Her viral post is urging parents to be more involved with their kids
Since this month’s horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there’s been a lot of talk about why these tragedies happen in the first place and how best to reach kids who may be feeling bullied or lonely. While we may never know why some perpetrators of mass shootings carry out their evil deeds, one teacher has a message for parents about knowing their children — so she can know them too.
Georgia teacher Amie Diprima Brown shared her thoughts about parental involvement in a Facebook post that’s quickly gone viral.
She writes that this marks her 15th year teaching, and while she’s aware of changes over the last few years such as “crazy new math” and rules about bringing electronics to school, she’s also noticed other things that aren’t the same as they were just a short time ago.
Brown explains that her yearly tradition since she started teaching is to ask parents to write a special letter. “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.”
The teacher is flexible with the letters and is sure to tell parents that they’re not being graded, she’s not judging their grammar, and they can get the letter to her by sending it in with their child, dropping it at the office, or even by email. She just wants the information.
“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,” she shares.
But recently, Brown made a sad discovery. Two of her students who are siblings lost their mom unexpectedly. As is her habit, she went to pull up the letter from their deceased parent to give to them so they could see in their mother’s own words how loved they were. “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%.”
Brown points out what a lost opportunity this is for her as an educator. The letters have helped her get to know her students better over the years, and in turn, has given her the tools to assist those in need. She also mentions that the lowered return rate on the letters isn’t the only change she’s picked up on — the rate of kids turning in homework has gone down too, from 98 percent to 67. “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.”
In other words, Brown is doing everything she possibly can on her end to help students succeed both academically and otherwise, but there’s so much missing when parents don’t do their part too. “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?”
Her solution? “Be a parent,” she writes. “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.”
Brown tells Scary Mommy she’s “overwhelmed” by the huge response to her post. “I never expected my message to resonate with so many people,” she says. “I’ve had so many private messages from people just wanted to tell me thank you for being dedicated and speaking out.”
She’s also received several hundred friend requests from fellow teachers who want a copy of the letter Brown sends to parents at the beginning of the school year. Some parents have even messaged her to share personal stories about their children.
So many families have two parents who work in addition to all the responsibilities that come with parenting and running a household. It seems like we have less free time than ever, but Brown’s post is a sobering reminder that any time spent making sure we really know our kids is time well spent.
Brown concludes, “As parents, our job is to grow the most amazing humans possible. It’s the most important job in the world. The education and emotional stability a parent provides is priceless.”