HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: A war has broken out over a parent-teacher email.

A war has erupted over an email from a cheesed-off teacher.

Well, I say a 'war'. It's really more of an Internet kerfuffle. A testy social media exchange. And there's nothing more likely to make an ant-hill into a termite mound than a teacher-parent stoush. 

So sit back and enjoy the tea, which spills all over something close to my heart (but not in a good way): EMAIL. 

Watch: Teachers reveal the strangest comments parents have ever made. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

What happened was a woman posted on UK site Mumsnet saying that her kids' primary school had asked that she please not email teachers out of hours. She wrote:

"We've had a message from DCs' (darling children's) primary school respectfully asking parents to only email the head and class teachers between 8:30-5:30 on school days and not during the evenings / weekends / holidays, for staff well-being reasons (they deserve protected downtime etc.).

(Am I Being Unreasonable) to think that this is ridiculous? I work in a job where I don't always have access to a phone / computer during the working day and so, on the rare occasion that I need to contact a teacher, I tend to email in the evening at home or first thing before I get ready to leave. 


Obviously I don't expect them to reply out of working hours, or even to read it there and then, but I had never considered that it would be intrusive. In my job I get loads of emails at all times of the day and night and they just sit in my inbox until I am working!

Surely if it's impacting on their downtime so much, then they should just not check their emails in the evening and turn off notifications etc."


The responses were many. Some told her the teachers were lazy - everyone else is answering emails at all hours, why not them? Others told her to sort her settings out - you can write the email when you want, but you can set it to send at 9am, right? And many were on the school's side - teachers do enough bloody out-of-hours work already, why should they do yet more just to suit you? 

Oh, cranky posting mum, there's a lot to unpack here. About the relationship between parents and schools. About the 24/7 work culture. About EMAILs. 

There are two types of people when it comes to emails in 2020, when it's now only one of the many, many forms of instant communication we dally with daily. 

Type 1: I'm an inbox zero, immediate answerer emailer. My email is my to-do list and I attend to it immediately. 

My notifications are ON, and little red number blinking at me next to my mail symbol is a smear on my character. 

Type 2: I am drowning in an ocean of email. Unread, unanswered, unfiled, answered and lost, drafted and not sent. My inbox is a searchable smorgasbord of shit, a never-ending list of demands I will never meet. WHY DID YOU CC me, DAMN YOU?


Listen to Holly Wainwright talk about parenting on This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.

Reader, I am Type 2. The fact I am in your inbox at all is a miracle. 

Reader, the woman who wrote in that parenting forum is Type 1. 

And the thing that drives Type 1s mad is that to them, acknowledging an email is such an effortless, tiny courtesy, they don't understand how it could not happen. They don't understand the overwhelm that comes with yet another thing in the box. 

Turn your notifications off, say the Type 1s. If the teacher doesn't want to read the email at 11pm when I send it, don't see it to the morning. 

I would, say Type 2s, if I knew how.

Email has become work we don't consider work anymore. How many of us plough through our inboxes on a Sunday night? Or on weekday evenings in front of Junior Masterchef? How many of us catch up on admin emails (like sending something to the teacher) just before we go to bed? How many of us can't help but respond to that notification that pops up when you're at dinner/on the toilet/playing with your kids at the park/reading at bedtime? 

Almost all of us, that's who.

The war about whether it's okay to email out of hours feels both retro and hyper-current at the same time. 


Retro because we are never not communicating, so why would emails be any different? 

In an age of working from home, an Out Of Office auto-reply seems almost laughable. What has whether or not you're in the office got anything to do with working, anyhoo? 

And hyper-current because we're all trying to claw back some sanity as this year limps to its inevitable conclusion (it has to end sooner or later, right?). And asking to not be bombarded with work things at midnight seems like a very sane request. 

But is it possible that, at the bottom of this email stoush about teachers and parents, I actually found an elegant solution? Something that doesn't say to a stressed-out educator YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO ME NOW. Something that doesn't say to a busy working parent WHY CAN'T YOU DO THIS ON MY SCHEDULE?

I have a line on my signature, wrote one woman in the comments, that says:

"I have sent this email at a time convenient to me, please reply at a time convenient to you,"

Well, that sounds a bit reasonable for 2020, doesn't it? 

BRB, changing my email signature.

Holly x

What do you think? What are you emailing the school about and when do you expect a reply?