The Patrick™

Because calling it the "Weekly Patrick" would be fraudulent.

I really did intend to do these on a weekly basis once...

I did mean to. I really did. But stuff happens, and I get called away to meetings, and I'm out of the office working with people - blah, blah, blah. I know - I'm making excuses here. But tell you what - here's my new plan:

I will make either a newsletter with tech stuff, or I will do a Tech Tuesday every week. I've been doing Tech Tuesdays pretty much weekly recently - and frankly that's another reason that I haven't been keeping up with these newsletters.

Hopefully this will cut down on the volume of email I send out to you guys too.

In this week's "The Patrick"

Scheduling Labs and Laptop Carts

I know, I know, I've shown you this before. But some folks have let told me that they don't know how to do it. Click here to learn how to schedule a Computer Lab or Laptop Cart.

Setting Up an Out of Office Reply in Outlook

This is even easier than scheduling a laptop cart - but click here for the instructions.

Note: This is how you do it on a PC; it's a little different on a Mac. If you need Mac help, drop me a line and I'll swing by to show you.

Uncle Patrick's Email Tips and Tricks

It was recently pointed out to me that a lot of teachers don't really understand some basic points of email etiquette. It's not our fault; email came along for many of us after we were adults (I'm this group - I call it the Old Folks,) and there is an increasing number of teachers who have had email all of their lives (some of our first and second year teachers are probably in this group; I call them the Whippersnappers.) What both of these groups have in common is that with a few exceptions, no one ever taught us how to use email. We Old Folks were just handed email one day and told to use it. Everyone just assumes that the Whippersnappers already know how to use email properly; but because things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have come along to replace email for social communication, they've never learned. My point here is that almost no one knows how to professionally use email. So here's your Uncle Patrick's basic tutorial:

General Email Ettiquite

1) Keep your messages brief. If you can say it in one or two lines (or even one or two words,) do that. I will openly admit that I'm bad about violating this one. I enjoy writing, and I think I'm funny - something my wife often assures me is not the case. I'm working on shortening my emails, I swear.

2) Don't be offended if you've written an awesome, well-worded email, and the person you emailed responds "thanks," or "will do," or something like that. Remember: they're busy and they are trying to respect your busyness. Short is better.

3) Send a response email; if someone asks you a question, answer it. If someone does something for you or answers your question, shoot them a quick "thanks," email. The real key here is to let the sender know you got their message.

4) You don't have to send a "you're welcome" to the "thank you" email. If we respond back and forth all day, we'll fill up each other's inboxes and never get anything done!

5) Try to keep your inbox at or near zero messages. Old emails aren't keepsakes to be cherished - they're demands on your time and little items you have to deal with. Once you've accomplished them, delete them. If you have a bunch of stuff you really need to keep, make a folder in Outlook where you save that stuff - just get it out of your inbox. Tons of old messages in your inbox keep you from seeing and remembering the important stuff you haven't dealt with yet. Some of us have a "save everything" philosophy; if that's you, instead of deleting, create a folder in Outlook and drag old stuff there. Just keep it out of your inbox. Incidentally, I welcome anyone checking my inbox at any time; if I've been in my office for more than an hour or so, I guarantee that I'll have five or fewer messages. Usually zero.

6) Batch answer your emails. I really only answer emails two or three times a day. I open my inbox when I get to school, and I deal with everything in it (of course "dealing" with it may mean I make myself a note to do something, then I delete or save the email somewhere else.) Then I get to work on other stuff. Sometime around noon, I check again. I generally have about five or ten emails by that time - and I deal with those (remember, probably 90% of the stuff in your inbox can be read and immediately deleted; deal with those first, then go back to look at the important stuff.) I check it before I leave at the end of the day. That's it. District policy is that you have 24 hours to answer an email; it is not that you have to respond to emails instantly. No email is more important than teaching your classes.

EDIT: Some of you are probably reading this and thinking "O'Neil's an idiot. I use my inbox as a to-do list, and I keep the stuff I haven't done in it." If that's your philosophy, that's fine. All I'm sayin' here is to get rid of the junk. And I'm not an idiot. That was mean of you.

EDIT #2: I also follow what productivity nerds call the "Two Minute Rule." Basically, that means if a task comes into my life and I can deal with it in two minutes, I do so. So if I'm working and I see an email pop up with a question or a quick little chore, unless I am engrossed in something, I deal with it right then.

Parts of an Email Message

7) SUBJECT LINE: tell the recipient of your email very briefly what the message is about. "Patrick O. ARD Meeting" is a good subject. "I'd like to talk to you about Patrick because he's not been paying attention in class…" is not.

8) Don't REPLY (RE:) to an email if you're saying something that the subject is not about. If someone sends you an email that says "Patrick O. ARD Meeting," and you respond "RE: Patrick O. ARD Meeting" with a message about another student, it can become confusing. This is how emails get lost. Just write a new email.

9) Here's one of my favorite time saving tricks; if I have a one line email to send, I write it like this "SUBJECT: Do you want to help me with a research project? <EOM>" The <EOM> stands for End of Message. It tells the recipient that they don't even need to look in the body of the email - because the whole message is in the subject line. It's an awesome time saver. It also saves you from typing exactly the same thing in the body of an email that you just typed in the subject line.

10) If your name is in the "TO" field of an email, then you're expected to respond. The message is "to" you. If you're in the "CC" field (carbon copy) then the message is just sent to you as a courtesy. You're not expected to respond. So when you write an email, make sure you are aware of how you're addressing it. If you want two people to respond to the message, put them both in the "TO" field. If you want one person to respond, but someone else to just see the message, put them in the "CC" field.

EDIT: It's totally okay to reply if you're in the CC field and you have something important to say. But you don't HAVE to respond if you're in that field.

11) Before clicking "REPLY ALL," ask yourself "Does everyone on this list need to read my response? Don't clutter up other people's inboxes unless it's necessary.

12) Respect and honor the "BCC" field. If you are "BCC'd" (blind carbon copied,) that means that the other recipients don't know that you've been copied. In other words, the sender wanted you to see something, and he or she trusts you enough to assume that you won't show anyone, talk about, discuss, forward, or REPLY ALL to the carbon copy. Never, ever REPLY ALL to a BCC. When you do that you give away your presence in the conversation, and betray the original sender's trust in you. If you absolutely must deal with someone or something in a situation in which you've been BCC'd, go talk to the original sender first and figure out how to best handle the situation.

That's my email advice. If you have any questions, comments, quemments, angry diatribes, or better ways to handle something than what I suggest here, please shoot me an email!

The Patrick

I am an email ninja.