School email accounts streamline communication for administrators, students and teachers. However, school email accounts can have drawbacks. These drawbacks may include inappropriate contact between students and teachers as well as cyberbullying. Schools can prevent these problems if they set up clear guidelines for school email accounts. For both adults and students, these accounts should be dedicated to only school discussions and resources. By creating guidelines, you can ensure that school remains the top priority.
Guidelines for Students
Today’s students constantly interact with technology. However, they may not be used to using it in a professional setting. It’s essential to set up guidelines so students know how to send professional emails. Not only will this help them in school, it’ll help them as they move on to college and start their careers. When setting up guidelines, first make it abundantly clear that their accounts should only be used for school. Next, they’ll need to learn how to craft professional emails. This includes a clear subject line, greeting, body paragraph with complete sentences, and a closing.
Make sure to mention when it is appropriate to email. For example, during a class period, it’s better to take advantage of face-to-face communication with their teachers. Also, students should avoid sending emails in the middle of the night.
Guidelines for Teachers
Professionalism is also key for teachers. Remember that emails are written records. Talk to your students over email just as you would with a colleague. You don’t want the appearance of favoritism or fraternizing with students. Also, professional email discourse in turn models professionalism for students.
Many teachers find it useful to set specific times during which they’ll respond to email. For instance, teachers may include a section on their syllabi explaining their email policy, such as “I will respond to emails sent after 6:00 pm the next day.” Teachers may also let their students know that emailing outside of school hours isn’t always the most reliable form of communication.
Enforcing the Guidelines
Schools can’t enforce email guidelines if students and school personnel don’t understand them. Set the guidelines for school emails in the first week of class. In school-level policies, clearly define guidelines for teachers, students, parents, and administrators. When drafting classroom-level policies, teachers must make sure their rules mesh with school-level policies.
Post school-level guidelines in labs and classrooms with computers. Make sure to post the guidelines in an easily accessible location online as well. Also, teachers can easily add a section to their syllabi with their own guidelines for emails. In this section, lay out when students may email you. Remind students that the email is only meant for professional use.
Schools need to make clear the consequences for misuse of school email. However, technology now plays a fundamental role in education. As Jennie Magiera argues, “misuse it and lose it” policies don’t always help students to see technology as a learning tool. Instead, use consequences to show students how to make good choices when it comes to technology.
Of course, consequences are a way to build a safe digital learning environment. As such, students who use email to bully should face consequences. Protect school personnel and students from legal liabilities. Make sure that your guidelines follow federal, state, and local laws regarding bullying, privacy, and fair use. As an added layer of protection, consider software like LearnSafe, which detects inappropriate material and bullying over school email.
Text by Katherine Polcari