Parents Get An ‘F’ in Email Etiquette

The rogue 'reply all' plagues classroom parents' inboxes

Photograph by Getty Images/Flickr Open

Is it poor etiquette to tell someone the proper etiquette on how to do something? Probably. But now you know a little about me.

Now that the kids are back in school, my in-box is full. But not with coffee date invitations or important information from the school. Instead, I’m getting 26 “thank yous”—with an occasional “:)” added in for good measure—from each and every parent. They either think it’s proper email etiquette to “reply all” to every single email the teacher sends—or they don't understand the difference between reply and reply all. Either way, it's annoying.

I remembered this mom from Back to School Night. Instead of sitting and listening like the rest of the parents, she stood at the back of the classroom and finished the teacher's sentences.

Dear parents, if you want to show your gratefulness, reply to the teacher only. Not to all of the parents.

I seriously considered sending that exact email, careful to word it as politely as possible. But I knew it would not be received as a “please could you not overwhelm us with unnecessary emails” and instead read as “I OBVIOUSLY HATE YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN.” So I refrained.

Then the other night an angel did it for me. OK, so maybe it wasn’t sent by an angel, but more like another email-exhausted parent who replied to all after receiving the eleventy-billionth unnecessary reply to an email where the teacher never even asked a question. This angel simply and politely requested that everyone reply to the teacher only unless otherwise necessary.

I wanted to hug that parent.

And then her reply came. That mother. You know the one. She’s better than everyone else—her kids are smarter, cuter, and she knows more than you and the teacher combined, and basically, she wins at motherhood. She replied to all, again, and shamed this parent for his request, implying that he must not care about meeting the needs of the teacher or the kids. She said she would gladly remove him if he didn’t want to help but for the rest of “us,” this was the way of communicating effectively.

Um, what? You don’t speak for me, lady. I was fired up. I sat at my computer and typed an angry reply TO ALL and then stopped. Do I even engage?

I remembered this mom from Back to School Night. Instead of sitting and listening like the rest of the parents, she stood at the back of the classroom and finished the teacher's sentences, jumping in to ask questions that would later be answered in the presentation—if she had only waited that long. Now, here she was, taking this parent to task in front of all the other parents! How did this parent’s request to not receive a bajillion emails mean he didn’t want the needs of the kids met?

I hate to be rash so I sat on that email draft a whole five minutes before sending my reply ... to all, of course:

'Replying to all' with a rude response to a parent who was politely asking you to follow proper email etiquette was completely unnecessary and proved his point.

Please also delete me from these 'reply all' emails.

Thank you.

Perhaps my reply wasn’t any nicer than hers but I was not about to take an entire school year of her emails and bullying. This might mean a few less coffee date invitations, but, you know what? I’m going to survive.

This isn’t a new dilemma—in fact, it’s an epidemic plaguing our inboxes. Both the teachers and the parents have a responsibility to stop the senseless emailing. Teachers should be using the BCC (blind carbon copy) field when sending out group emails, which would alleviate the “reply all” situation altogether, and parents shouldn’t be replying to everyone unless it’s pertinent. There are all kinds of great causes out there like “National Ice Cream Month,” so I’m suggesting we add a “National Stop the Senseless Emails Month” to end the tragedy. We all have to do our part.

MORE: Restaurant Etiquette for Your Kids ... and You

3 Comments
stay in the know