OK, e-mail, not a big deal right? An easy way to communicate and shoot off quick messages. No! You need to be careful about your e-mails.
First of all, anything that goes online can never really be deleted. The internet is permanent. (This is also a good talk to have with your students about what they put on myspace and facebook and wherever else they're hanging out online.) If you send someone an e-mail that you deem is for their eyes only, there really is absolutely nothing stopping them from hitting the forward button. So think twice before you complain about someone or something online, and don't share any information in an online format that is sensitive.
Who should you e-mail? One word of advice: never have personal e-mail conversations with your students. They should never have your e-mail address (and don't friend them on facebook or similar sites). I'm not saying you can't use e-mail as a tool in the classroom, but make sure you're using a separate e-mail address that is your "professional" account and only discuss school business. Many boards have their own email service and most students figure out that it's your first name's initial and your last name or whatever the formula is, but don't give them your hotmail, gmail, yahoo, or other accounts.
This is about boundaries, I know you won't do anything and that student is a great kid, but you never know how an innocent message can be interpreted and/or edited to look BAD. Teacher-student e-mail should be minimal, and only about class.
Now for parents, you will get a lot of correspondence in various formats, including e-mail from parents. E-mail from parents should be kept and filed away in case anything ever comes up again. Try to keep e-mail correspondence with parents down to quick simple things. More complicated subjects really should be verbal conversations as e-mail messages can often be misread. It is really easy to take something the wrong way in an e-mail, because it's just plain text and there is no emotion or inflection (and little smilies and emoticons are not very professional).
Make it clear to parents the way that you work with e-mail. If you're the type of person that checks your e-mail several times a day, it's not a big deal, but if you only check it once or twice a day (or week), you really should mention that to parents. In today's socity people don't realize that just because they sent the message 5 hours ago, doesn't mean you read it 5 hours ago. E-mail can be instantaneous, but it needs someone to be at the other end. I don't really think that your life should revolve around e-mail, I'm just saying that some people don't realize that your life doesn't revolve around e-mail and may be insulted that they didn't get an immediate response. If you value your time and don't constantly check your messages, relay that information to parents. It can be as simple as including in your note at the beginning of the year one sentence that says these are the ways you can contact me and THIS is the best way to contact me.
Colleagues: Please collaborate with colleagues as much as you can. Subscribe to newsletters from associations and groups related to the subjects and ages you teach, but again, don't get too personal in e-mail as you never know how someone will take that sentence; you may have meant it as a joke, but they might not see it.
E-mail yourself. Hunh?!?! Yes! E-mail important things to yourself as a BACKUP storage of files, documents, and possibly electronic grade backup files (if you have one of those programs). But don't have that as your only copy, you never know when the server will be down. It's great to realize that yes, you forgot that paper on your desk at home, but the file is only a click away in your e-mail. But it's also horrible to realize that you e-mailed yourself that file, you need it for the next class that starts in five minutes and you can't log in!
Please comment or send your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have great day!