Back to School!

by Joss Ware

Pardon me while I do a little dance of glee...for today's the day my children go back to school. (Yes, I know we start late. It's a Michigan thing.)

As I was settling to sleep last night (probably more excited than they were), I found myself thinking about some of my favorite "school-movies"--flicks that revolve around being in school. High school, generally (because that's when most of the fun stuff happens...right?), and with much of the activity tied into school.

There are quite a few of my favorites that have to do with back to school, maybe because starting school is probably more of a New Year than hanging up a new calendar on January 1. It's exciting and frightening and each year is the start of something new and different.

Grease of course comes to mind as one of the classic "back to school" movies, along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And The 10 Things I Hate About You. And though it's set in college, there's Legally Blonde for a great girl-power movie.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV show moreso than the movie) of course, and Veronica Mars (all right, so now I'm moving on to the smaller screen. But you get my point.) are two of my other favorites that revolve around the school structure and don't really have much plot outside of the school year.

And who can forget Friday Night Lights? (Tim Riggins, anyone?)

(You know I had to have an excuse to post a picture.)

All of these shows do an excellent job of using a school and classmates as its own segregated world and building its characters and plot around it. Schools are simple and familiar settings, but when creating a story, we (novelists, film makers, TV writers) have to identify the "world" in which it's set--regardless of whether it's a historical one, with steam-powered zeppelins or vampire hunters, a futuristic one with voice-powered showers and automatic chefs, or our own vast environment...but honed down into something small and manageable.

It's been a long time since I've been in school, but watching these shows gives me a sense of what it's like to be back in school--the dynamics, the relationships, the coming of age: it's all timeless.

So...what are some of your favorite "school" movies or shows? And what about you--is September a time for New Year's Resolutions, or do you wait until January when that brand-spanking new calendar gets hung up?


  1. In my mind, nothing really beats Grease and "Summer Nights" as a kick-off back to school movie.

    (And now I'll be singing that song all day today....)

  2. Huge Buffy fan here, am re-watching it now and reliving those high school days.

    I also liked "My So-Called Life", which happened mostly in school. And oh what was that show, with Kellie Martin..."Life Goes On". Not as much in school, but those are the parts I remember. Loved those shows, and they both got cancelled. Bummer.

    I'm not big on resolutions as a rule, but sometimes I'm inspired to make changes. Right now it's eating healthy. Happened about a month ago. Went to a seminar and learned quite a bit about it. Now I feel the difference. Still need to lose some weight, but I'm not as concerned about that right now. Concentrating on eating better has kept me pretty busy, and it's actually fun, if you can believe it. I'm loving fruits & veggies again :)

  3. Stacy,

    Great to see you here! Thanks for coming by.

    I've been watching what I eat for the last month, and am feeling quite a bit more energetic. (Have you seen my tweets about my green smoothies?? LOL.)

    I'd forgotten about My So-Called Life. I never watched it, but have heard so much about it. I'm thinking my 13-yo daughter would like it.

  4. I always want to buy clothes at the end of August, first of September -- one habit I've never been able to break. And I haunt stores looking at school supplies because I have a paper/pen/pencil/school accessories fetish.

    As for shows/movies. I'd have to throw in my lot with 'Grease.' Also the Harry Potter movies, which all take place during the school year. Much cooler (and more dangerous!) than any school I ever attended! Being Canadian I should mention Degrassi, even though I've never watched it (They're going to take away my CDN citizenship, I think!). Another TV show obviously has to be the amazing Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

    I also loved the movie Sky High, which is a Disney movie about Super Hero kids. Lynda Carter played the Principal.

    As an aside though, has anyone ever noticed how the CW (formerly the WB) wraps it's schedule around the school year? Shows start shortly after school starts, and tend to take breaks whenever there are breaks in the school calendar.

  5. Grease is definitely my all time favorite movie, and I LOVE 10 Things I Hate About You, but The Breakfast Club is one that I always long to watch. I kind of feel like it has the moments in high school that should have been - the moments of realization, empathy, and overcoming typical social barriers.

    I am of course a Buffy fan as well, but Joss - I would completely recommend My So-Called Life. It was definitely the precursor to Buffy's "teen speak"!

  6. The Breakfast Club!! I watched it on VHS the night before I started junior high (many, many years ago). It still reminds me of starting back to school.

  7. Oh, I forgot about Harry Potter! Doh!

    I am definitely putting My So-Called Life on the Netflix queue.

    And I must confess, I only saw The Breakfast Club once, and for some reason, it just didn't speak to me. I don't know if I'd feel different watching it now...maybe I ought to try.

  8. Hey Joss, it is great to see you here. I love back to school know, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" comes to mind..."Grease" is one of my favs too...I also loved tv sitcoms like "Head of the Class". "Wonder Years" is another one that comes to mind.

    I don't make New Year's Resolutions in September or January 1 at all. I always end up breaking them anyway, so I dispensed with that.

    As a teacher, though, I try to make some goals that I plan to achieve, but the strategic steps always seem to flounder because kids are so darned unpredictable. I just try to enjoy myself and instill in my students the love of learning, the best way I know how. It is great to see you again. Can't wait for Beyond the Night to come out. The students haven't arrived yet, that's on Sunday, but we started Teacher Orientation week today, and it was great. It feels good to be back in the classroom, but I will miss those lazy days of just reading and doing what I want. I hope that you are having a wonderful and relaxing day.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  9. I'm more of a Ferris Beuller's Day Off / John Hughes high school flick, rather than The Breakfast Club. The scene with Ben Stein ('Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?') always makes me laugh.

    The Harry Potter series is definitely my favorite school-themed series of films.

    And for TV, I'll always have a soft spot for Miss Beadle and the Walnut Grove school on Little House on the Prairie.

  10. Hey Joss - fun post! Definitely agree with all the movies and shows listed here - I would also add Joan of Arcadia which was on for about 3 seasons then got canceled. I really liked that show - about a teenage girl who started having visions - seeing "God" who would help guide her in life. I thought it was well written and acted.

  11. Oh - and Gossip Girl - but only because of Chuck and Blair.

  12. Hi Joss

    I love school themed flicks. Gossip Girl, of course, lol, then Buffy and I actually liked watching the original Beverly Hills 90210. More recently though, not exactly a school movie, but I saw 17 Again with Zac Efron, really liked it, it was interesting to see this 'grown up' in the body of a 17 year old and finding out about the realities of high school today.

    I usually leave the resolutions for January, coz the school year starts then for us in Mauritius. Nothing really major, more like, I won't work like mad and neglect my family!



  13. "Grease" is good year-round. :)

    But I do love the fall and ever since school, it fills me with a sense of excitement and possibility. It is my new year. This is usually when I start a new wip - this year it's starting the commitment to finish a wip that's been dragging on for like forever - by the end of the year.

  14. BAck to school always reminds me of prom which reminds me of "Pretty in Pink" also, Dazed & Confused was great, too. - How about FAME!


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