Perhaps I noticed it more starkly because I was sick and working a reduced schedule this week. Frankly with two kids in New York City private schools I usually ignore the daily onslaught of emails announcing school raffles, parent coffee mornings, walks in support of a variety of worthy causes and the like. However, the week I read them all. Including, all too frequently, the blast reply-to-all from the email-challenged parent confirming that Dakota's missing pink cardigan could not, unfortunately, be found in her daughter Tiffany's schoolbag.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think all parents have a moral obligation to take an active interest and involvement in their children's education. However, I was struck by the difference between the New York and London schools our children have attended. During the seven school years Mariana and Walter attended English schools, they received an excellent education from teachers who cared deeply about their students. Among their pedagogic talents, they had also mastered the use of the class email list. Nonetheless, they managed to resist the urge to over-communicate, or as their charges would say, they did not inflict the dreaded T.M.I.
It is, of course, easy to criticize and harder to suggest what level or form of school communication is optimal. Moreover, parents have different attitudes toward how much information is too much and they also receive different amounts of daily email. So, here is my suggestion for schools or other organizations to fit information output to the differing information needs and desires of their stakeholders. First, developing a sound communication strategy should not be conflated with establishing an optimal email policy. There are many tools available: web sites, community wikis, RSS and Twitter feeds, Facebook and Tumblr pages, YouTube videos and podcasts, Google+ circles, Instagram photo sharing, as well as plain old mail and telephone. Second, the individual seeking to share information should ask himself how urgent is the communication? Does it need to go to the entire community or just a subset? Is a responsive action required or is it just an FYI communication? Once these and other similar questions are answered a suitable communications strategy can be determined.
We all love our kids and we are all subjected to far more information than we can hope to process and act upon. Schools are in an excellent position to start establishing the norms of communication that their students will carry forward to their next schools, employers and other institutions.