Give us a break, text-weary teachers urge parents – The Standard – Phoebe Ng

A teachers’ group is demanding the “right to disconnect” as its members are too stressed out with constant instant messaging outside working hours.

More than 90 percent of 528 teachers surveyed in January by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers said colleagues, parents or students frequently message them after work.

The survey also found 60 percent felt troubled by the after-hours messaging, and some even reported stress and insomnia.

The 24,742-strong federation urged the Education Bureau to set out non- binding guidelines granting teachers’ “right to disconnect” and schools can then set out off-school communication policies accordingly.

The guidelines suggestion is supported by almost 80 percent of the surveyed educators in secondary and primary schools. The federation urged parents and students to be “considerate” and avoid messaging teachers over minor questions.

Vice chairman Wong Wai-shing said just 6 percent of schools set out policies on communications over messaging apps.

“I even heard of a case where a resentful parent forwarded a message to the headmaster after not getting a reply for her late-night query,” Wong said. “Teachers should not be penalized for having personal lives.”

Wong, who said he has been added to around 20 work-related WhatsApp groups, added: “It stresses teachers out as they feel like they cannot remain under the radar after work.”

However, he agreed instant messaging can have its upside, as 72 percent of teachers thought it would make work more efficient.

“It can be a good platform for making emergency discussions or announcements,” Wong said. “So our advice is, only talk about urgent issues over WhatsApp, and leave less pressing issues for e-mails.”

However, Parents Alliance spokeswoman Annie Cheung Yim- shuen thinks the proposal for guidelines is merely a “short-term palliative.”

Cheung, a mother of four, said: “The phenomenon reflects the lack of contact time between teachers and students and parents.”

She believed it would eventually be up to the teachers to respond, adding her children’s teachers rarely give out personal contacts.

“I am aware that some [parents] do message teachers about homework though,” Cheung said, adding parents, students and teachers are all overstretched.

The federation admitted a new law may not work in Hong Kong, but said it is worth looking into it.