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What's a reasonable expectation for parents replying to emails?


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Assuming a parent is literate, and has email, and several devices that access that email, what's a reasonable amount of time within which to respond? 

It's May, and the lack of communication from some of my students' parents is getting really old.  I'm trying to figure out if the issue is my expectations, or their behavior.  

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24 hours or so.

I have multiple devices, but only get email from the school at an Outlook email address I have on one designated laptop. I usually don't check that after 7 or 8 pm. I might be slow to respond until the next day.

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I'm thinking of things like: 

"Please let me know if your child is coming on X field trip so we can arrange the appropriate number of chaperones".

or 

"Harriet told me today she is allergic to bananas.  We're planning on making smoothies in math class, can you please let me know whether she has a true allergy, or just prefers not to eat them, and whether there are any other foods we should avoid?" 

 

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Are you talking in response to an email you sent them solicting a response? Have you tried sending multiple emails? ime, some people I just have to chase down in person after sending them multiple forms of communication. If you can’t hunt them down in person, can you text them? There was one parent who ignored multiple emails, but got really responsive once I texted them. 

And no, it’s not unusual even with inquiries like that to have to communicate with parents multiple times. It sounds like my experience trying to collect medical releases from soccer parents for a tournament this weekend. Grumble, grumble.

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2 minutes ago, mamaraby said:

Are you talking in response to an email you sent them solicting a response? Have you tried sending multiple emails? ime, some people I just have to chase down in person after sending them multiple forms of communication. If you can’t hunt them down in person, can you text them? There was one parent who ignored multiple emails, but got really responsive once I texted them. 

And no, it’s not unusual even with inquiries like that to have to communicate with parents multiple times. It sounds like my experience trying to collect medical releases from soccer parents for a tournament this weekend. Grumble, grumble.

 

Generally it starts with me sending an email to a group of parents, although obviously in the banana example that was individualized from the start.   I often include a google form in the email, so the parent can just check the box that says "yes", and then hit submit without writing anything.

Then after a few days, I either resend the email with a note that says something like "Hi, I just wanted to bring this to the top of your inbox.  Please let me know if . . . ", to the 1/2 of the group that hasn't replied yet.  

I might eventually text, or I will have the kid text, but honestly I feel like I shouldn't have to get to that point. 

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6 minutes ago, Daria said:

 

Generally it starts with me sending an email to a group of parents, although obviously in the banana example that was individualized from the start.   I often include a google form in the email, so the parent can just check the box that says "yes", and then hit submit without writing anything.

Then after a few days, I either resend the email with a note that says something like "Hi, I just wanted to bring this to the top of your inbox.  Please let me know if . . . ", to the 1/2 of the group that hasn't replied yet.  

I might eventually text, or I will have the kid text, but honestly I feel like I shouldn't have to get to that point. 

Sounds about right in my experience as a soccer team manager. You are right, it shouldn’t have to get to that point, but it does. All the time. I’m waiting on a medical release from one player. I have lost count of the number of emails I have sent this parent either as a group email or emails directly to the parent. I would have texted her already, but I do not have her cell phone number and practice was cancelled on Wednesday or I would have hunted her down in person.

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10 hours ago, katilac said:

Just text to begin with. 

 

There are a few reasons why that's hard.  One is that teachers at my school are discouraged from sharing phone numbers with parents.  My boss has made an exception for me, because I'm the special educator and do a lot of travel training where I'm out of the building with kids, but it's still the expectation that this communication is handled by email.

The other is that texts don't let me text an ever changing group while keeping the list private from one kid to the next.  So, for example, today I emailed 4 parents to let the know that their child had been selected for an activity, and if they chose to participate they'd need to stay after school on X day.  I can send one email, and bcc all 4 parents, but if I texted, I'd need to write 4 texts.  

Also, email lets me do things like attach permission slips, include links that a parent can open on an iPad or computer, or embed google forms so I get the info I need and it goes straight to a spreadsheet.

edited: because I wrote "emails" when I mean "phone numbers".

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I don't always respond to emails right away.  I might be waiting to find out about something else in my schedule, or to ask my kids for their input (which might not happen until days later, depending on what else is happening).  Or if it is something that takes time to figure out, I might not prioritize it over work deadlines etc., especially if there is no specific deadline for answering.

If it's "please let me know if you want to do xyz" I usually don't answer unless I"m signing up to do xyz.

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It is also possible that your emails are getting blocked or going to junk mail.

My kids' teachers' emails often go to my junk mail, even though I have marked them "not junk" etc.  I have to check the junk mail multiple times per day, but not everyone does that, especially from a mobile device etc.

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I agree with SKL that it is helpful to include a deadline for their responses. When I e-mail groups of parents, I always create a fake deadline (bold and underlined). I usually get a bunch of immediate responses, a bunch on the fake deadline date, one or two that respond a day late with an apology, and one or two that I have to follow up with. 

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3 hours ago, Daria said:

I'm thinking of things like: 

"Please let me know if your child is coming on X field trip so we can arrange the appropriate number of chaperones".

or 

"Harriet told me today she is allergic to bananas.  We're planning on making smoothies in math class, can you please let me know whether she has a true allergy, or just prefers not to eat them, and whether there are any other foods we should avoid?" 

 

 

On the personal email directed specifically to one parent, I would find it odd that they do not respond quickly. I would perhaps try to call or contact them in another way and find out if the email is current.

On the general email about field trips - this is the classic RSVP dilemma. Perhaps giving a clear deadline as in "Respond by....so your child can participate." It would of course be very sad if parents were procrastinating and a child would not be able to go due to that. 

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I am guessing she doesn't send paper copies because she teaches Special Ed and it is darn near impossible to get those back.  Right now I am exiting two 504 students from my caseload. I HAVE to do paper copies.  Those two students I have sent TWO paper copies home, AND mailed a copy to each parent.  This has been months of this and NOPE, no response.  The parents in one case have filled it out twice.  The kid doesn't return it.  The other one, I can't even get a hold of by phone but I have left messages.

OP, I don't know what kind of emails you are sending, but I would be very specific.  I need a response from each parent regarding the party on May 11th by May 1st so we can plan.  If I do not hear from you by May 4th, your child will not be able to participate in the party and will be asked to go to Ms. Smith's room for the duration.  We do this a lot with field trips.

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My feeling is: it’s May. Maybe this is a year-round problem? But May is kind of ridiculous with banquets, talent shows, grad preparations, sport final games, etc., etc., etc. 

I have personally been quite terrible about following through on stuff in the past few weeks. It’s just so busy. Yesterday, I totally forgot to send a bill DH asked me to send and I forgot to bring eggs for my friend who meant to buy. 

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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

I, too, am wondering why you don't send it out on paper instead of or in addition to the email.

I miss paper. I know when our schools went to electronic communication over the good old note Home and talking to parents after class (because I get teachers are busier now than ever) my friends and I all felt the relationships and communication suffered. 

I think emails get buried these days. 

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8 hours ago, katilac said:

Just text to begin with. 

My dad was a school administrator, and in the 70's we got prank phone calls and angry parent diatribes and such all the time on our landline. I could see this getting real ugly if all parents had access to all teachers' cell phone numbers.

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I would set up a Remind account for your classroom.  It's an app and they can get emails, messages to the app, and text messages.  You can directly text an individual parent, group of parents,or whole class to get into contact with them and can include a link to your google forms.

 

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I haven't checked my email all week and I have 2 dc in public school. I do have access on my phone but I just look at it about once a week on the weekend unless I'm expecting something. If a teacher needed a response quickly, I would expect a different form of communication. Here, they call, text(usually actually have dc text), or send a letter home. 

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This is something I struggle with also. I make it clear that I communicate via email and ask that parents share with me an email that they check regularly. I also put all important information on a website so parents can also look there. 

I do not want to text parents. I agree with the above that maintaining privacy is not done with texting. 

To answer your question - 24 hours. An email response should be given in 24 hours. 

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I would expect a parent to respond within 24 hours to an email from the child's teacher.

But I know that many people are not on top of things and would give a week's notice for things like field trips etc. I would put a firm deadline.

Have you established your expectation clearly at the beginning of the school year?

I, too, do not believe that texting from a personal phone is an appropriate medium for official school related communications, especially when the teacher needs to retain a record of the communication and insure confidentiality.

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I think the onus is on the parent if the parent has been informed that the primary method of communication with you is by email. Sorry, Scooter can't go on the trip, he will be in xyz classroom while the rest of us are gone.  Harriet has to go to the nurse's office to get a note about the allergies (let the nurse call mom & dad about the bananas). If there's no school nurse, then send her to the main office so someone can call. Your child was selected for an activity, but you didn't return the permission form so they can't participate.

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Not saying this about the OP in particular, but I do have a pet peeve about school communications coming with very little time to respond or adjust.  The number of times I've gotten a message that expects me to drop everything and go shopping etc. within a day or two has caused me to do a blanket opt-out of all school charity events.  99% of the time, it is not necessary to make things an emergency for parents.  And yet so often they do.  (Not just teachers, but also room parents etc.  I appreciate all their hard work and I'd pitch in if I had some reasonable lead time.)

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3 hours ago, texasmom33 said:

I miss paper. I know when our schools went to electronic communication over the good old note Home and talking to parents after class (because I get teachers are busier now than ever) my friends and I all felt the relationships and communication suffered. 

I think emails get buried these days. 

 

My husband does not come close to checking his email everyday. And he doesn't necessarily respond to emails he gets right away too. We give teachers my email address so I stay on top of it better.  But if something happened to me and he were the sole parent -- communication would definitely be tougher.

 

A friend of mine just this week discovered that her kid's teacher has been sending out regular newsletters with classroom events in it -- to the wrong email (So her email is like janegsmith@gmail.com -- its been going to janesmith@gmail.com)  The individual email she has received she has answered. (which is why she didn't realize the teacher was sending the other out) But she's missed a lot of stuff that was sent to the group as a whole.

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I would say that if one form of communication isn't working with certain parents, use a different form of communication.  They may have given an e-mail address they don't access very often.  Or, maybe they just aren't e-mailers, or their e-mails get buried and the forget.

Some people just aren't "good" at e-mail.  (I have a friend who currently has one 10,000 emails showing as "unread" in her phone.  Seriously, her little red dot says something like 10,305.  She's a professional who runs her own business, but just hasn't sat down to figure out how to make that number go away.  So, if I send her an e-mail, I text her to tell her I sent an e-mail.  If I really need her, I call her.

I don't understand when people say, "I've emailed them 15 times, and they still haven't responded."  If it doesn't work, why keep trying the same thing over and over?  Try something else.  Pick up the phone and call them.

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I find with the people I communicate with regularly, there is a wide variety or normal.  Some check multiple times a day, some once a week.  

i do think what someone said above about emails getting buried is a real problem for some.  But for formal stuff, I'd say it should be email or hard copy.

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For the banana issue,  I would have just called from the general office. When my kids were in public school,  food allergies were in their medical file at the general office. The teachers were trained in the use of epipens. Latex allergies were on file too even though the school’s bandages were latex free.

My kids german teacher had one email sent to junk in Hotmail days later even though she has successfully sent emails to my Hotmail account for the past five years. It was such a bizarre glitch. Luckily she asked DS13 about it and I sent her an email to say I didn’t get her email that needed a RSVP.  Now if it is urgent, she can just cc to my yahoo and gmail account since I don’t mind triplicates. 

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3 hours ago, Momto5inIN said:

My dad was a school administrator, and in the 70's we got prank phone calls and angry parent diatribes and such all the time on our landline. I could see this getting real ugly if all parents had access to all teachers' cell phone numbers.

 

Burner phone, lol! 

3 hours ago, TeenagerMom said:

I would set up a Remind account for your classroom.  It's an app and they can get emails, messages to the app, and text messages.  You can directly text an individual parent, group of parents,or whole class to get into contact with them and can include a link to your google forms.

 

 

This sounds intriguing. 

2 hours ago, Joker said:

I haven't checked my email all week and I have 2 dc in public school. 

 

 

This is VERY common. Most people text. I can see the issues with that now, but maybe something like the Remind app would work. fwiw, I have little to no faith in the computer security of most schools.  I have accidentally gotten to restricted, supposedly password-protected areas of school sites more times than I can count (while searching for homeschool ideas). 

If something like the Remind app isn't secure enough, I think you need to go old school with paper documents. 

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Oh, this explains why I have had this conversation.

I think tell your priorities at the beginning of the year, when you see parents in person.  If that is possible.  

Or have a note about classroom expectations for parents to sign, and have one part be what you will do (like how quickly and in what form you will communicate with parents) and then one part what you expect for parents.

However I am pretty good about things.  I respond pretty quickly (same day) for most things.  For things that have a due date though I often respond or send the thing in on the last day. 

For our due dates, for special ed, often I have a week to respond and then that is a week early.

What is different imo is that the teacher can’t give a reminder to the student.  It’s a big difference.  My other kids will make sure to remind on things so they don’t miss a field trip, and the teacher can just tell the class who hasn’t brought the form, and my other kids will remind me. 

I think 24-hour is totally reasonable but then I don’t know what to do after that.  I think my son’s teachers must be contacting parents who haven’t responded by the early due date, but I don’t really know what they do.  

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3 hours ago, Suzanne in ABQ said:

 So, if I send her an e-mail, I text her to tell her I sent an e-mail.  If I really need her, I call her.

I don't understand when people say, "I've emailed them 15 times, and they still haven't responded."  If it doesn't work, why keep trying the same thing over and over?  Try something else.  Pick up the phone and call them.

I think that is an unrealistic expectation of a classroom teacher. Call 25 parents individually because people can't be bothered to check their email? Poor teacher.

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1 hour ago, HeighHo said:

A week is the response time to email.  You don't know who is out of town, or what's happening in their home life with the elder care or other medical issues. Many will not do the mail or e-mail until the weekend, when they have more time. 

Funny how my students expect an answer within the hour, and we are suposed to respond within 24 hours. A week? Seriously? How does anything ever get done?

 

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39 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Funny how my students expect an answer within the hour, and we are suposed to respond within 24 hours. A week? Seriously? How does anything ever get done?

 

 

With parents in a public school, I think it's quite different.  They are likely using a personal email, not one they have as a worker or business. People have widely varying habits with personal email.  You don't even know necessarily what kind of access parents have - there are kids in public school living in homeless shelters, not to mention all kinds of other irregular situations.  And they don't always want to tell the school about it.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Funny how my students expect an answer within the hour, and we are suposed to respond within 24 hours. A week? Seriously? How does anything ever get done?

 

To be fair, I don't get responses to my emails to teachers within 24 hours much of the time.  In many respects the teachers have more flexibility than the students/ families.  Yes I know they have 25 kids, but I also have 25 clients and a lot of other things going on.

That said, the teacher can say up-front what she will accept.  My kids' science teacher has a zero tolerance policy on late work.  Half a day late, it doesn't matter, it's a zero.  Good to know.  Of course she can take months to post the grades, but that is beside the point.

When it comes to field trips and such, the teachers have lots of opportunities to let parents know in advance via multiple methods and iterations without it being a huge burden.  Just include it in a list of upcoming important dates that you send out via paper and email at least once a month.

Maybe the teacher could ask the room parents or other volunteers to help get the word out if there is a communication issue.

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I loathe and despise email. I never want anyone to email me.  My kid's permission slips come to be in physical form and the school sends texts and voicemails.  I would be very put out if I had to sift through emails. There is a lot of complaining about the number of emails coming from the veteran homeschoolers running the homeschool groups too.  Texting or posting on the group/school  website/social media page is how things are usually done in my circles. 

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9 hours ago, regentrude said:

I think that is an unrealistic expectation of a classroom teacher. Call 25 parents individually because people can't be bothered to check their email? Poor teacher.

 

I didn't mean she should call every parent.  I meant that if there is a parent who obviously doesn't respond to e-mail, and it is important to reach them for something specific, don't just keep sending e-mails into the great void.  Try another form of communication with that person.  

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Maybe next time you see the parents in person you could ask if they are receiving emails? Maybe it turns out that they are not or that it's going into spam or whatever. Just to be sure.

I once discovered the library had a typo in my email address. I was like no wonder I never get reminders about books being due or ready for pickup LOL But prior to that I didn't know the email was going to be used for that. I really didn't know what their reasoning was for asking for it.

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I agree with verifying that everyone is getting your updates. I think you should hear a response within 48 hrs.

I vehemently disagree with using special methods to contact certain people. No way I would do that. When you lead something you get to pick how to communicate and when you join an organization you have to deal with that. My son is going to PS next year and they have their own method of communication that I will have to join and learn, that's just the way it is. 

I would add the line that not answering communication means the default is no and follow through with that. Ideally, that would have been done at the beginning of the year. It is on the parent, not on you. 

It has been my experience working with groups you always have some that absolutely want to do nothing. Our Cub Scout leader put out a calendar a year in advance and communicated with people through 3 different methods yet he would still have people who wouldn't respond or wait until the last minute, it doesn't matter how you do things there are always some people like that, always, that is on them, not on you.

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2 hours ago, soror said:

I agree with verifying that everyone is getting your updates. I think you should hear a response within 48 hrs.

I vehemently disagree with using special methods to contact certain people. No way I would do that. When you lead something you get to pick how to communicate and when you join an organization you have to deal with that. My son is going to PS next year and they have their own method of communication that I will have to join and learn, that's just the way it is. 

I would add the line that not answering communication means the default is no and follow through with that. Ideally, that would have been done at the beginning of the year. It is on the parent, not on you. 

It has been my experience working with groups you always have some that absolutely want to do nothing. Our Cub Scout leader put out a calendar a year in advance and communicated with people through 3 different methods yet he would still have people who wouldn't respond or wait until the last minute, it doesn't matter how you do things there are always some people like that, always, that is on them, not on you.

 

  People with no access to email are still allowed to send their kids to public school

 

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Just now, Bluegoat said:

 

  People with no access to email are still allowed to send their kids to public school

 

 

But this is not an argument over people who don't have email but people who prefer not to use it, email addresses are free and public wifi is plentiful, anyone on this forum has an email address as you had to have one to sign up. Most schools around here communicate primarily online if you as a parent don't have access then it is incumbent upon you to let them know that. 

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On 5/11/2018 at 6:27 AM, TeenagerMom said:

I would set up a Remind account for your classroom.  It's an app and they can get emails, messages to the app, and text messages.  You can directly text an individual parent, group of parents,or whole class to get into contact with them and can include a link to your google forms.

 

DD’s cheer team uses GroupMe. It’s nice because you can choose if you want to get the app, or messages as texts. 

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1 hour ago, Bluegoat said:

 

  People with no access to email are still allowed to send their kids to public school

 

 

Absolutely agree, and I have no problem with finding ways to communicate with families who actually need a different way of communicating.  For example, I have a parent whose English is limited, and I will often leave her off an email and catch her at dismissal to go over something.  When we do email she always responds, but her response is often questions because of the English issue, so we talk in person, but that’s not an option for families that don’t pick up their kid themselves or at a predictable time.

 

But I am asking about parents that I know don’t have access issues.  I’ve been to their million dollar home, I’ve had mom interrupt meetings because her email alerted to her phone.  I have seen the latest models of iPhone that each of their kids have, and I’ve gotten many emails from their kids sent from home.  I’ve gotten plenty of emails from parents.  Lack of access isn’t the issue.

 

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2 hours ago, HeighHo said:

I have experienced that group.  Take the lack of response as a no.  They won't ever tell you the real reason.

 

The issue with "just taking no as the answer" is that, much of the time, the "no" response is the one that involves either way more work, or way more resources.  Leaving a kid with a significant disability behind from a field trip isn't as easy as "putting them in X's class".  It often means leaving a special education staff member behind, which changes the trip for everyone.  Just assuming he's allergic to bananas, and substituting a more expensive fruit for the activity costs me money, since those things come from a teacher's pocket.  A recent one was that I asked permission for kids to watch the movie of the book that their grade level was reading.  Our policy is to ask every parent if the movie has certain ratings, and I can't show it without everyone's permission, so a parent who just declines to email changes the lesson plan for the whole class, and I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think that watching the movie was the best plan.  

I am doing a lot of what is suggested here.  I almost never ask parents to send things in, unless it's something like replacement clothes after an accident, or lunch money if they've run out.  Occasionally, I'll ask for a snack, but not a group snack, just something for a specific child.  If a parent picks up in a way that I can stop and talk with them, I try and do that.  I have tried texting a few times, and haven't seen any better results, and as I said risks getting me in trouble with my principal.

I'm not going to use a new app, that doesn't have the advantages    I'll be whiny and say that I spend probably a hundred hours a year of my nights and weekends completing online PD to stay on top of developments in assistive technology.  If I can do that, I think it's reasonable that parents without specific challenges can open email every day and  learn to click yes on a google form.  

Maybe I'm feeling this way because it's May, and in the past week I've put in an extra 7 hours on Saturday for a school event, attended an evening event off site from 7 - 10 one night, and stayed until 6 on two weekdays for two events (note: that doesn't mean I got off at 6, it means that the couple hours a day I spend on planning/grading/paperwork/returning parent emails started at 6, instead of at 3).  The two days till 6 are pretty standard year round, because of travel training, but weekend and evening events are maybe once or twice a month from August until Spring Break, instead of twice a week like they are in May.  

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