Because of my Two Questions

April 20, 2017

Dear Families,

Each week as I contemplate the topic for my Thursday Wire post, I consider many factors. I examine educational trends. I read articles on parenting teens. I reflect on my own journey as an educator and a parent.  I contemplate what is relevant based on society and student culture. I examine themes on social media.

I struggle, at times, with overthinking. I struggle, often, to find my voice. I never want to suggest I know more than any other parent. When I share from personal experience, I only desire to communicate that I have walked the road. I understand the struggles. I share from personal experience because it is what I know. I understand that some may feel that I share too much. I accept that. My intention is to find common ground. I will always strive to be authentic.

This week’s topic of discussion presents the potential for various reactions. I accept that. As always, I invite you to reach out to me if you have questions or concerns. This week, I approach the topic of teen suicide-a topic that evokes a number of emotions. I know many will question the need for such an article. My reasons are many. Did you know that Douglas County has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the country? I find this alarming both as an educator and a parent. Society bombards our youth with the topic. Social media. Netflix series. Video games. Who is helping them navigate the darkness of this topic?

I struggle, sometimes daily, with where to draw the line. When do I remain silent? When do I share what I know with parents? I return to my two questions.

  1.  How will my decision impact the safety of my students?
  2.  How will my decision impact their education?

Upon contemplating these two questions, I determined I need to impart this information to you. It is yours to determine how to approach it within your own home. Of late, I find myself most concerned with the fascination over the Netflix series and young adult novel 13 Reasons Why. Each discusses and portrays the 13 reasons why the protagonist commits suicide. Both are presented from the perspective of the protagonist. Conversations in the hall suggest that many of our students, specifically the young ladies, are either reading the novel or watching the series.

As an English teacher passionate about critical thinking,  I will never suggest banning a book. I will always promote active engagement and critical thinking. This book is no exception.  I encourage families to engage in dialogue. If your student watches the show, watch with them. When topics such as cutting and rape are addressed, discuss them with your student. Take the opportunity to ask thought provoking questions. Seek to understand the interest in the work. Opening this type of dialogue allows you to keep a pulse on your child’s perception of the topics.

We cannot shelter our children from the struggles of adolescents. It has become a cliche to suggest that a contrast exists between the challenges of today’s youth and the challenges we faced. Video games of today challenge gamers to complete unthinkable objectives. In two popular games, the main character wins if they commit suicide. Our biggest video game challenge was preventing Donkey Kong from smashing Mario. I determined that I cannot keep this knowledge to myself. Both Tears for Fears and R.E.M. suggested in one of their covers It’s a Mad World. I want nothing more than to empower our students to navigate it safely.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Food for Thought: Colorado Family Attractions for Summer Fun

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