New Rule: a litmus test for emails sent to teachers

Litmus test: Does your email impact students’ successful futures?

Every teacher I know is in a constant battle against time. Time to prepare amazing learning experiences. Time to provide students with meaningful feedback. Time to carve out a personal life with family and friends. If we’re being honest, most teachers are fighting a stopwatch just to use the restroom during daylight hours on a weekday.

With so much important work on teachers’ plates and so little time to do it, I think it’s about time we shield them from one huge time suck: reading and (perhaps) responding to emails that do not impact students’ successful futures.

Assuming that a school system has a mission to prepare students for successful futures, I think it is reasonable to expect that any action from outside of the classroom that is going to pull resources (such as teacher time) from the classroom should be in service of that mission. To that end, I propose a simple litmus test and new rule:

Before sending an email to classroom teachers, the sender must ask herself, “Does the content of (and any expected followup to) my email message impact students’ successful futures?”

If the answer is yes, then simply send the email. If the answer is no, the sender is still permitted to send the email, however she must now begin her subject line with the acronym DISF (“Doesn’t impact successful futures”).

This simple new rule can help teachers win back desperately needed time by helping them prioritize reading certain messages and de-prioritizing others. In addition, the senders who are charged with conducting the litmus test will have opportunities to be reflective about their communications with teachers and perhaps grow more intentional about ensuring that they don’t get in the way of the people most responsible for preparing students for successful futures having time to do just that.

3 Pro tips to help with this new rule:

  • Pro tip #1: Keep it simple and don’t overthink it! If you aren’t sure whether or not the email you’re about to send requires a DISF, then assume it does.
  • Pro tip #2: The new rule applies to links in an email that direct teachers to content outside of the email.
  • Pro tip #3: Email surveys automatically fail the litmus test and are required to include DISF in the subject line. For surveys from which the responses will never be utilized in any meaningful way, senders are encouraged to avoid emailing teachers altogether.

What new rule would you propose to help wrestle back teachers’ time from emails? As always, you responses expanding or pushing back on my ideas are valued and appreciated. If you like this post, please click the heart to recommend it. In addition to making me feel as good as adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a slice of warm pie, it will help others find my writing.