Hello? Are Your Students
most students communicate with their peers on cell phones and in social media
outlets and are comfortable using
voicemail and e-mail. But many
students typically express their ideas
and feelings spontaneously, with little
thought given to planning and adapting their messages to the needs and
expectations of their audiences. They
need to understand the difference
between spontaneous and professional
communication. That’s why it’s important to teach students about proper
I have developed these guidelines
to help students learn the importance
of leaving messages that are clear, concise, and respectful:
Identify yourself. In e-mail, include
your name and class title in the
subject line and in the e-mail’s first
sentence. In voicemail, speak slowly,
distinctly, and politely so your teacher
can easily understand your name, the
class title and class time, and, when
appropriate, your phone number.
Example of an E-mail
subject line: confirmation
of instructions for paper due tomorrow
for 10 a.m. section of american literature
Dear mr. Boyer:
good afternoon. i missed the last three
classes due to illness and am writing to
make sure i understand the homework
requirements for the paper due tomorrow.
When i called a friend from our class, she
told me how to find the short story at the
class website, and i just finished reading it.
i will begin writing my paper as soon as i
receive your response.
i understand it should be 1–2 double-spaced, typed pages, including a one-paragraph introduction, a summary of the
content, and my evaluation of the story’s
strengths and weaknesses.
let me know if there are additional
requirements, as i want to do my best on
this paper. i appreciate the time you are
taking to help me.
With warm regards,
is Tockpho To.com/ chUWy
Plan your messages. Jot down what
you want the teacher to do in response
to your message, why your request is
appropriate, details that relate to your
request, and reasonable timing for the
response. Take this step for both e-mail and voicemail messages.
Be concise. Keep e-mails and voicemails short and to the point.
Show respect. Use phrases such as
“Please,” “Thank you for taking the
time to help me,” and “I value your
insight.” Also, avoid language that indicates disrespect of the teacher
or school or that demands an immediate response.
Guidelines Specifically for E-mail
• Use courteous language and punctuation that suggests a calm and
rational tone. Do not use all capitals
for any sentences!
• Avoid abbreviations, slang expressions, and emoticons, which may
be unfamiliar to your reader. Not
everyone can make sense of this
sentence: BTW, can U plz send info
on nxt paper? Thx .
• Use proper punctuation, including
• Proofread for grammar, punctuation, and word choice.
• Spellcheck for accuracy.
Students who follow these
guidelines learn a principle of
communication reciprocity that
will benefit them for a lifetime:
To achieve their own objectives
requires that they consistently
adapt their commu-
nication to the needs
and expectations of
Example of a Voicemail
hi, ms. Jackson. This is Juanita miro
from your 10: 30 american history class.
my number is 745-5555.
i am calling to find out when it would be
convenient for me to follow up on your
suggestion that i meet with you to discuss
my plans for improving my history Fair
project before entering it into the city
The city competition is held on march 1,
so a meeting by mid-February would allow
me time to improve the project based on
again, this is Juanita miro at 745-5555.
i appreciate your help and look forward to
—Thomas Clark, PhD, is a professor of management at Xavier University and writes for numerous publications.
By Thomas Clark
34 Learning & Leading with Technology | November 2009