Make writing a professional email a graduation requirement.

Written on
December 15, 2020
Peter Hostrawser

This is going to sound like a rant, but hey, we are at the end of 2020 so here it goes. Writing a professional email should be a high school graduation requirement. I think I just heard a ton of teachers out there yell “YES!” I get emails from students all the time as I am communicating with them regarding make up work and helping them out to improve their learning. Here is an example of an interaction via email at the end of a typical semester:

“once i submit the career project would i be passing your class?”

Before we start into this young person’s email, we have to understand how they got here. I don’t mean about the grade, I mean about the email. When you read it, at first, you are appalled. The grammar is terrible, it sounds like a demand, and overall, it is very unprofessional. Many teachers I have worked with over the years, including myself, fight to not take this personally.

But WHY does this student think an email like this is okay to send?

There are several reasons, however, the most prominent one is that they have NEVER been taught how to actually send a professional email. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to teach them to do better when something like this is sent to me. These days, there aren’t a lot of classes that include this in their curriculum. I am a business teacher and professional email is included in many of those classes. The problem is that not all students take these courses. I feel we need to somehow change this challenge. A bad email can ruin a reputation, a job prospect, a college entrance, and the list goes on.

What can we do right now as educators if and when we receive emails like the one above. The first step is to SAY CALM! Don’t react. Don’t take it personally. The second step is to correct the email. Here is what I sent back to this student:

Hi (Student Name)
Thank you for your inquiry regarding your grade. A few things here for learning purposes. When asking someone who is supporting you and working hard to motivate you, write a more professional email. Perhaps something like this:
Hi Mr. H,
Thank you for supporting me and working on my behalf to make sure I learn and pass your class. I wanted to know when I turn in my Career Cluster Project assignment, would that improve my grade to be passing? I ask because I am concerned for my grade and learning the material.
Thank you,
(Student Name)
This will help you with communication with any teacher or more importantly any professional you connect with. Otherwise, your email comes off crass and uncaring for all involved. Just a business tip here as you are learning and growing.

I would also suggest following up with the student in class. Students take criticism differently. I like to make sure the student realizes that I am not angry, just helping out their future communications. Lastly, try not to believe that one of these email corrections will fix the problem. It may take several attempts.

Ok, rant over. This is one of the many things I believe should be a graduation requirement. The students should have to email someone professionally to prove out they know how to do it! One more thing we can do to disrupt education.

Peter Hostrawser
Creator of Disrupt Education
My value is to help you show your value. #Blogger | #KeynoteSpeaker | #Teacher | #Designthinker | #disrupteducation
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