eMail holds the potential to give parents and teachers better communication with each other than ever before. However, with the size of classes today and the ability of most parents to go online, teachers are starting to complain about the overwhelming number of eMails they are receiving.

Some schools encourage parents and teachers to use eMail as much as possible, figuring that it’s more reliable than sending notes home with children and quicker than using the regular mail. With eMail, teachers can keep parents abreast of major classroom activities, dates of tests or project due dates, and other matters.

Though teachers say the vast majority of queries they get from parents are simple—how’s my son/daughter doing, when is the exam, etc.—the sheer volume of eMail requests can be overwhelming. Plus, many parents expect an almost instant answer, given the vast speed of internet communications.

The National Education Association (NEA) has been asked to look into this issue and perhaps offer guidelines for how—and how often—teachers should respond to parents’ eMails, said Barbara Stein, NEA’s senior policy analyst for education and technology. NEA state affiliates indicate that teachers often feel pressured by their districts to respond to eMails within a day, which may load up already-tight professional schedules, she said.

A National Parent Teacher Association representative said her group views eMail as a boon to teacher-parent communication, but hasn’t yet issued a policy defining expectations for speed of response. The National PTA believes that local PTA chapters can facilitate eMail communication by offering an option of running eMails through the local PTA web site. This would especially help parents whose children attend schools where teachers do not have in-school eMail.