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A teacher writes: "Educators everywhere need to watch 13 Reasons Why."

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.

13 Reasons Why has proven wildly popular with viewers. (Image: Netflix)
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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.

Laura, Tiff and Jessie discuss 13 Reasons Why on The Binge. Post continues after audio... 

Watching the series will not erase an experience of sexual assault, but it may remind a young person that they are not alone.

Watching the series will not end all underage drinking, but it may open a young person’s eyes to the real dangers that exist even when they think they’re being safe.

Watching the series will not eliminate the difficulty of embracing one’s sexuality, but it may encourage a young person to celebrate who they are.

The lessons that can be learnt from 13 Reasons Why are endless.

teachers should watch 13 reasons why
"Would it be remiss of teachers to miss a critical opportunity to normalise and encourage discussion about various issues?" (Image: Netflix)
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The show is popular because for so many it depicts a striking resemblance to their story. It is relatable because bullies, sexists, racists, homophobes and rapists exist in high schools. It is captivating because it challenges the notion that being a teenager is carefree and easy. It is confronting for adults because teaching young people to deal with such complex issues is terrifying. But it has to be done.

Although 13 Reasons Why is a fictional story, its resemblance to real life is uncanny and that’s exactly where its power lies. Power that teachers need to manipulate in order to continue in the pursuit of student happiness.

The discussion of the topics raised by 13 Reasons Why is far from easy, Mrs Bradley’s character shows that in her Peer Communication classes. However, it is essential because almost everyone knows or knows of a Hannah Baker.

Do you agree with Tess? Do teachers have a responsibility to monitor the mental wellbeing of their students?

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