Every teacher I know (including myself) is inundated with email. So why are our fellow colleagues some of the worst offenders when it comes to bad school-email behavior? Have you spotted any of these folks in your inbox lately?
1. The Reply All-coholic
This person’s gut response to any email is to reply all, regardless of content. Someone’s looking for their coffee mug? Reply all to let everyone know they don’t have it. An offer for free tickets to the football game? Boom! Reply all to tell us why they’re too busy to go. The Reply All-coholic is the worst email offender. This person may not even know that there is a reply-to-sender option.
2. The Smart-Ass
The Smart-Ass is incapable of giving a sincere response. Perhaps it’s boredom. Perhaps they are plagued by repressed memories of missing punch lines. This person can only make a mockery of mass emails. However irking, this role serves a critical purpose: They help people consider whether to reply all and thus take the risk of being bullied by the Smart-Ass.
3. The Closet Smart-Ass
A more advanced version of the Smart-Ass is the Closet Smart Ass. This person is able to produce satirical responses so advanced that a large proportion of the staff won’t even catch the joke. Unfortunately, this role is gasoline on the frustrating flames of email threads. One response from the Closet Smart-Ass is likely to multiply responses three-fold, as people try to work out whether it was a joke or not.
4. The Proud Mama/Papa Bear
A warmhearted soul, the Proud Mama/Papa Bear just really wants you to know some exciting news about their students. Mackenzie got a response from Highlights magazine, and they thought you all should know. Amir just won a $100 scholarship from the Future Zoologists Organization. Although there is nothing wrong with the Proud Mama/Papa Bear’s joyful tell-all, the issue emerges when people attempt to one up each other with congratulatory praise, even weeks later.
5. The NPR-vangelist
Every school has at least one NPR-vangelist—someone who has a constant stream of boring NPR news stories lilting in the air. Nary a group email can exist without the NPR-vangelist sharing an “interesting” (a.k.a. not interesting) podcast or news clip about the topic at hand. While no one actually reads the articles or listens to the podcasts, the next time you see the NPR-vangelist, they will ask if you “saw that article I sent.” It’s important to have at least one reference to This American Life handy to shift the NPR-vangelist’s focus away from the fact that you ignore every email they send.
6. The Pot Stirrer
We can thank the Pot Stirrer for keeping everyone grumpy. Rather than speak to an administrator directly, like a responsible person would, the Pot Stirrer poses controversial questions to the whole flippin’ building. You thought the yoga-pants dress-code debacle was history until the Pot Stirrer writes, “I thought we made a rule against yoga pants. Why am I still seeing so many?”
7. The Angst-hole
In days gone by, a teacher was only subjected to griping at the monthly staff meeting. Thanks to the jerks who made the interwebs, the modern teacher is now liable for an angst-induced vent at the click of a button. The Angst-hole has a bone to pick with … life and wants to make sure everyone knows it. Complaints range from student backpacks to evaluations to a 500-word lecture on how to change the copier toner for the next person. Consider the Angst-hole a former Pot Stirrer with an extra decade of teacher rage. Whatever you do, whether you agree or not, do not respond to the Angst-hole.
8. The Cryptic One
A lover of obscure literature, the Cryptic One packs a lot of meaning into nonsensical emails. Usually the message title contains the key idea with only a question mark in the actual email. Or, a pure lack of predicate exists, such as,
RTI. Peyton. Tier 2 but complicated. Thoughts?
There is little need to respond because A) you don’t know what the hell they’re talking about and B) by the time you generate a response, the Cryptic One has already come up with their own answer. Much like the Closet Smart-Ass, the Cryptic One’s emails generate more unnecessary reply alls, as people give thirty interpretations of the original message.
9. The Paranoia Prompter
Usually an administrator, the Paranoia Prompter mass messages a vague criticism or warning that’s intended for just a few people. Examples include:
I'm noticing a few of you aren't following the handbook on tardies.
I'd like you all to revisit the teacher dress code in your staff handbook.
We had thirteen errors during that last fire drill.
No matter how upstanding of a teacher you are, the Paranoia Prompter will make you question everything about your existence.
There are endless other roles—the Devil’s Annoying Advocate, the Enthusiastic Newbie, the Technologicas Ignoramus—but I’d argue the nine described above are the most common.
We’d love to hear—what bad school-email behavior do you see? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Chase Mielke, author of G-Words: 20 Strategies for Fostering Grit and Growth Mindset, is a learning junkie who happens to have a love affair with teaching. His obsessions with psychology, well-being, and cognition often live on his blog, affectiveliving.com.