Teachers are busy.
I spent the last 5 minutes trying to think of a clever way to say that teachers are busy, but I couldn’t think of anything, so let’s just say it straight out – We are really busy!
Earth-shattering news, I know!
But seriously, there’s always so much to do – maybe too much to do. And never enough time to do it, right?
I doubt any of us will ever get to the point where our to-do lists are empty and we’re kicking our feet up on our desk drinking a cup of coffee and reading a good book, but we really shouldn’t be running around like chickens with our heads off.
The reality is that there are a lot of ways to save ourselves some time. In fact, I did a series on this awhile ago called “25 Ways to Save Time & Take Home Less Work.” Today, we’re going to focus on one important time-saving strategy: email templates.
What is an email template?
I’m glad you asked. You know how you’ve had to email five parents this week about how their kid’s not doing their homework? Well, instead of typing out a new email every time, you can create a template, or a standard email, that you send out every time you need to tell a parent about this issue. Then in the future you can just copy and paste it and customize it a little bit to fit the situation.
Not only do email templates save you the time of re-creating the same content over and over, but they also end up providing better communication. Why? Because you can take the time to write a great response full of lots of helpful information – much more info than you’d have time for if you create a brand new message each time the situation comes up.
What kind of templates should I create?
It really depends on your classroom and your situation, but here’s a couple ideas to get you thinking in the right direction.
- Late homework: Informing parents their student has ___(fill in the blank) late homework assignments this quarter & what they can do to help their student in this area.
- Poor grades: Informing parents their student currently has a low grade and giving them strategies to improve.
- Absence communication: A list of standard instructions you can send to absent students with blanks that you just fill in based on what they missed.
Really, for any email that you write, if you know you’ll have to write a similar email again at some point, go ahead and create a template.
So how do I write a template?
It’s pretty easy actually. I create templates using two different strategies.
- The BCC: The easiest way to create a template is to write the email as normal and then simply BCC (blind carbon copy) yourself on the email. This means that you will receive a copy of the email back in your inbox, but the person you sent it to won’t know that you also sent it to yourself. (There’s normally a “BCC” field underneath the “To” and “CC” fields when you write an email.) Then, create a folder in your email called “Templates” and just move that email into that folder. The next time you need to write a similar email, find the email in the folder and copy and paste the portions you want into the new email.
The BCC is incredibly easy to create, but it’s not quite as easy to use because you end up having to sort through all your templates to find the right one and then re-read it to copy & paste the right portions. So if you have a few extra minutes to create the template, this next method takes slightly longer to create but is a lot quicker & easier to use:
- The Copy & Paste: To create a better template, start by crafting the email as usual. Then, before you send it, copy and paste the entire email into a new email window (or even a Word document). Now’s the time to really make a great template. Go through and look for any portions that would need to be personalized in the future (for example: a name, the student’s grade, or the number of assignments a student has missed), and change the color to make them red. Read through the email again to ensure it would make sense if it was sent to someone else. If you think a portion will need to be personalized, add a note [in red] such as: “Insert list of missing assignments here.”
Save the template with an easy-to-understand name such as “missing homework.” Or, you can email a copy of it to yourself so you can put it in your “templates” folder – make sure the subject line tells you which template it is. When it comes time to use the template, all you’ll have to do is look at the parts that are red and make sure you personalize those. Then you can hit send & be done.
Need more time-saving tips?
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You can create a template in Word and add fields that you fill in with information when you need it. Word gives you the option of e-mailing directly from there, so you don’t have to copy, paste and make changes to an e-mail. It’s fairly easy, just find the Word document on your computer, open it, fill in your form fields with whatever information you need (you can edit if you need to), then select the option to e-mail. It allows you to add a subject and an introduction when it opens up the mail message. I just tested this out for myself and it worked great!
I have a better idea. Forget assigning homework! Why do we assign homework in the first place? It is a stressor for families, kids, teachers, and a waste of time.
How would you propose that kids practice and prep for new concepts?
I agree with Rebecca. High School students only copy homework for other classes while they should be listening to my lesson. I waste my time taking their work and giving it to the teacher who assigned it. I only assign homework as something they need to do that teaches responsibility. They may have to have a progress report signed or practice a few examples of a skill we are currently learning. Homework is rarely authentic for high school students.