Here is the lesson I have to learn: to write short, to-the-point emails that even bad readers will understand.
I am a wordy sort of writer (as you know from my blog posts), and I can dash off a quick email to a friend just like the next person, but sometimes I actually try to explain something or set the record straight or make a compelling argument in an email. And there are readers for whom that's just fine: my department head, for example, and the head of the upper school.
But apparently many people don't bother to read an email over one paragraph, or read it quickly and just grab onto the phrase that catches their eye without paying attention to the role that phrase is playing in the entire sentence or paragraph. This happened even last year when I was acting department head; I often felt like I needed to put an explanation in writing, and then of course no one actually read it. But at least they mostly didn't get mad, unlike some folks.
Witness the annoying lunch meeting I had two days ago. My GSA co-head and I were meeting with two folks from the middle school, both of whom have been seriously annoyed with me for over a month now, ever since they misread an email I sent. In that email, I said that we needed to be careful not to imply X. Both of them immediately assumed that I had just accused them of X, and both fired off pissed-off emails to me. When I replied and said, "no, that's not what I said; here's what I said," they ignored me. Turns out that, one month later, they were still pissed and were happy to tell me so in no uncertain words at the lunch table. I defended myself a wee bit but mostly thought it wasn't worth it, so we called the discussion "clearing the air" and moved on. Of course, what they call "clearing the air" I now call "losing respect for you because you're such bad readers and really shouldn't be educators," but that's a side point. (A friend pointed out that it would be better to have had the original conversation in person rather than over email, which is certainly true but is very difficult to pull off since the middle school and upper school have different schedules. It took us quite a while to arrange this one lunch meeting.)
So I need to learn to streamline my emails somehow -- eliminating the charming turns of phrase that I labor over, or leaving the explanations for another time. It's bumming me out, but if the point of communication is to, you know, communicate, I'm clearly not doing that as well as I should. Hello, terseness, my new friend. (This comment ironically comes near the end of a rambling blog post, I know.)
In other streamlining news, I had an extra free period today because my AP Lit students were taking their exam. I not only wrapped up some grading, but I also tackled the piles of paper that were growing on every horizontal surface. Those piles were a visual metaphor for me that my school life was on the edge of slipping out of control, and it felt SO good to file things, return things to their proper homes, and mostly to recycle the heck out them. Oh, the clean surfaces!
If only I could motivate myself to do the same thing at home.
In other non-streamlining news, I bought fat shorts yesterday. D. got mad at me for calling them that, but I figure we might as well call them what they are, and that is shorts that I can wear comfortably even in my uncomfortably large state. Not that my weight has gone up in the last several months; nope, it's stayed exactly at the same spot, but that's a spot for which I had very little summer attire. I'm still hoping that I'll lose weight as the warm weather continues, but in the meantime there's no point in punishing myself by not having anything I feel comfortable wearing.
And that's the streamlining (and non-streamlining) news for the day.