How to keep your school e-mail under control

I wasn’t a teacher before there was e-mail, but I can imagine that it was a different world. Not commenting on that e-mail chain about a particular student’s deteriorating behaviour, checking meeting minutes at the weekend or reading back over a conversation you had six months ago.

For all the good things e-mail as brought into education, of which there are loads, there are new challenges. Mainly because it can move us away from what’s important – the education of our students – and push the tentacles of the job further into life outside the school.


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Here are a few things I’m trying to do (although I’m not perfect at them) to make sure my e-mails remain manageable and don’t absorb time that would be better spent planning engaging lessons.

No school e-mail at the weekend, especially on Sundays

Whatever you find lurking in your inbox on Sunday afternoon, there’s nothing you can do about it. Leave that e-mail inbox closed until Monday morning. You may have some planning to do on Sunday – that’s just what teachers do – but don’t get distracted by messages from parents or colleague which (as I said but it bears repeating) there’s nothing you’ll be able to do about until tomorrow anyway.

E-mail is never urgent

I really don’t like it when people send an e-mail marked “urgent.” If it’s urgent then have a conversation with me.

Check e-mails when you have the time, when they fit in around the other things you have to do.

Three sentences or less

The medium of e-mail should be used for short, quick messages. If it’s longer than three sentences then you probably need a conversation about it. Keep your e-mails short or give the person a call.

You don’t need to reply straight away

As the two points above – it’s fine to leave something waiting if needed. If you feel bad, a quick reply to say you’ll deal with it properly later is fine.

Do not have work e-mails on your phone

Some of my colleagues have work e-mails sent directly to their phone, it bleeps and pings with every request for isolation work, students’ behaviour reports or school updates. Get rid of that straight away.

Declare e-mail bankruptcy

Sometimes the list of un-read e-mails is just too long. If that’s the case, select all and mark as read. If it’s really important someone will contact you again.

Keep the main thing the main thing

Teaching is the main thing. The quality of your lessons and the progress of your students. Keep focused on that. E-mail is great to get short messages around quickly – but don’t let it distract you from what is important.


Have you got your e-mail under control?



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Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

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