Responding to Students: The 24-Hour Rule

If teaching was ever a 9-5 gig, it certainly isn’t these days. Whether you’re working school hours, afterschool hours, extended break hours, or all of the above, you’re undoubtedly putting a ton of time into being an educator. Little wonder those messages from students and their parents that intrude upon your “free” time seem like they can wait another day or two.

And those messages pour in, don’t they? Every new communication channel opens another way for seemingly anyone at any time to fire off whatever questions or concerns pass their minds. Receiving an email or text in the middle of the night might have seemed odd at one time but appears to be the norm today.

Before you ignore that question from a student or parent, though, consider what inspired it in the first place. Most students, even the ones that love school, happily put thoughts of their teachers behind them until the next class or lesson. That means that a student that reaches out to you when school is out needs your help. The same applies to parents, who are not even remotely driven by an urge to annoy you but rather a need to help their children.

Basically, those off-hour messages are driven by pain, confusion, misunderstanding, or anxiety.

Letting your students suffer through the pain of misunderstanding longer than necessary isn’t great teaching. Even worse, for those of us in the for-profit sector of education, failure to respond to that pain is bad business. On the other hand, a swift and effective reply shows superb customer service.

My team and I adhere to a simple 24-hour rule for client contact: any message from a client should be responded to within 24 hours. Clients, as you might imagine, love our responsiveness. And we, as educators, embrace any opportunity to share knowledge and dispel confusion. Plus, comprising an enterprise entirely beholden to our clients for revenue, we appreciate the power inherent in being a solution and ally.

Replying within a day to a client message is easy. In fact, responding as soon as a message comes in takes it off your to-do list–a constantly nagging source of pressure–and places it into that far more satisfying DONE list. You obviously should not feel like you have to respond to messages in the middle of the night, but don’t imagine that you should wait a certain number of hours just to prove your independence. Any reply, even a brief response that promises a longer one later, sends a message that any teacher or service provider wants to send: you care and want to help.

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