Natalie Barnes is a mathematics middle school teacher in the county. The views expressed are the author’s own.
by Natalie Barnes
On November 2, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell sent a memo to all staff regarding weekend email communication:
“The nature of our work often requires us to miss opportunities to spend time with loved ones. I would like to announce a change that hopefully encourages you to seek a better work-life balance.
“Effective Friday, November 4, I am strongly discouraging weekend email communication. Please refrain from sending emails after 6:00 pm on Fridays unless it is an emergency situation.
“You may resume sending emails Monday morning. I ask that supervisors maintain current contact information for all staff members in the event of an emergency.
“As always, thank you for all of the work that you do on behalf of our students and schools.”
It seems to me that this is an attempt to improve teacher morale. Even though this memo does not come close to addressing the many problems that teachers face, I think that it is beneficial for two reasons.
First, it acknowledges that there is a struggle to maintain work-life balance. It is meaningful to me that the central office is acknowledging this and trying to do something, however small, to address it.
Second, it reaffirms to me that, as a teacher, I do not have to respond to emails on the weekend. Before this point, the only policy I heard was that we were supposed to respond to emails within 48 hours (no mention of business days, weekend, etc.). This seems to clarify that.
This is a small step and there are still many ways to improve, but a series of small steps may produce larger changes. Let’s hope that this is one of those small steps.