Why this teacher is urging parents to respond: ‘I have learned about eating disorders, seizures, depression, adoption, abuse’

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Amie Diprima Brown, a teacher at Cartersville Middle School in Cartersville, Georgia, is disappointed with uninvolved parents. After 15 years of teaching, she’s noticed a huge decline in parental participation for a homework assignment she assigns to them at the beginning of the school year, which she finds crucial in getting to know her students. 

Brown took to Facebook to urge parents to “be involved in your child’s life” now, to avoid potentially drastic complications down the road. Her candid post has gotten more than 83,000 shares.

“With all of the talk about guns in schools, why it’s happening, and how to solve the issue let me offer a little different perspective. I’ve been teaching since 2003. This marks my 15th year in the classroom. Everybody always talks about how schools have changed, and it’s true, they have. Yes, there’s the “crazy new math” and “bring your own device” changes. However, there are some other changes that I think the general population is not aware of.

Every year for 15 years I have sent home the same assignment on the first day of school. I send a letter home asking parents to tell me about their child in a million words or less. I go on to explain that I want to learn the child’s hopes, dreams, fears, challenges, etc and jokingly ask parents to limit it to less than a million words since we all know we could talk forever about our children. I go on to say I’m not grading these, not looking at handwriting or grammar and don’t care if they send them back with their child, email them, drop them off at the office, etc. These letters have been so beneficial to me as a teacher and getting to know my students on a personal level. I have learned about eating disorders, seizures, jealousy issues between twins, depression, adoption, abuse…just to name a few things. These letters give me a huge head start on getting to truly know my students. I often pull them out when a child has a sudden change in behavior or issue that comes up. Just this week I had 2 students lose their mother unexpectedly. Brother and sister, I taught one last year and one this year. As I have done before, i immediately went to my folders to pull the letters that mom sent for her children. It’s a beautiful gift that I feel I can give students to get a glimpse into how much a parent loved and adored them. As I was putting the folders back in the file cabinet I noticed something. I know that the percentage of parents that complete this assignment each year has gotten lower and lower, but looking at the size of the folders shocked me. That first year I had 98% of the parents send back some type of letter on their child. This year… 22%. That’s a lot of opportunities lost for me to get to know students. Sadly, more parents have access to an electronic device that makes this task even easier and less time consuming.

Manilla folder sitting on table with short stack on left labeled 2017 and big stack on right labeled 2003
Amie Diprima Brown

On another note, this year’s average for homework turned in is riding at 67%. I’m talking a twice monthly 5 sentence summary of what the student is reading in their own time. I remind students daily, I send text messages through Remind, it’s on my website. The only other thing I could do is do it for them. Parents continue to let their child rack up zero after zero. But then again, that average used to be around 98% as well. It was rare for more than 1-2 students to not have their homework 15 years ago. Now, it’s just frustrating.

With all of our other responsibilities in our profession, how are we supposed to get to know students so that we can identify the ones with the mentality and disposition to become a school shooter if parents are checking out of the academic process? How are we supposed to educate children when their parents don’t require, expect and demand their child complete their homework?

Don’t wait until your child is the school shooter to let us know your child is struggling mentally. Don’t wait until your child is ineligible for sports or the day before report cards to check grades and question the teacher on why your child is failing.

Be a parent. Be involved in your child’s life so that you can help them through the issues with friends, the possible suicidal thoughts, and problems academically. I promise you, if parents spent more time with their children and got involved in their lives, we would see drastic improvements in our schools and our society.

As parents, our job is to grow the most amazing humans possible. Its the most important job in the world. The education and emotional stability a parent provides is priceless.”

Brown told Love What Matters she has been “so surprised” by the response she’s received to her post.

“I have had so many personal messages from parents thanking me for reminding them how important the small things are. One even told me about her son committing suicide and how she wished he would have had teachers that genuinely cared in his life. I would hope that other teachers could see the value in getting to know their their students on this level so quickly.  I had one student that had lived through a tornado damaging their house while they were inside. The mother wrote to me and told me he was extremely afraid of thunderstorms. When a thunderstorm hit, he was the first student that I reassured. I would not have found that out until he grew uncomfortable in a storm had his mother not told me in that letter.

As parents, I would hope that we can all see that we are all working together. I believe that many violent and demoralizing behaviors could be prevented if we just take time to find out what is going on in our children’s lives. Find out why they’ve seemed so sad, or why their friends have suddenly changed, or why the sudden interest in violence. Then as parents we can talk to them and even get them help if needed before they feel so out of control that the only answer they have is to carry a gun into school and start shooting people. As parents, we have lived a lot more life than our children. We have learned how to deal with situations and what is a big deal, and what will soon pass. It is our job to guide our children through those situations.”

With all of the talk about guns in schools, why it’s happening, and how to solve the issue let me offer a little…

Posted by Amie Diprima Brown on Thursday, February 22, 2018

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