A Teacher’s Take on “13 Reasons Why”

A recent article said 13 Reasons Why is the most tweeted about show in 2017.

This controversial series is raising concern. The show, first a young adult book by Jay Asher, follows the life of a high school girl who leaves behind 13 tapes each with a reason why she chose to end her life.

Although Netflix has increased the warnings before the most controversial episodes, no one is stopping the series at that point. If anything, doesn’t it make you want to watch it even more?

Why do tweens and teens like the show so much? They relate. The topics are heavy and include everything from friendship to rape. While many of the topics covered in the series are not typical dinner conversations, they are real.

I work with students who, for the most part, come from loving homes. Even they deal with many of these issues. Sadly there have been days where students confide in me about bullying issues, family or friendship struggles, thoughts of hurting themselves, and even rape. I put my professional but compassionate face on for these students while we walk through the proper channels of informing the guidance office and making steps forward to help the student. What the students don’t know is that I go home and cry about these situations. When they hurt, I hurt.

I understand why students like this show because it talks about the issues no one wants to discuss. Anyone naive enough to think students aren’t experiencing this needs to be educated. Wouldn’t it be better to allow students to watch the show and open up discussions. While I, too, fear copycat behavior, I do see a need for students to know that everything they say and do has a ripple effect. Every person is responsible for their actions, and you never know what someone else is going through.

While the show romanticizes aspects of suicide, it is also giving us an open door to discuss ways people who feel alone can receive help. I even spoke with one student about the show who said she needed to stop herself from watching it because it was too real. That’s a warning sign. She needed someone to talk to who was trained professionally- not me. The show might scare a lot of parents and educators, but I’m taking the approach that it might just open some doors to help people get the help they deserve.

Seattle Highlights

I learned my way around downtown Seattle quickly. I had breakfast and coffee at the market every morning, and I usually wandered down every afternoon, too. Since the original Starbucks is located in this area, early mornings were the only time without a line all the way down the street. I walked right in, ordered my Venti coffee with hazelnut syrup, and I was on my way for the day. I’m not one to purchased souvenirs when I travel, but a Starbucks ceramic mug from the original shop was a must.

Another highlight from the trip was the Josten’s adviser appreciation dinner Saturday evening. This event was held at the Crab Pot right on the water. We took in a ferris wheel ride prior and were then served wine and more
seafood than we could consume. It was a night of trading stories and strategies with other yearbook advisers. Check out the ferris wheel views! The beautiful sunset helped me forget about the cool temperatures.

I returned home with a handful of goals to accomplish before next year’s conference. These include spending more time on our newspaper’s website, submitting student work for contests, and completing my own JEA journalism certification with the hope of someday presenting at the national level. Just typing those make me need another cup of coffee…

NHSJC Seattle

NHSJC = National High School Journalism Conference

Sunshine greeted me when I arrived in Seattle yesterday afternoon. I even had time to explore downtown a little before the convention officially kicked off at 7 p.m.

The time change of two hours behind made this tough. Thankfully there is a Starbucks everywhere you look, so a venti Americano helped me through the adviser meeting, keynote, and adviser reception.

The time changed worked in my advantage this morning as I took in Pike Place Market while most people were still sleeping. Gorgeous flowers, fresh fish, and an endless supply of coffee keep this city running.

My sessions today included a lot of adviser collaboration. We talked about grading, meeting standards, and being able to retire without an ulcer. An adviser luncheon introduced me to adviser from all over the United States.

What I’ve learned so far- We’re doing a lot of things correctly in my school’s JLAB.


img_5953Another EdCampIowa filled my Saturday.

This was the third time I’ve attended an EdCamp. The sessions are different each year, but the goal remains the same: Improve our own practices in order to better help students.

I’ve added multiple books to my must-read for more professional development, I’ve decided on changing up my grading system for next year to move towards competency-based, and I had an opportunity to connect with teachers from my building.

I’m thankful for a group of educators who know we have room to improve year-after-year.

Lately I’ve Been…

Lately I’ve been…

Reading The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines If you like HGTV, you know Chip and Joanna. I’m only two chapters into their story, and I love it! Thanks to Kaitlyn B. for recommending.

Loving the mild winter weather. It was 54 degrees and sunny yesterday, so Elijah and I bundled up and took a long walk outside. The fresh air was a gift!

Anticipating date night. One of my students is scheduled to babysit on Thursday evening so John and I can step away and try out a new(ish) restaurant downtown.

Watching The Bachelor on Mondays and The Is Us on Tuesdays. Also, if you didn’t get around to watching The People vs. OJ Simpson, it’s now on Netflix. You’re out of excuses. Watch it!

Struggling with running. I would love to say I’m motivated to sign up for a spring half marathon, but I don’t have the competitive drive right now. I’m hoping some warmer weather will arrive and encourage me to register for a road race.

Writing lots of letters of recommendation for students. Although college application letters are done, scholarship letters begin. “Are you busy, Mrs. Wagner?” My answer, “Is this a trick question?”

Planning Elijah’s 1st birthday party! It’s hard to believe he’ll be ONE next month! A birthday brunch is in the works.

Buying A few outfits for Elijah’s one-year photo session (size: 18-month because he is so tall!). We have the photo shoot scheduled over spring break. Talk about perfect timing!

What are you reading, loving, anticipating, watching, struggling, writing, planning, and/or buying?

SEA the Possibilities

I’m headed to Seattle!

One of my professional goals has always been to attend the National Journalism Conference in either the fall or the spring. After some research and the encouragement of my principal, I’ve registered for the April conference. This year’s spring location is Seattle.

After I get a taste of the conference this year (and determine if it’s worth it), the goal will be to take a group of students along next year.

I’m looking forward to connecting with a lot of other journalism advisers, learning more about how other schools balance both a school newspaper and a news website, and what I can I do to better encourage my students to embrace the changing world of journalism.

The conference will pack a lot into four days, but there is some free time to take in the city. I’ve never been to Seattle, so let me know what I should do/see while I’m there.

Dancing with the Saints 2017

img_5607One evening, nearly 900 people, and $110,000 raised for Catholic education!

To say this year’s Dancing with the Saints was a success would be an understatement. This fundraising idea, a spinoff of Dancing with the Stars, is a creative way to get people together for a great cause. Ten celebrity dancers paired with ten dance coaches, these courageous img_5608people take the stage and raise money through votes. This year’s money will go towards improving the sound systems around our school.

I’m thankful every day to be a part of an incredible community who would do anything to support our school.

2016 Recap


Family Weekend Away


Baby Shower at School


Baby Shower with Family/Friends



Preparing for Baby W (and an updated photo)



Embracing March


Surprise Baby Shower at School


Elijah James 3.25.16

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The Biggest Test of Our Faith

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Rest and Recovery in the NICU for “God’s Miracle Man” and lots of Swaddles and Snuggles

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Bringing Elijah HOME!


A Minor Medical Setback



Baptism (on Mother’s Day)

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Our First Road Race



Celebrating 31 with this sweetheart!


Celebrating Six Years of Marriage


Meeting Miss Mollie



4th of July


Livin’ the Lodge Life


Vacation: Music City

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Standing by Mollie’s Side


EJW Community of Faith Scholarship


Healthy Check-Ups


Starting My Ninth Year Teaching

Another Road Race



Notre Dame Weekend


Flood Week


Celebrating SIX months



Raech’s Birthday/Wine Tour


Presenting at ITEC



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UIHC Children’s Hospital Open House




Turkey Trot 8k with Matt



Celebrating John


Christmas Blessings

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Thank you for being one of the many blessings in my life!

May 2017 offer you health and happiness.

Technology Conference

img_5354After I presented at ITEC, I was asked to give that same presentation at the Learning with Technology Conference in Cedar Falls last Friday.

The keynote speaker was Will Richardson who published the book Personal Learning Networks back in 2011. It has received a lot of buzz in the teaching world, and he seems to be ahead of his time. He also has three TED talks linked to his website, if you’re curious in learning more about him. One of my takeaways for the day was the idea that I should not be the smartest person in my classroom. While some of you may have reread that sentence, I’ll explain. Will encouraged educators to use the tech resources at our fingertips to bring the experts into our classrooms. This means Skype, blogs, twitter…etc. Why teach students about the process of getting elected when you can electronically connect with someone who has been elected? Why have students simply discuss the culture of another country when you can have students take a live view of another country while talking with people their own age living in that country?

I nodded in agreement to Will’s suggestions because one of the best resources I have in my classroom is the sports editor for our local newspaper. He is an expert in his field. He and I communicate daily, and he comes into my classroom multiple times a year. During these visits, he helps my students and me on everything from writing leads to designing headlines. I encourage every teacher to find their expert. It will transform your classroom into an authentic learning enviorment.

Another question Will asked was, “Why are schools the only place where we don’t allow students to use their phone to answer a question?” He also made a good point that if your test can be answered by using your cell phone, it might not be a good “test”. This is a great reminder for educators, especially before finals.

My Students Know Me

img_5158I love The Skimm. As a journalism teacher, I expect students to know what is going on outside of our school. The Skimm offers a quick daily email to get the basics of what is going on around the world and why they should care. I know I’ve blogged about this service many times, so I hope all of you are signed up, too.

For years, I have been telling students I wish I could buy a Skimm crew neck but the company only gives out Skimm gear as prizes. It turns out students are actually listening when teachers speak. 😉

img_5170My thoughtful students emailed the creators of The Skimm and requested a crew neck for me. They also told the creators about Elijah’s miracle story, and he will now represent The Skimm, too!

In addition to the box of merchandize, my newspaper seniors each wrote me a letter of “thanks”. I have no idea what I did to deserve these teenagers in my life, but I absolutely love working with them each day.

Now I just need a casual day so I can sport my new crew neck.