"13 Reasons Why" Is Unfair to Teachers...And We Should All Watch it Anyway

Thursday, April 20, 2017 / 2 comments
13 Reasons Why is Unfair to Teachers We Should All Watch it Anyway

Studying how teachers are portrayed by the media is sort of a hobby of mine (a weird one, I know). I’ve written about it here, and here…and a few other places, but I can honestly say that when I sat down to start watching Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why (based on the novel by Jay Asher), I had no intention of writing a blog post about it. I just wanted to see if it was worth the hype and hub-bub.

In the first episode, we meet a typical teacher. Nice, but sort of boring. Nothing to get upset about. It wasn’t until early in the second episode, when the basketball coach (oh, I mean coach/history teacher…because we love our teacher stereotypes) literally had no clue who a student in one of his own classes was (come on, we recognize students in our own classes for goodness sake!) that I started to think about writing a post about how unfairly the show portrayed the educators involved in the story.

These aren't the types of educators I work with each day.

I started taking notes on the places where teachers, counselors, or administrators did or said things that I felt were very unrealistic depictions of what actually takes place in schools I have worked in. The teachers I have known and worked with are caring, loving individuals. They wouldn’t ignore a note that was obviously a cry for help, they wouldn’t tell a victim of sexual assault to “move on” if she wasn't ready to name her attacker. They wouldn’t do the things educators in the show did. This was yet another example of the “uninvolved, unaware teacher” stereotype that I find so infuriating in television shows and movies.

But by the end of the series, something strange had happened. I no longer wanted to write that post. Oh sure, I still believe that many of the adults in 13 Reasons Why are depicted unfairly. I still believe that the way teachers are portrayed in the media is unrealistic and problematic. But in this instance, I no longer think that matters.

I no longer think it matters because the POINT of the show was that while your perspective, your truth, matters, it isn’t always the same truth for those around you. While I might know that the teachers in my building are supportive, caring individuals ready to do anything they can to help their students…do the students know that? Do they feel it? Are we doing a good enough job showing them?

THAT is the lesson I’m going to take away from 13 Reasons Why and why I think you should watch it if you are a teacher. Not because the show “gets it right” in its honest depictions of educators, but rather because some of your students will likely get it wrong. They won’t see how much we care.

So how can we do a better job making sure that all our students know that?

Let me know in the comments what you do to make sure 
your students know that you really see them.


  1. Thank you for this. People forget that Hannah is an unreliable narrator, and we cannot trust her depictions of those around her. My own thoughts are here: http://horch.org/?p=29

  2. Great food for thought! It is true that a student's perspective will be completely different from our own. This would be a great thing to discuss with older students.


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