In the weeks since its release, the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why has broken records, divided audiences and fueled a lot of discussion.
Its graphic depiction of suicide has been both celebrated and chastised, dominating debate about the series. Yet there is a whole lot more to 13 Reasons Why than Hannah Baker’s suicide. Friendship issues, bullying, teenage romance, underage drinking, drug use, sexual pressure, same sex relationships and rape are all portrayed.
This intimate glimpse into an albeit fictional teenage world is exactly why teachers everywhere need to watch 13 Reasons Why.
Teachers are in the unique and powerful position of being an integral part of the teenage world, this is clear through Hannah’s tapes and the strong role that both Mr Porter and Mrs Bradley play.
Although students are often unwilling to admit it, teachers play an important role in their secondary school experience. They look to them (often without realising it) for support and guidance through a period of their life which is undeniably characterised by rapid change and growth both physically and emotionally.
It is also undeniable that the most important and equally challenging element of a teacher’s job is ensuring the wellbeing of their students. So, with young people everywhere watching and talking about 13 Reasons Why it would be remiss of teachers to miss a critical opportunity to normalise and encourage discussion about the commonly occurring topics that are conveyed throughout the series.
There is little doubt that the experiences of each character: whether it be the jock, the cheerleader, the over achiever or the outsider, are all too relatable for many. Stereotypes exist for a reason after all. Therefore it is highly likely that in every classroom students will relate to some extent to all or part of a character(s) experiences, allowing them to speak about personal feelings or circumstances under the guise of a fictional character.
This is certainly not a new or revolutionary idea, teachers have been doing it for years. Yet the overwhelming response to 13 Reasons Why from adults has been one of fear, not a celebration of the fact that real and confronting teenage issues are finally being given the attention they deserve in a way that is accessible and current.