You’re not alone! No one likes to get tough parent emails, but every teacher receives them! Find out exactly what to do and say when you get a negative parent email.
Responding to Negative Parent Emails
First of all, getting a negative parent email does not mean you are a poor teacher. It does not mean that you have done something wrong. Parents care about their kids, and they can passionately assert themselves on their child’s behalf. Sometimes that passion can come through as an accusation or a demand. Take a breath; you can handle this.
What to Do When You First Get a Tough Parent Email
First of all, resist the temptation to read the email multiple times. Read it only twice if it is a harsh email (especially if the parent is difficult or argumentative). You need to read it with purpose, not commit it to memory.
Make a list of the concerns in the email. Pay special attention to the questions and jot them down. Now close the email, and don’t open it again unless necessary.
If you’d like to craft a response right away, go ahead! Just don’t send it. Always wait 24 hours. You don’t want to respond emotionally. When you give it some time, you can compose or review your email in a calmer state.
Ways to Respond to Negative Parent Emails
When responding to a challenging parent email, follow these guidelines.
Refer to Your Notes
You don’t need to reopen the email. Use your notes as a reference. If you reread the email, you will likely get sucked back into the emotional vortex.
Start by Acknowledging the Concern
What was the main point of the email? Was the parent concerned about a poor grade or how you addressed an issue? Start by letting the parent know you have heard and understood their concerns (e.g., “I understand you are concerned about the fact that I moved Johnny’s seat to the front of the class.”)
Just Answer the Questions
Don’t respond to every inflammatory statement. Look back at the questions the parent asked. Respond to those. Justify your actions, if needed. Keep your answers caring but brief.
Keep It Short and Sweet
You don’t need to write a novel. Stick to the essential points, and encourage follow-up conversations to happen face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice (if you are comfortable with that). Let the parent know your availability.
Keep the Tone Positive
Stay positive and professional. You don’t need to sound happy-go-lucky, but never return vitriol with biting words. End the email with a sign-off like, “Please let me know if you have any further questions,” or “Thank you for reaching out.”
Ask for Help If It’s Appropriate
Do you need insight as to how to help the student? You can ask for help from your principal, school psychologist, or a teacher on your team. Just ensure the person has an educational right to know about the situation, so you don’t violate FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
Build Strong Parent Connections with Positive Parent Emails
If you establish yourself as a teacher who genuinely cares about their students, you can head off many (but not all) tough parent emails. Parents will realize that you have the best intentions regarding their students, and they are more likely to assume the best in a situation (and not the worst).
You can show parents you care by writing regular, positive parent emails. I like to write a classroom newsletter, send that out, and add a sentence or two to each parent. You can mention a high point from the week (“Jessie worked hard on her book report–amazing!” or “Manny reached out to our new student this week. So proud of him!”). You can also show pleasure that you are their child’s teacher. My favorite is “Sarah is a joy to have in class,” or “What a gift to watch Damien grow this year!” These little comments can go a long way in showing the parents that you are for their students.
What to Do When You Get a Tough Parent Email
No one likes being criticized or questioned, but tough parent emails are part of the job for every teacher. Try not to take it personally (yes, I know that’s hard). Take a minute and have your feelings, and then work the checklist in this article to respond promptly, positively, and professionally. You got this!