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Goodbye, Mr. Chips
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Teacher's Guide [imagemap with 8 links]

School Stories: A Comparison

Use the list below or choose other school stories to compare the ways in which different authors and filmmakers bring a particular school, group of teachers and students, and era to life.

As you study the stories, keep a running graphic organizer for comparison. One simple way to do this is to create a grid with headings listing certain classic topics that most school stories have, such as teachers, students, buildings and grounds, time period, customs/traditions, curriculum, written and unwritten codes of conduct, cliques or groups, hierarchy, class/race/gender in the school, special vocabulary. Along the sides of the grid, students can enter the names of the various stories they are studying. They can then watch the films or read the books and take notes on each story's portrayal of these different aspects as they go.

Note: Although many famous works, such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Black Boy by Richard A. Wright contain scenes set in schools, the list below contains only novels, films, memoir and nonfiction where the setting of a school is integral to the plot. You may want to add others to the list, particularly young adult novels that so often use school as a central setting or theme, such as Nothing But the Truth by Avi or The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.

  1. Take one of the themes, characters, or conflicts of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and find a portrayal of something similar in one of the novels or films listed below. For example, you might look at a scene involving school discipline, or the arrival of a new teacher in both Mr. Chips and in one of the comedies below. In what ways are the two similar? Different? What conclusions can you draw?

  2. What are the clichés of this genre? That is, what events, rituals, and conflicts are portrayed over and over again in these kinds of stories? Who are the stock characters of school stories? How common in the real life of most schools do you think these recurring clichˇs and characters are?

  3. At which of the schools portrayed in these stories would you best fit in? Why? Which would be the worst fit for you? Why?

  4. Writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, "High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of." What do you think he means? Choose one character from any of the stories you are studying. What would this character say to this statement? Write his or her response, making sure to be true to this character's voice and point of view.

  5. How are teachers viewed in our society? How do you think media portrayals of teachers affect how we feel about them? To investigate, choose several different stories about teachers -- from literature, film, television, memoir, newspapers, and magazines -- and compare how the teachers are portrayed in each. From whose point of view is each story told? Are the teachers portrayed sympathetically? Critically? What specific words or visual images are used in these portrayals to create a picture of the profession? Write up your findings.

  6. Take any of the stories about school on this list that has not already been turned into a film (or for which you haven't seen the film), and create a storyboard to show how you'd create the opening scenes if you were to film it. To do this, divide a page into three columns. In the first column, write the passage from the book that will inspire your opening. Next to it, in the middle column, describe the shot the audience would see on film. In the third column, describe the sounds the audience would hear: music? A voice-over? Other kinds of sounds? Continue this until you have a few minutes of film described. If you can, try filming your opening scene and comparing it with those of your classmates.

  7. You may find that portrayals of school are quite similar, whether the setting is now or 100 years ago. What will school be like 100 years from now? Write or storyboard the opening scenes of a futuristic school story in any genre.

School Stories

Blackboard Jungle
Dangerous Minds
The Dead Poet's Society
The Emperor's Club
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Finding Forrester
High School (documentary by Fred Wiseman)
Lean on Me
The Miracle Worker
Mr. Holland's Opus
Music of the Heart
Outside Providence
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Pump Up the Volume
Sixteen Candles (and other works by John Hughes)
Stand and Deliver
To Sir with Love
Tom Brown's School Days

Beverly Hills 90210
Boston Public
Boy Meets World
Freaks and Geeks
My So-Called Life
The Wonder Years

A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Christie by Catherine Marshall
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago
Down with Skool by Geoffrey Williams

Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry by Robert Sam Anson
Friday Night Lights by H.B. Bissinger
Black Ice by Lorene Cary
Boy by Roald Dahl
The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey
Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez
A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind
Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference by Mark Edmundson

School Memories | School Today | School Stories | School Issues

Teacher's Guide:
Using Goodbye, Mr. Chips in the Classroom
Goodbye, Mr. Chips: Plot Summary | Time & Place: English Public Schools
Discussion Questions and Activities | Novel into Film
The School Experience: An Inquiry | Resources | Teacher's Guide Credits

Essays + Interviews | Who's Who/Cast + Credits
Story Synopsis | Novel to Film | Russell Baker
Links + Bibliography | Teacher's Guide | The Forum

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