Etiquette for Principals Dos and Don ts, Pros and Cons By George J. Hademenos

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1 August, Etiquette for Principals Dos and Don ts, Pros and Cons By George J. Hademenos has revolutionized communication in the workplace, including the schools. For school principals, who are confronted with a multitude of daily issues, meetings, and crises that demand their attention, helps address minor issues so they can devote more time to the most pressing and serious problems. But the ease and usefulness of also can pose serious challenges to a principal as well. Here is a look at proper etiquette for principals, highlighting the dos and don ts (when to send them), pros and cons (why to send them), and helpful hints (how to send them). dos 1. Send to inform staff about upcoming campus news, decisions, and meetings. The number of teachers and staff at a particular school can vary from 40 to 170, depending on campus enrollment and school location. Since all or most teachers either have a computer in their classroom or access to one on campus, is an easy way to communicate. 2. Send to congratulate teachers and staff. Routinely, your staff goes above and beyond the typical demands of the school day, in many cases, often without recognition. Take a moment to recognize your staff for awards, accomplishments, and community service via rather than trying to fit them into a busy faculty meeting. 3. Send (at least BCC [blind carbon copy] yourself) on any correspondence involving students, parents, teachers, or administrative issues. A major advantage of is that it provides written documentation of a principal s response to an issue whether you are directly or indirectly involved. This hard copy will help you if you are confronted with an issue involving correspondence about an idea, suggestion, or complaint from a teacher, staff member, student, parent, or administrative official. 4. Use to arrange departmental meetings, distribute curricular materials, instructional resources, and content-specific websites. As the campus leader, a principal serves as the point person for communicating with the faculty on campusrelated issues as well as those pertaining to curriculum and instruction. A principal frequently receives information, resources, and materials from instructional specialists at the state, regional, and district levels as well as from professional organizations that will assist teaching faculty in the classroom. An easy and prompt way for a principal to transmit this information is through Do use to communicate with faculty, parents, students, and community members. A principal must maintain active, positive relationships with faculty and staff, students, parents and community members. It is a critical component to the success of a principal. The busy schedule and limited hours in a workday of a principal does not allow Page 1 of 5

2 don ts for personal meetings or telephone conversations with each of these individuals. is an efficient means of communicating with all of these populations in a timely manner. 1. Do not send to deal with a volatile issue. In most instances involving minor, sometimes rather mundane issues, is an appropriate and recommended means of addressing the issue. However, in issues involving upset parents or serious complaints of teacher or student misconduct, all parties need to feel that their concerns obviously enormous to them are taken seriously and addressed with aggressively. This feeling can only be conveyed to all parties through a personal, face-to-face approach or at least through telephone conversations. It is tempting for the principal to address these unpleasant issues with , but the fallout and resulting consequences may be far worse than simply addressing these issues upfront on a personal level. 2. Do not use to distribute jokes, videos, and non-instructional/noncurricular websites. Teachers often endure long, sometimes frustrating days and can use a joke, a funny video, or a website that provides comical relief or is uplifting. If teachers want to share these sites with their colleagues who share their sense of humor, they should be able to do so, but on their own time and certainly not during instructional time. Teachers should refrain from taking the liberty of sending such to the entire faculty of the campus. 3. Do not use to solicit advice about personal issues, send warnings about potential threats or scams, recruit business for a spouse/friend, or to campaign for a friend running for elective office. It seems that one or more of these types of messages routinely circulates through campus . This is inappropriate, wastes time, and takes up valued disk space on each teacher s computer. If a principal or staff member needs a quick and easy rule to determine whether an is appropriate, ask this question: Is this I am about to send consistent with, either directly or indirectly, the school s vision and will it help accomplish the school s mission? If yes, feel free to click. If not, don t even consider sending it. 4. Do not use to discuss disciplinary actions, consequences, complaints lodged by students, parents, or other teachers. Often, a teacher can become so overwhelmed with campus policies, classroom management, student discipline, and parent complaints that they voice their frustration in to the entire faculty. Teachers should refrain from voicing their displeasure through campus-wide and direct any complaints only to those who bear responsibility or can rectify the situation. Any disciplinary actions and consequences in response to complaints lodged by and toward parents or teachers should not be addressed to the entire faculty. Find time for a face-toface meeting. 5. Do not send any confidential s regarding student matters/conflicts/issues. Certain information about students grades, learning disabilities, medical conditions, and disciplinary status can be discussed in confidential s among teachers, parents, administrators, and counselors. However, don t send s to any teacher or staff member who is not instructionally responsible for the student. This can be not only be an embarrassing moment for the principal but could also quickly evolve into a legal issue. Page 2 of 5

3 pros 1. It provides written documentation. is hard copy proof of your thoughts, actions, and management of any issue that could eventually be used in support of any administrative and/or legal action that might occur as an outcome to the issue. 2. It is easy to compose and send. Practically all computers and operating systems are equipped with programs designed to compose and send an message with the click of a mouse. Even the novice principal would find it hard to effectively function on a daily basis without the access and use of It can be written quickly and sent at any time and place. The time it takes to compose and send depends literally on the time it takes to type the message. Once it is typed, the message is sent at the click of the mouse. is advantageous because it can be sent and checked quickly from any computer. Even meetings and workshops where the principal s attendance is required do not have to interfere with reading and sending . Blackberry and other similar technologies make it easy to compose and send from anywhere, including meetings. 4. It allows you to communicate virtually with anyone. Because most individuals (teachers and staff on campus as well as parents and community members at work or at home) have computers and access to accounts, is a convenient and effective way of conducting and managing school-related issues. 5. It is easy to organize, print, and store. Another appealing advantage of is that any message can be organized electronically in folders and/or printed out and filed in hard-copy form. cons 1. It provides written documentation. The first con is identical to the first pro for a reason. provides written documentation that could be used to support your involvement in any administrative and/or legal action that might occur, but it also could be used against you. 2. It can become addictive. The ease at which a principal can read and reply to s and/or compose and send a message from any computer or handheld at any time or location makes it an attractive and effective management tool, But it also can become addictive checking, reading, composing and sending on a very consistent basis. 3. It can consume computer storage very quickly. One typed message is about 1 kb (kilobyte) in size. An message with a one-page attachment is about 100 kb in size. If the attachment is larger in size or includes images or even video files, the size of the can become significantly larger. When the inbox of an account reaches 100 or even 200 messages (most having attachments), the storage capacity of the computer and the campus is quickly approached, causing headaches for the instructional technologist and district informational specialists. All useless should be deleted and only messages deemed important should be kept and stored. Page 3 of 5

4 4. It cannot be retrieved once it is sent. Sending is so easy that to some principals it becomes automatic. In fact, for principals who are expert in multi-tasking, can be sent while conferencing with a student, speaking on the phone to a parent, and reading a document regarding disciplinary action. Regardless of the number of distractions and the ease of sending , attention must be devoted to both the message s content and the recipient. Although can be recalled, it cannot be retrieved once a message is sent. 5. It can easily be abused, causing a lack of the personal touch. Composing and sending can be so easy and time efficient that a principal can rely on it to communicate with everyone and address all forms of problems, complaints and crises. This convenience should be the end-all crutch for dealing with all issues and all individuals, however. Some issues can only be effectively addressed in face-to-face meetings and only the principal can know for sure when these issues present themselves, regardless of how unpleasant such meetings can be. Helpful hints These are hints that a principal should (or try to) keep in mind before sending Do not send after a heated confrontation. A heated confrontation with a parent, teacher or staff member is not conducive for the right frame of mind to compose and send . The tendency to get behind your computer and put your thoughts into is great, but it is easy to let your emotions guide the text of your message and it usually ends up further aggravating the issue rather than repairing it. Also remember the fourth con listed above, cannot be retrieved once it is sent. 2. Think before you send and open . has become such an easy process that a principal can often compose messages with eyes closed and without giving it a second thought. This is commendable, but your first draft at explaining something or trying to resolve a conflict might not be the final draft. When an message is of a critical or sensitive nature, please take the time to review one if not several times before sending. Although you have heard it before, it does bear repeating: cannot be retrieved once it is sent. Also, take a second to notice the sender and the message subject. If the sender s name is unrecognizable or if there are the words Urgent, Open Immediately, or Important in the subject line, stop and look carefully, particularly before you open any attachments. It could be a virus that has infiltrated the district s filtering software. The result of opening such a message could adversely affect your hard drive as well as the hard drive of all faculty and staff on the campus network. When unsure about a particular message, regardless of the urgency, delete and follow up with phone calls to the Instructional Technologist at the campus or district levels. 3. Proofread and spell check an message before it is sent. A principal often does not take the time to review a composed but even a simple to a parent or the superintendent that has even one misspelled word or has a grammatically incorrect sentence can be embarrassing but is totally preventable. Take advantage of spell check programs and having a secretary review such messages before being sent. Page 4 of 5

5 4. Do not send an in all capital letters. No one likes to be shouted at in person or in . Using capital letters in the text of your message conveys the feeling of being yelled at and can annoy certain individuals even if you are attempting to congratulate them. 5. Send the only to those who should see the (especially those marked confidential) and not to the entire campus. Once an has been composed, make sure the addresses of all intended viewers are noted in the address space and no extras are involved. This is particularly important when dealing with sensitive and confidential messages. The importance of to a principal cannot be overstated. It s critically important in maintaining communication while managing the instructional and curricular needs of teachers and students. In fact, has become so mainstream to principals that they can sometimes forget the disadvantages or potential pitfalls that can arise from using this technology. By reminding the principal and faculty of both, can be used for its positive features while minimizing or completely eliminating potential pitfalls. George J. Hademenos is a teacher at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas. Page 5 of 5

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