Accessibility to teachers ‘off hours’

This is not a post related to any debates, rather something that has come up in my teaching this year, and I would like to know your thoughts on the topic.

The topic I propose to discuss is accessibility of teachers outside the typical classroom day. As an STF councillor and RPSTA assembly rep, I attend a lot of meetings where discussions around teacher workday, teacher welfare, and teacher workload are heavily debated. Many teachers feel as though we do way too much for too little, and have made the conscious effort to stop doing any work outside of the typical school day. Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand and fully see where they are coming from. Teachers have been asked go above and beyond for far too long.

Here’s where my problem comes in… With the new version of Seesaw this year, they introduced a ‘messages’ function, which I LOVE. I found it very convenient to send a quick message to parents, for example “Don’t forget to send field trip permission slips in tomorrow.” or whatever it may be. However, I often have parents and students messaging me in the evenings or weekends. At first, I thought nothing of it, I responded whenever I had the chance, and everything was going alright. Until a few months ago when a student started messaging me for ‘fun’. Wondering what I was up to over February break, telling me about her weekend, small talk or questions about class that weren’t really needed to be asked outside of the school day. It got me thinking of whether or not I want my students to have such easy access to me in my evenings and weekends. It also made me realize that I needed to take that opportunity to teach that student that I am her teacher, not her friend (in the nicest way possible) and that Seesaw was more for communicating with her parents.

To be honest, I am actually very conflicted over this. As a graduate student, I love that I can call or email my profs and most of them respond quickly. Yet, as a teacher, I feel as though there need to be boundaries. Especially with grade 4 students. Or am I just a terrible human being!? Lol. All jokes aside… I would really love to hear any thoughts on the topic, agree or disagree, all thoughts are welcome. I am not sure where I stand yet and I welcome different perspectives on the topic. Thanks in advance!


10 thoughts on “Accessibility to teachers ‘off hours’

  1. Hey Kari! You bring up a very interesting debate and I have also struggled with this concept. I teach high school and I use the Remind 101 app to connect with my students and to send messages and reminders to them. It is super helpful for coaching as well as for communicating quickly with students throughout the day or if I forgot to mention something during class. The problem is that there really is no off-switch. Sure I can set “office hours” on the app but these are really more like guidelines. Before major assignments or exams, I tell students I will not answer questions after 10:30 pm and sometimes they groan and actually questions why I would not be available after that? I tell them no excuses and they usually get over it. I’ve actually had some messages come through at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning! And honestly, if a student messages me and it’s not an emergency, I usually will not answer during the evenings. I need to set boundaries, especially at the high school level so to answer your question, I don’t think you are an awful human being (haha) for setting boundaries and you need your own time away from the school, parents and students to be a more effective teacher! 🙂


    • So the common theme I am hearing is the importance of setting boundaries! I can’t believe you’d have students messaging you that late… it really makes you wonder about students’ time management!


      • Yes! I always question them the next day when they do that and ask if they think that’s an appropriate time to be messaging me and the time management piece too!


  2. I think this is such a hard spot for teachers in today’s day and age. It is convenient to be able to communicate with parents yet it can be harder to set boundaries. I also use seesaw in my classroom and I love it. With seesaw, I use it to send messages to my families as a group but I ask my parents to use email to communicate with me otherwise. I find it easier this way because seesaw comes directly to my phone where email is on my work computer which often stays at school. I think it is great to set boundaries and parents and students need to respect that. I usually tell my parents at the beginning of the school year that it can take up to 24 hours to respond to email as when I am in the classroom teaching I do not always have a chance to check it. If they have any pressing matters they will need to contact the school. I think you should take note of how you are feeling this year and lay those boundaries out in your introductory letter next year!


    • Yes, setting boundaries seems to be the reoccurring theme. These are new issues that are arising because of the increase in use of technology in our classrooms (and lives!), but I really do embrace these tools and appreciate the convenience of them. Unfortunately, with convenience, comes the unreasonable expectation for us to reply instantly… which as you mentioned, is not always possible for us. And even if it is possible… sometimes the instant response is not always the best response and we require time to process. I like your suggestion of letting parents know that it may take 24 hours to respond. Thank you for your comment.


  3. Good question Kari. Although at the moment I don’t have my own classroom, I see my husband struggle with this. He receives texts, phones calls and emails in the evenings and weekends all the time from work clients. Setting boundaries is a must! I think if you are upfront with people/students about when you are and aren’t available they will learn to respect it. Respecting boundaries is a very important life skill! You must stick to those boundaries and not respond during your “off” hours.


    • Just out of curiosity, does your husband answer those calls, texts and emails in his ‘off hours’? I had this conversation with my dad last night and he said that it’s just part of his job that he answers emails on evenings and weekends. However, his compensation is a lot higher than mine 😉


  4. These are really important points that you raise here. I struggle with this myself as a prof. I am bombarded with emails and messages from various platforms. I try to prioritize these in terms of WHO they come from (e.g., family, students, colleagues) as well as their urgency. And, although I’ve always felt that I do get back to students fairly quickly, I was surprised to get a student evaluation from last semester saying that I didn’t respond quickly enough. Given this example, part of this is the expectations we give to students. If we too frequently respond quickly and in the late evenings, it becomes an expectation for the next communication. For me, sometimes I have windows of time where I can respond quickly. Unfortunately, other times, I am busy with other work-related projects, travel, and most importantly, raising my kids. I think we need to individually and collectively get better at setting expectations for our students and to provide some insight into our complex schedules.

    I’m glad you posted this – and great comments here as well!


    • I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about the danger it poses if we respond too quickly, and it setting precedent. Setting expectations and boundaries seems to be increasingly necessary in order for us to maintain our work-life balance.


  5. This is a great topic for discussion Kari. I, too, am guilty of replying to parent’s emails and messages all too quickly. It seems almost ‘normal’ for me to do it – like replying to a text from a friend. Although it hasn’t come back to bite me in the butt yet………I see that for some of you it has. I certainly don’t want my parents to think that I am “on call” for them whenever they need a question answered, but unfortunately with the digital world we live in, they can reach out to us whenever and however. Seesaw is a wonderful tool that I use consistently in my class. I have parents asking questions or letting me know that they are going to be away all the time. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me at all and I answer back. It literally takes a few seconds. As for the emails I receive – I answer when I can. I suppose if things were to get out of hand, I would address this issue and need to set boundaries. Great discussion you have going here!! Thanks 🙂


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