I need your help with a judgment call. This month, one of my favorite podcasts, Criminal, detailed the compelling case of a real estate agent whose life was nearly destroyed by false online rumors. This episode and the issues it raises would make an excellent supplement to our American Literature students’ study of The Crucible, but I’m hesitant to build those materials because…well…this topic is just so…unsettling.

The episode is school-appropriate; there’s no swearing and the graphic content is sideswept. The issues are important. Part of me thinks this is exactly what our students need to study and discuss. Another part of me suspects I’d unleash all kinds of drama by introducing the topic. For instance, if you visit the shesahomewrecker.com site mentioned in the piece, you’ll see it’s incredibly vile.

If you have 24 minutes (by the way, that’s the perfect episode length to use in a single-class period lesson), take a listen:

Here’s the question: Would you use this podcast in your class?
I’m thinking I’d use this only with a mature group of 11th or 12th graders and only late in the term once I know the kids and know they can handle this discussion. Still, I wonder if it’s even worth it to go there with our students. What do you think? Leave a reply below and share your thoughts.

Sidenote: Just a heads-up that I’m going to take the next three Saturdays off from blogging so I can focus on finishing my 20Time project. I love y’all and the blog, but weekly posts are a distraction from my writing project time, as you can imagine. I’ll still respond to your comments and questions (of course!), but I just need more time to sit, think, and WRITE. I’ll be back with my 20Time results report on April 20. Teach on.

Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. Yes—in fact, I may work on that for my 11th graders. I have done Serial with them before but I was thinking of something else for this group, maybe Season 2 of Into the Dark or maybe this one. I’ll have to listen and see. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks, Sinead. I was fascinated by Serial Season 1, too, but ultimately couldn’t use it because of the language. I’ll definitely check out Into the Dark.

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  3. I haven’t listened to the podcast, and I don’t know if your students would HAVE to get on that site to do their assignment, but I wouldn’t touch this. Now, I am a middle school teacher, not high school, but still. I might be worried one of my kids would find their mom or their sister on there or something. Yeesh. I also have a philosophical objection to giving that site any more traffic than it already gets, even for educational purposes.

    For a possible alternative, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO just did a story about public shaming. You can view it here: https://www.hbo.com/last-week-tonight-with-john-oliver

    I know it isn’t as much pernicious lies and rumors as it is out-in-the-open stuff that you can’t stop, so maybe not. It gets into the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which will probably require reading and explanation for your students. You can decide if you want to go there.

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  4. I hear you, Alison. The podcast and any assignment I would build wouldn’t send kids to the site, but it’s a natural curiosity that bubbles up after listening to this woman’s plight and I think kids would go there on their own. I love John Oliver, so I’ll check out his piece. I’m hopeful that could spark a similar discussion without all the scandal/drama. Great advice!

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  5. I listened to that episode and my first thought was, “I wish Laura Randazzo would create a lesson for this episode!” I’m glad you’re considering it. I think it has very important lessons for our kids. I think it would be fine as long as you cautioned that it was best for mature students.

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  6. It’s a really well-produced episode and so interesting, Gretchen, but I’m still having doubts…maybe it’s because my community is on the conservative side…hmm…

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  7. Laura, I live in one of the neighboring counties to Huntsville, Alabama, so this podcast hits close to home. I have listened to this podcast and believe that it is worthy of sharing with my seniors. My approach to this podcast will be to advise my students to be careful about what they post and the comments that they leave. This realtor’s comments and intentions were appropriate, but someone took offense and decided to ruin her life. I too live in a conservative community, but my concern for my students’ social media footprint and online behavior is a higher priority. Social media can be positive or negative. I am interested in any lessons you produce for this podcast. You are by far my favorite seller on TPT, and I have never been disappointed in any of your resources. I’m sending my principals a link to this podcast. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. The podcast and the accompanying text certainly lends itself to if nothing else a “mean girl” discussion. In an age where middle and high school students use social media constantly, they often feel they can give their opinions in a non confrontational atmosphere many times to the point of cyber bullying. I think it would be a great lesson on opinion vs fact, cyber bullying, even that “road rage” mentality society has progressed into.

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  9. This is a tough call. You would have to know your students well. The Crucible was one of my favorite units to teach when I taught American lit. and there was a time when I would not second guess myself when using this to get a discussion going since it is part of the play. I also like the suggestion by Alison in the previous post about using the Monica Lewinsky scandal because it more closely mirrors what happens in the play. Young girl falls for the older man. I do believe students need to know how false accusations can ruin a persons reputation just as it does in the Crucible with dire consequences. I think you can make this work and I look forward to seeing what you do with this.

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  10. For the reasons you stated, I might venture this lesson with mature/honors upperclassmen. I have not yet listened to the podcast, so I’m not sure if this is covered or has been mentioned, but my problem is with *who* becomes the target. For instance, when a husband is cheating on his wife, why does the wife go after the other woman and not her man? *HE* is the one the wife has the relationship with…not her. It is *him* whom she needs to address the infidelity with…not her. I’m not saying the other woman is without blame or fault, but I do believe there is a whole lot of misplaced anger in many of these situations.

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  11. I hope I don’t sound too naïve here, so here it goes.

    I fully agree with everything you’ve said about this podcast. It’s school appropriate, language is acceptable, issues are important, it creates a great discussion, and I’ll dare say that it also talks of things that (unfortunately) happen every day and the kids see it. I would even go a little further and say that some kids even suffer of similar situations when being cyber-bullied.

    I’m with you that it probably would be best to keep it for the older kids. Using it with slightly younger kids would take some maturity consideration to go along with it.

    I will also mention that when my daughter was in middle school, they made her read the most horrific books, one of them which still sticks to her. It made no difference that I complained; as a second choice reading was just as bad, but the worst was seeing how they threatened to fail her if she didn’t read them! (Yes, some things just don’t work right here!) 😦

    This podcast is a piece of cake next to those books. You know those kids better than any of us. Personally, and after all my blabbing, I would use it; but in my case, I’d have to use it with my advanced students, which means they’d be within the older crowd (jrs /srs) or adults.

    Hope this helps!

    Looking forward to that 20Time report! Good luck with that! 😀

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  12. I would be concerned that a kid might think this was funny and post someone they knew on the site.

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  13. I haven’t listened to it yet, but GO WITH YOUR GUT! With all your experience, your instincts are probably right on.
    Why introduce any questionable content to your students? There is so much of that already.
    You also don’t want any pushback from parents. You definitely don’t have time for that stress!

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  14. I think you should. I think students would find it engaging. Also, students are unfortunately used to dealing with so many rumors being circulated on social media; I think they would be able to have a productive discussion on the implications of posting things about others on social media sites.

    I’m in a moderately conservative district, but I would say that episode wouldn’t raise many red flags for me. 11th graders could handle it.

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  15. If you ultimately decide the podcast is too much, here’s an article I used in my conservative school during The Scarlet Letter. I did edit it down for length and some content, but it sparked an interesting discussion.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.amp.html

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  16. Thanks, everyone, for such wisdom! After weighing all of this out, I think I’m going to leave this podcast episode out of my Crucible work. I enjoyed the John Oliver piece and his Monica Lewinsky interview is something we all need to hear and think about, but there are too many f-bombs in that video to use it in any of my classes. Jessica’s NYTimes article, however, is fascinating and covers many of the same issues in a way that’d work in my classroom. If I ever teach The Scarlet Letter, that’ll be a must-include article with a bit of minor editing, for sure. Appreciate the hive mind’s help this weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I listened to this episode earlier in the week and thought it would be great fodder for a lesson in public shaming, ripple effects, trolling, etc. I haven’t been to she’s a homewrecker website, but I tend to veer away from anything more controversial that leaves a trail, if that makes sense. No qualms about talking, referring, but I’d probably not share something where kids could leap to a website.

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  18. it also occurred to me that, if the goal is to discuss public shaming, the college admissions scandal is also ripe with potential. kids will definitely be able to relate, and there’s no inappropriate website for them to explore.

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  19. I noticed you mentioned in a previous comment that you can’t use Serial season 1 because of language and I just wanted to tell you that you can Google School Cut episodes that remove the bad language. Just an FYI. I used Serial this year with my seniors and they really got into it!

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  20. So great, Kristen! That’s EXACTLY what I need to make the podcast series work. Will give it a look this summer. Thanks!

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  21. Loved that episode and so did my daughter, a freshman. Do it!

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  22. Good to know, Sundra. Thanks! 🙂

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American literture, high school English, non-fiction, social media, Uncategorized

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