How to Craft a Bulletproof Email to Parents

Here is an email template to use when writing to parents about bad behaviour

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Having to tell a parent that their child hasn’t behaved in a lesson can be tricky. The parent fears your judgement of their child-rearing and you fear their judgement of your skills as a teacher. It’s a powder keg of emotions waiting to go off.

Over the years I’ve developed a tried-and-tested email that is clear, honest and practical. It gets the detention set-up without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Here is an example of the email (all names are fictional):

Dear Mrs Johnson,

This is Mr Smith, James’ English teacher.

I’m afraid that James was caught talking repeatedly during a silent writing task in our lesson this morning. He had been warned to stop, but persisted.

As a consequence for disrupting the task, James will, with your permission, have a detention after school for 30 minutes on Monday 19th October.

Please let me know if James will be unable to attend.

Kind regards,

Mr Smith

I believe this email works because it does the following:

Uses names

Opening with the parent’s name shows that you’ve taken the time to write to them specifically. It implies that you are personally invested in them and their child. In comparison, an email beginning ‘Dear parent’ followed by ‘your son’ sounds so impersonal it wouldn’t surprise me if the email gets ignored, or worse, provokes a hostile response.

Commiserates

Opening the body of the email with ‘I’m afraid…’ or ‘Unfortunately…’ suggests that you had better expectations for their child and expresses your disappointment in a way that is conflict averse.

Sticks to the facts  

State clearly what you saw, heard and did as these an undeniable. Speculating on why they might have behaved in this way or any other interpretation of the facts is beside the point so there’s no need to dilute your message with it.

Asks for permission

Sneaking this into the middle of the sentence requests permission for the detention without explicitly asking for it. In doing this, the parent will feel that they are being included as part of the behaviour management process rather than being dictated to. Often a parent will reply with an enthusiastic ‘you have my permission’ in response.

Plans ahead

Sometimes there will be a good reason for the student to need to reschedule a detention.  Mentioning that the student might not be able to attend prompts the parent to check their diary and let you know of any possible clashes.

So, if you like the sound of this email, and wish to use the template yourself, here it is:

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss/Dr [Surname],

This is [Your Name], [student’s name]’s [subject] teacher.

I’m afraid that [student name] [description of behaviour + when it happened].

As a consequence for [behaviour], [student name] will, with your permission, have a detention after school for [length of detention] on [date of detention].

Please let me know if [student name] will be unable to attend.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

While writing emails is not rocket science, your choice of words really do matter. And if, like me, you find yourself writing lots of these emails, having a template to copy and paste can be a great timesaver – just don’t do what I once did and forget to change the names!

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