Responding To Not So Nice Emails

Chances are, you have been on the receiving end of an email from a parent, a colleague, or someone else that is less than kind. I‘ve worked with many teachers who need help responding to these emails and I’ve devised some tips to help you if you are in this situation:

  • Read and walk away. Put the email in a different folder so you can’t see it. Feel your feelings, but do NOT respond. My general rule of thumb is 24 hours if it’s bad, or at least 3-4 hours if it requires an immediate written response.
  • Vent to a trusted coworker. Say the things that you need to get off your chest, but keep it productive. Don’t let this turn into something that spins a negative blanket.
  • Take a walk. Get out into the sunshine if you can. You can even meditate when you walk! My favorites are from Headspace. Meditation is helpful to bring awareness to your feelings.
  • Determine whether this needs a written response, or if a phone call would be more helpful. Often times when people are upset, they calm down and can be rational when they need to speak with another person as opposed to venting on an email. When the receiver hears your voice, it can remind them that they are speaking to a person. The tone of voice is readily heard and any misconceptions can be cleared up.
  • Consider that trusted coworker/spouse/family member to help you craft the response. Be productive in your conversation. Do not use emotion. Be clear, concise, and factual.
  • There are times when the email is verbally abusive, not productive or just plain mean. In this case, I suggest talking to a trusted administrator on your campus or counselor on your campus. Teachers are people who deserve respect and people can forget this. At no point is it acceptable to verbally abuse another person, whether via email or in person. Report this immediately.

Lastly, take one breath and think about where this person is coming from. We are not always aware or let into what is happening outside of our classroom, and being empathetic and kind in the face of anger can make a difference. If it doesn’t, then at least the road taken was higher.



Elizabeth Schley Evans

I am starting my 17th year of teaching and have taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including; 8th grade, AP Government and Politics, and dabbled in APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Development and a Master’s in Secondary Education, History from Northern Arizona University. I am also a National Board Certified Teacher in Social Studies/History (Early Adolescence). I write a blog for social studies teachers, Teaching AP Government, which has become a great passion of mine because I believe civic education is incredibly important to the continuance of democracy. I write for The Standard (National Board Blog) about civic education!

When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m hanging out with my two favorite people, Chris and Emma, watching The Office or Parks and Rec.

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