Email is the best way to document an incident, so that you will have a record of your documentation. It is also best to keep the report short; ten sentences or less! The following are some things that you need to include in your report:
- Always date the document (even an email, headings can be removed). Your document should be sent as quickly as possible (within a day of the incident, if possible) and preferably no later than ten (10) days after the event.
- State the specific date, day, time, and location of the incident.
- In addition to stating your presence and the presence of the person(s) involved directly in the event, state the names of any and all witnesses to the incident.
- Direct Quotes: “You said ….” “In response, I said ….”
- Give a very, very brief factual explanation of the incident.
- If the situation warrants it, ask for help and/or advice (particularly if the incident involves a classroom, teaching, or student situation).
- Write this sentence at the end of the email, “If anything in this email is incorrect, please let me know in writing.” (Note: You may or may not receive a response.)
A Few Things To Keep In Mind:
- Short (brief) is better than long (overly detailed and wordy).
- Use a “thank you” if it is possible. “I appreciated ….”
- Just state the facts or ask questions … NO opinions, NO feelings, and NO accusations!
- Keep a copy of the documentation in a file off-campus / at home!
Key Points In Documentation
These ideas can be used for improving communication when you have problems with parents, colleagues, or administrators.
Always Start With A “Thank You”:
- “Thank you for the cookies at the last faculty meeting…”
- If you are yelled at, write, “Thank you for coming by my room yesterday to let me know your concerns…”
Always End With One Of The Following:
- “If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.”
- “I assume this information is correct; if not, please let me know.”
- “I assume this resolves the situation; if not, let me know.”
- “I will incorporate your suggestions as soon as possible. Come by to see how I am using them in class. Let me know if you have any further suggestions.”
In The Middle, Do Not Make Accusations or Include Opinions. Simply State Facts And Ask Questions.
- “You stated that you were very angry with me, and do not want to talk to me for the rest of the year. Do you think this is best?”
- “On Tuesday the 28th of March, I set up a meeting with you to discuss Joe Student. Thank you for your advice regarding discipline of this child. You stated that it was acceptable to bodily remove him. When I asked Mrs. Vice Principal for her suggestions for dealing with his outburst, she said she had none. Could you please clarify what “bodily remove him” means? Where should I take him after removing him? If there are any other consequences you feel are appropriate for this child while he is in my class, please let me know.”
Here is a bad example: “Do not ever talk to me that way again. You were rude and loud. I will not tolerate that again.”
Other Key Points
- Whenever there is a verbal conference with someone, it is your responsibility to write him or her a thank you note that documents what was said. This turns “he said, she said” into hard evidence.
- To get results quickly, inform them in writing that you would like a response in one week. “If you could please let me know by this Friday when the moldy ceiling tiles will be replaced, I would appreciate it.”
- If they do not respond in one week’s time, give them an additional 24 hours. “Thank you for all the work you put into making the start of the school year a success. Last week, I wrote you about my concerns about the moldy tiles. I asked for a response by today. Please let me know by tomorrow at 3 p.m. if there is a resolution to the problem. If not, I would like the opportunity to call maintenance to get this serious situation resolved. Who would you recommend that I contact?”
- If you receive no response to this letter, call UEA or the person’s supervisor.