There are a lot of School Tropes. So many so that when I looked at the list of School Tropes on TV Tropes I had a moment of absolute, unmitigated panic. And then I remembered that I primarily focus on Sci-fi and Fantasy, and I managed to moderate that to only mild panic.
Other TV Tropes pages: Extranormal Institute, All-Ghouls School, Hero Academy, Superhero School, Boarding School, Wizarding School, Spy School, Royal School Boarding School of Horrors, Academy of Adventure, Academy of Evil, Space Cadet Academy, Boot Camp Episode, Schoolteachers, Teacher/Student Romance, Evil Teacher, Stranger in a Strange School, Chekhov’s Classroom, Shouldn’t We Be in School Right Now?, Deceptive Disciple, A Pupil of Mine, Until He Turned to Evil
Types of Schools:
I would be shocked if the first thing that came to mind when you saw this post wasn’t Magic Schools. Harry Potter is burned onto the public collective at this point.Yet that isn’t the only type of specialized school that you’ll see in sci-fi and fantasy. And not all schools are for children, either. There are all sorts of schools for every purpose, mundane or not, dangerous or not.
In fantasy, there are schools for Superheroes with super powers, or just plain Heroes, possibly with supernatural powers but maybe they just have a sword and some wit. There are Assassin schools and Ninja schools or any other form of fighting. You can schools for princesses and other Royals, so they don’t have to mingle with those dreaded commoners, or schools where everyone belongs.
In science fiction there are more commonly academies for living and working in space with a Space Academy. Which is commonly paired with Military Academies or Boot Camps, where they learn all manners of fighting and ethics to do with running a working military in space. Maybe they’re even sent to Spy school, if they’re extra-cool. There are even special schools for all manner of Technology that students can be sent to.
Based on looking at a lot of TV Tropes pages and looking for more that weren’t as easily found, it appears that school settings are much more common in Fantasy than they are in Sci-Fi. But this may not be true.
And most of these are only made possible with the use of Boarding Schools. And typically with fantasy, the Boarding School is only a school for people who are special. They’re all Superheroes, or they’re all Witches, or maybe even an assortment of supernatural or paranormal creatures. They can be a secret to everyone except those who go there, or just part of a Masquerade. They can be full of nothing but Evil, or Good, or mixed together. The school may function well or not. They may be dangerous and children may die.
And this is commonly combine with schools that just attract things to them. The weird and the dangerous. The school itself may easily hide these things within the halls, or grow the danger. Or the students and teachers themselves are a danger to themselves and others. The school itself may even be semi-alive or magical and causing the troubles itself. It may even be located on a nexus point that attracts the weird and dangerous.
Teachers and Students:
Schools in Fantasy and Sci-Fi have a lot of the same teacher and student tropes as regular stories. Strict teachers, goofy teachers, teachers who don’t know how to teach at all, teachers that aren’t altogether with us in the land of reality, good teachers, bad teachers. You’ll have the jocks and the nerds and the teachers pets, bullies and victims, delinquents, and all the various and myriad tropes these all entail.But there are a few things that you find in SFF that you don’t really find outside the genre.
The Evil Teacher: You may think assigning a lot of homework is evil, but in fantasy, there is a remarkably higher chance the teacher may actually be a minion of evil. They could be teaching at a school for evil to become more evil, or they could be hiding behind a turban. You never know.
The Best Teacher: There is a remarkably higher chance in SFF to find a teacher who is literally the best in the world at this very special, most likely private and incredibly difficult to get into school. The best wizard, the best spaceship fighter pilot, the best at mixing potions. The best at anything. Except yo-yos. You’re probably not going to find a teacher who is best at yo-yoing in fantasy.
Everyone’s a Monster: It is common for the specialist schools in fantasy be entirely full of monsters, witches, and other paranormal creatures. In fact, the entire town may be dedicated to this idea. Sometimes it is to keep up a Masquerade, other times it is to keep the humans safe. Sometimes it is the only way to keep them all out of trouble, or teach them the skills that they’ll need to know in a safe environment.
The Normal Student: The exception to the previous trope. Somehow, a normal human got into the school. Sometimes it was a mistake, sometimes they’re hiding their powers and trying to just appear human to make others unaware of what they actually are. Sometimes they don’t realize they belonged there the entire time and find the magic within them before the end.
The Liar: Sometimes, you’ll have a student who had nefarious goals in mind when they got into the school, and they betray everyone and possibly hurt or kill their friends and teachers on the way out. Sometimes, the school actually changes them and while they planned on doing this they couldn’t go through with it in the end.
Turned Evil: Other times, a student will turn rogue because of the school, students, and teachers in question. And with fantasy, we mean actually evil.
And sometimes, if they’re actually paying attention in class (which isn’t always a given, seeing as how often they actually skip class), what they learn in class is going to end up saving the day and probably their lives. Because that is the one class we (and possibly they, too) saw the entire book.