Responding to a Parent’s Rude Email
Dealing with difficult parents is one of the most stressful parts of a teacher’s career. Unfortunately, with the ever-growing power and popularity of email, the problem only seems to worsen from year to year. Have you ever arrived at school, happy and hopeful about the coming day, only to open your inbox to a rude email from a parent? If you have, you are certainly not the first, nor will you be the last.
How you deal with a rude email can make or break your relationship with the sender and his or her child. Not to mention the impact it could potentially have on your job. It is wise to proceed with caution when dealing with any type of inappropriate correspondence from a parent.
First, when you get an ugly email, do not respond immediately, especially if it is one that has really made your blood boil. Give yourself some time to calm down and think it through. Remember that once you hit send, that email is set in stone, metaphorically speaking. There is no going back, so make sure you do not arm the parent with ammunition that can later be used against you.
If you feel comfortable enough, rather than writing back, give the parent a phone call. Sometimes parents, like teachers, get overwhelmed with their day-to-day responsibilities and quickly fire off an email without stopping to think that it could be rudely interpreted. If you talk to the parent, you will be able to hear their intonation and expression. You may find that the parent simply wrote an email to ask a question or share a concern and did not intend to come across as rude.
However, there will be times when it is blatantly obvious that the email was intended to be insulting. I recommend sending back a short, polite reply requesting a conference. (Read more about parent-teacher conferences here and here. ) Then make sure to have an administrator or colleague present at the meeting. I have found that more often than not, the parents never calls to request a conference; I can only assume he or she is embarrassed about their rude words and never meant to meet in person. You can always call them to follow-up if you feel it is nesessary.
Whatever you do, do not respond defensively or rudely; remember that you are a professional. If you choose to reply to their questions or comments over email, then simply respond clearly, concisely, and politely. There is no need to go overboard with kindness or a long explanation, just be the professional you know you are. You will come out the winner every time.