to them and instantly delivered where they need it most — their mobile phones and devices. Your school can even save money by sending push notifications instead of text messages, and you can cut down on the stacks of letters that would ordinarily need to be printed.
When teachers need instant responses from parents, they can gather information using ParentMail forms — again, without sacrificing anybody’s inbox. Capture exactly the information you need without having to read through endless emails, saving everybody time.
The forms module works within ParentMail, so all the important information you need is kept in a single easily accessible location.
You can even avoid the inevitable avalanche of parents’ evening questions with ParentMail’s Parents’ Evening Manager. Parents’ evening appointments are short-lived, and it’s important that both parent and teacher discuss everything that needs to be said in this time. By leaving questions for teachers ahead of time directly on the app, parents will get all the information they need from the meeting and will be much less likely to contact the school further down the line.
Schools have found great timesaving and organisational benefits to Parents’ Evening Manager, as it removes the student from the process — parents are contacted directly to book a slot.
If you’re interested in saving your teaching staff from email overload and improving your home-school communication, you can visit our website to find out more about ParentMail’s anti-white-bear technology: