The email gospel according to de Sa e Silva

US English Teacher Philip de Sa e Silva imparts his email expertise

April 8, 2019

It’s difficult to imagine anything that US English teacher Philip de Sa e Silva cannot do. He advises and started Poetry Out Loud with students. He enjoys and occasionally performs stand-up comedy. He writes about his experience as an LGBT teacher. He is a former vice president of his college glee-club. 

But he’s also an excellent connoisseur of emails.

To conclude a semester, de Sa e Silva educates his students on how to properly send an email to a teacher, particularly when students must thank them for something they’ve done (college recommendations are a prime example).

“I think people, in general, tend not to take the time to express gratitude. And whenever we do, it’s spreading positive energy out into the world. When I send thank you notes, I end up feeling better.  I think it’s an investment in well being. I do think, though, that if you are thanking someone for something more significant, then I do think it’s worthwhile to take the time to write a handwritten note.”

Yet before a student should even dare open their email browser when they aren’t thanking someone, de Sa e Silva asks students to pause and think: “do I really need to send this email?” Additional questions may be the following:

  • Is it about the homework that is already on Veracross?
  • Can I ask a friend?
  • Have I tried to remedy the problem myself?

Once a student determines that an email is necessary, de Sa e Silva  recommends starting with a formal “dear.”

The most common mistake students make when sending an email is writing informally. Or, as de Sa e Silva refers to it, “getting an email that feels like a ransom note.”

Instead of sending an email that resembles a poorly constructed text message trainwreck, de Sa e Silva suggests students slow down and construct thoughtful sentences. Start with a salutation, then dive into the email.

Don’t bother with larger or different fonts than the standard ones in Gmail, “I think just the standard default Gmail setting is appropriate,” he said.

Nervous to start an email? Check resources. de Sa e Silva admits that many students have sought him out for his email expertise.

“I’ve actually had students asked me just for help writing an email. You could also go to your advisor or another teacher and then just ask them to look over what you’ve written. I think asking for feedback is a totally valid and helpful thing to do.”

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