Electronic mail or email was invented in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Originally invented to help us communicate better, today you would be forgiven for thinking that emails are unhelpful and a workload burden.
In 1993, I recall sitting alongside my head of Department, observing him pulling up a wooden stool, perched in front of a PC like a meerkat, working on a makeshift desk inside a woodwork-store-come-office; happily satisfied to be typing an email to another colleague who worked in the same building.
Sending a message electronically was quite the revolution at the time, particularly in schools. Gone was the need to walk to the staffroom and post a memo in 30 or 40 different pigeonholes.
One email now did the same job and I remember him feeling quite smug about the fact that he no longer needed to waste time chasing colleagues or bumping into the grumpy deputy headteacher who may give him another job to do, or remind them about all the ones that we hadn’t yet completed.
Such is the life of those who choose to work in schools, as a new teacher I looked on with a sense of wonder.
Fast forward 30 years and today, with the outburst of social media, mobile devices in everyone’s hands and applications with notifications 24/7, you can start to get a sense of why so many human beings are wishing to disconnect.
Time and time again, research into teacher recruitment and retention sites that teachers, working in independent and state schools in England are working in excess of 50 to 55 hours per week just to keep up with the day job. With most full-time teachers tied into the classroom to deliver 20 hours of teaching per week, and with an endless pile of marking, assessments and lesson planning to do, trying to keep on top of an endless supply of email messages, as well as communicate or answer countless questions or poorly-worded messages, is it any wonder that we are all cracking up?
Over the last five years, I have conducted research into my email behaviours have started to see how I could optimise the way in which I work. Aside from the obvious responses to emails on my personal devices, I started to think about how I close tackle my ‘inbox’ with automated messages, delay delivery, or simply stating a period of the day in which I would or would not read or reply to emails.
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