Un-send! Un-send!

smileRaise your hand if you wish your email had an Un-send option. OK. You can now all put down your hands.

I’ve sent accidental emails, blank emails, half-finished emails, emails to the wrong people, emails to the right people plus some wrong people, and yesterday I sent one when I was angry. In each case, an Un-send option would have been nice, although in each case avoiding human error would have also prevented any need for a techno-fix.

Yesterday our department received an email from a colleague and dear friend whose responsibility it was to provide us with information regarding an upcoming district assessment designed by a committee of teachers in our district, and the assessment itself. I took one look at the assessment, judged it a travesty, and exploded. I hit Reply All, and my fingers started flying across the keyboard. My emotions came through very clearly, too clearly, and I hurt some feelings.

My goal here is not to explain myself and certainly not to defend myself, but to search for the line where it’s appropriate to express outrage. I believed (and still believe) the assessment is deeply flawed for reasons that are beside the point here, and I’m mad and having a hard time accepting that I’m required to do something that I strongly feel is not in the best interests of my students.

Does that mean I should rip into good people who are just doing their jobs? Of course not, but what can I do with this frustration toward an assessment-generating system that virtually guarantees flawed products?

Here are the questions I’m trying to process: Is it ever OK to be mad on a professional level? When is expressing anger an appropriate response? What is worth fighting for? What good does it do to be outraged at an assessment or a system? How do we know when the cause is lost, and how do we move toward acceptance?

The answers probably involve focusing on the problem more specifically, or simply ignoring the problem. Yesterday I took it out on the wrong people, which I deeply regret. That is definitely not the answer.

None of this frustration affects my classroom persona or behavior, but yesterday it boiled over in ways that affected my colleagues. At best, I created awkwardness and maybe some deeper reactions at worst. Next week I have some fences to try to mend, no doubt about it. But the underlying problems will still be there, and I don’t know what to do about that, if anything. Re-calibrate and try again? Ignore? Just do it? I don’t know.

Any thoughts and advice are welcome. Thanks for reading.

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5 Responses to Un-send! Un-send!

  1. CBethM says:

    I have written those emails myself. Most if the time I’ve remembered what my mentors have taught me: wait at least an hour or more before hitting send. That’s usually enough time to cool down and revise out just delete.

    There’s a difference between lashing out at colleagues and expressing frustration and anger about a situation. Sounds like you aren’t so angry at the people involved as you are frustrated at the situation and disappointed with the result of their work.

    One way to mend fences would be to explain that and work from there. Share your concerns and see where it goes from there. Probably aren’t any quick fixes, but I’m sure the apology for your email being fired off before you could cool off would be a good first step.

    You’re human. We’ve all done this before.


  2. I think it’s ok to be mad on a professional level, especially if that anger can be channeled into enacting change for the good of our students. And those of us that know you know that the what is best for your students is always at the forefront of anything you say or do.

    I too am guilty of hitting send when I should have waited an hour or two (I can stew and brew for a long time if I’m fired up). And as much as I hate confrontation, a simple apology does the trick. Those involved I think will understand where your frustration comes from. It’s not like these district assessments come about organically. PLCs/PLTs/whatever the acronym is now, they are just an assembly line for assessments, which is unfortunate. I’d love to learn professionally from my colleagues. When does that get to happen?


  3. Glenda Funk says:

    In my old age I’m trying to be less reactionary. I have written numerous emails and, in an earlier era, letters that I never sent. I have been on the receiving end of some, too. About a month ago, a colleague decided I needed a 40 minute lecture about how to teach English, and she decided I needed this lecture in front of a student. Normally, I wouldn’t be so compliant, but I found myself rather speechless, and I said very little that Friday afternoon. Afterwards, I sent her a short email in which I told her that I’m very angry. Thing is, my colleague isn’t an English teacher.

    I suspect my story has little in common w/ the experience you write about. The past few years I’ve given lots of thought to teachers who accept the job of writing district assessments. When the teacher isn’t made to complete the task, almost all criticism is fair. If your colleagues had no choice about writing the tests, that’s a different matter. Those who make Faust deals need only blame themselves when they get a backlash from colleagues. It goes w/ the territory. Since I don’t know enough of the details about the scenario you share, it’s difficult to know how I feel about your email.

    I think teachers need to show righteous indignation when it comes to these common assessments, and our colleagues who choose to be conduits for the creation of common assessments really shouldn’t be surprised by the push-back.


  4. Angenette says:

    I completely understand where you frustration comes from, so don’t beat yourself up — you are human!!! We all make mistakes sometimes. As for your question…where to go with your feelings about these assessments…I vote for re-calibrate and try again. I don’t know how much of a voice we have in the decision making here, but we can still express our thoughts from the trenches. You have a lot of experience and perspective that should be valued…heck, you’ve written the textbook for that level. I would hope you have an influence!


  5. Tony Romano says:

    Every major dispute I have ever had with another teacher, whether intentional or not, can be reduced to this: I wanted what was best for students. And when something interfered with that, well, I could be brash and stupid and careless, and yes, regretful. I suspect that underlying this whole business with the assessment you skewer is your overwhelming concern for students. You didn’t want them to endure another pointless assessment that means little to them–and here’s the irony–and even less, if they’re honest, to those in the upper echelon pushing the assessment. They simply need something to DO. It’s unfortunate that others were hurt in the crossfire of words, which points out another irony to me: you both care deeply about students.

    I don’t know…maybe we all need these kind of disputes now and then. Maybe this is the only way to get things changed?


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