Working with students kind’ve ruined 13 Reasons Why for me.
As a high school step coach, I am in a similar role of school counselor Mr. Porter – played by actor Derek Luke. I am a mandated reporter, simply put, if a child says something that I know will have consequences of violence to others or themselves my job is to pick up a phone and ring the alarm.
So yes, that scene where Clay (Dylan Minnette) – being the badass that he is – turns in those tapes to Mr. Porter made me cringe. Quite sad. And take mental notes of exactly what not to do – though I will say in my experience I’ve never quite seen a school counselor so removed.
But, no excuses.
Back to my darling kids ruining a well-written, gripping series that, after the finale, forced me to watch Nick Jr. with my niece to wash the images from my frontal cortex.
I’ve written how desensitized we’ve become courtesy to the ever-present visual assault of things like fight videos clouding up our Facebook timelines. So, I’m hardly surprised that my students – ranging from the ages of 14 to 16 – joke about “making tapes” and who they would include.
I know kids will find a way to poke fun at anything but joking about suicide with your friends is not a ha ha moment. You simply never know what another person is living through, not to mention, their lack of understanding in the realms of mental health beyond playfully calling each other crazy hurts their ability to see the gravity of the situation at hand.
A young woman endured some pretty intense shit. Losing friends. Rape. This isn’t Romeo and Juliet. Romanticizing her tragedy and pretending to walk in her shoes is hardly appropriate. But they’re kids, so they don’t hear me though.
As I tap into each child to ensure that she is ok and extend that olive branch of being just a text, phone call, or Facetime away, I can’t help but hope that schools do more to educate students – particularly those in minority communities – about mental health.
Only through knowledge of these heavy topics will we become better equipped socially to do as Clay said, “take better care of each other.”