Beyond the the lessons offered in the classroom, the complex social world of school is a rite of passage for many. Everyone's experience is different, and can range from affirming to harrowing. Luckily, there is bound to be a book or a movie that will speak to your experience. Whether you are just starting a new school, a seasoned veteran or just reminiscing, these materials may add further nuance, or comfort, to your experience.
Fatty Legs, a true story, is one of a growing number of books that shed light on the traumatic impact of the Residential School System in Canada. Set in the 1940s, in an Inuvialuit community in the Arctic Circle, Fatty Legs tells the story of Margaret, a young girl who desperately wishes to attend one of the church-run schools that had been established in a town. Her enthusiasm for learning is soon matched with a need to survive, as she struggles to maintain her identity within a system designed to destroy it.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is indeed based on author Sherman Alexie's childhood experiences. The story follows Junior, who after an explosive encounter with one of his teachers, leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend the nearby all-white farm town highschool. Equal parts humour and heartbreak mingle in this story, along with the two worlds that Junior occupies.
A classic YA story, before such a category even existed, The Chocolate War definitely falls within the harrowing category. Through the simple act of refusing to take part in the annual chocolate sale, Jerry Renault unexpectedly throws the entire system of the Trinity Catholic Boys School into chaos, and pits him against both the local student mafia and instructors, who maintain and depend upon this system.
These two graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier present two coming-of-age stories that are sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school. After a traumatic visit to the dentist, resulting in a horrifying combination of corrective surgery, headgear and retainers, eleven-year old Raina struggles to lead a 'normal' school existence. Drama follows the theatrics on and off the stage as our hero Carrie takes part in her school's production of Moon Over Mississippi.
Really, what more needs to be said now about the Boy Who Lived... and also managed to graduate from the most famous school of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
In my humble opinion one of the best depictions of school life, Freaks and Geeks also launched the careers of several cast members (James Franco, anyone?) and its creator, Judd Apatow.
With Napoleon Dynamite and Gentlemen Broncos, Director Jared Hess offers two decidely quirky takes on the social order of school, of both the home and institutional variety.
In addition to these Fictional stories, the Calgary Public Library also has a great selection of non-fiction titles that can help you navigate the sometimes arcane and confusing rituals of the educational system.
Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what is out there, so let us know what titles you would recommend!