Thirteen Reasons Why


You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own.  And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part.  Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective.  When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.  Everything…affects everything.  

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When you post an embarrassing photograph or video of someone else or you forward an inappropriate email or you continue adding to the rumor, think twice.  As one of my undergraduates said it best last semester, “If you’re not part of the solution; you are part of the problem.”

Props to Jay Asher for writing such a powerful story about the consequences of our actions in Thirteen Reasons Why.  It is required reading for one of my undergraduate technology courses next semester and I strongly suggest that you add it to your must-read list too.

What are your   you engage, model and teach empathy and perspective early and often in our classrooms?

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10 comments

  • One reason I teach empathy is because I think students learn best when they have solid, positive relationships around them. Teaching empathy is one way to build those positive relationships. We use the “Second Step” program in our district – a main focus in the 4th grade curriculum is Empathy. By the way – I love Asher’s quote. Will be reading the book!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Nancy, you won’t be able to put the book down! The main character, Hannah Baker doesn’t feel as if school is a safe haven for her anymore. How many other students feel the same way? Every school claims to be a safe haven (and I’m sure it is even included in their mission statement), but everyday students come to school needing us to be their safe haven. We have to engage students in this conversation – it’s our civic responsibility!

    So glad to hear that empathy is the focus in the 4th grade! Would love to know more about the “Second Step” program too!

    As always, thanks for being you!

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  • The quote by Asher really encompases the main point of the book!! This was a fantastic resource that would be a great book in middle/high schools. I will definitely engage, model and teach empathy and perspective early and often in the classroom! needs to be taught early and often so children can become responsible for what they say and do, in and out of the classroom. It is so important for teachers to be a model to the students because often, especially in the younger grades children are looking up to you as their role model. Also be teaching empathy and perspective in the classroom, the children will develop more of a sense of community so they will feel more open to talking about topics such as this. Asher does a fantastic job writing this book and these topics need to be discussed, not just forgotten about!

  • I believe that empathy and perspective essential components of life that need to be taught effectively and continuously throughout a child’s education. To feel what others feel and see from another’s point of view can truly change how we live our lives and interact with the people around us. Educating students at all ages on the power of empathy and perspective can provide them with a foundation for building lasting and meaningful relationships. Asher’s book is a powerful resource that touches the soul and truly highlights the importance of empathy and perspective. It is an emotional novel that sparks more than 13 reasons why we should teach students the value of accepting others and respecting people for who they truly are.

  • I love the way the author approaches the topic of thirteen reasons, because it highlights that we only get to see a glimpse of what goes on in someone’s life. I will engage, model, and teach empathy and perspective immediately and imbed this philosophy into all classroom cultures I am involved in. This is an important concept for all students. As a future special education teacher I plan to instill these values of empathy, and perspective early and revisit concepts frequently for all students in general education and special education. As teacher’s we need to model for students that everyone should be treated equally, and with respect, and we need to engage in these topics on a more frequent basis. Repeated exposure and modeling of these concepts will lead to students learning and involvement of such positive behaviors. One would think that these concepts should already be instilled in students, however our civic duty as educators is teach if not yet taught, and reinforce such concepts. This will lead to positive learned habits that become second nature. It is important to remind students of these concepts especially when we are living in such a digital age. It is easy for empathy to be forgotten when we are not always face-to-face. This leaves room for perspectives to be disrespected or misconstrued. Also, as educators we are agents of change, this means teaching students empathy and perspective early on so that incidences that need intervention are prevented.

  • That quote is to me one of the most powerful statements in the book. I think that as teachers, we need to teach our students to be socially responsible and to really think and understand the affect that their actions have on others. A persons action can set off a chain of events that could end up hurting someone and changing multiple lives. Words and actions are powerful and teachers need to set the example for their students to be conscious of this. I think that the questions raised by Asher’s book need to be discussed at all levels of education, whether the students are able to read Asher’s book or not. After the many deaths related to bullying and most importantly cyber-bullying it is important for these issues to be discussed now, before it is too late for someone else.

  • Thirteen Reasons Why reminded me a lot of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It really makes you think what an impact you have on others. As a teacher you have the power to create a classroom where all students learn to be empathetic to one another. It is important to teach children from a young age the impact their actions have on others. While reading Thirteen Reasons Why I kept thinking about how long it must have taken Hannah to make all those tapes and how long she must have been planning her suicide. All that time went by an nobody knew that Hannah was planning to kill herself? Sometimes we don’t think about what others might be going through. We get so wrapped up in our own everyday lives that we don’t take the time to understand what others are going through. It’s important that teachers model empathy towards other adults and students so that students see empathy in action. While I was reading I kept thinking about what people I have affected in positive and negative ways. I tried to think about places that were meaningful to my friendships and memories that I have with certain people in certain places. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those places, those times, with those people and relive those memories. Books like these make me realize how important it is to treat people with respect and to not take anything, even the smallest things, for granted.

  • I believe it is very important to teach empathy in a classroom, probably more important that the academic part. During student teaching, I loved seeing the student grow a great deal in just the 15 weeks I was with them. They enter first grade writing three word sentences, and when I left they were writing whole stories. However, my favorite part was watching them develop friendships, and especially those with the identified students in the classroom, who could have easily been bullied.

    The classrooms benefited by haveing a “town meeting” each Friday within their own classroom. The group was first started with a compliment circle where each student gave one other student a compliment. This is like in Hannah’s classroom where they wrote compliments and put them in the bags. The compliments really did mean a lot to the students. During the first town meeting compliments were very basic like, “I like your clothes”. By the last “town meeting” I observed, the compliments were along the line of “i love how you are a great friend BECAUSE you play with me, are always on blue, and never say anything mean about anyone!” This was amazing for first graders!!!

    “Thirteen Reasons Why” was a very powerful book. It taught me to never take any friendship for granted, and to never say anything you dont mean.

  • I also liked the book. It certainly brings out many points which are relevant to teens today, both in and out of education (i.e. for both parents and educators). Many of the lessons were familiar; the crisis is not always tied to a single “big incident” but can be the unfortunate culmination of many smaller ones over time, consider what is said and done from the other person’s point of view, there are often warning signs and cries for help in the days and weeks before a suicide, etc.

    For me, the book is tied to a class on Computers in the Classroom and the larger subject of digital citizenship. As such, I was anticipating one of Hannah’s tapes to touch on an inappropriate email or the like. When nothing like that happened it got me thinking about the connection between the book and our class. I’m curious what others think but I’ll offer one theory.

    While none of the issues Hannah mentions in the book are tied to technology, most are issues which are played out in today’s social media. In fact, I think today’s social media would make it even easier for many of the issues which affected Hannah to play themselves out. I say that for at least two reasons; a) today’s social media moves with incredible efficiency allowing information (good or bad, accurate or not) to be disseminated quickly and widely, and b) today’s social media can, in some cases, facilitate anonymous communication thereby emboldening people to say and do things they might not if their identity were known.

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