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Literature / The Unteachables

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Gordon Korman gives a story following the titular untouchables, a class of middle school students who the other teachers have given up on and stuck in the Special Ed class of Mr. Kermitt. Kermitt is about to qualify for early retirement, as the school superintendent tries to force him out before he qualifies for a pension, and the various students undergo humorous hijinks which just might inspire something better in their teacher again.

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Tropes:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Parker has a "reading problem" that causes him to read words as anagrams (for instance he thinks the concorde Mr. Kermitt drives is a "Coco Nerd") but his exact disorder is never stated, and he is able to move past it with proper teaching.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Kiana arrives in Kerit's class by accident due to wrong directions and ends up staying there with no one noticing.
  • Big "NO!": Aldo, when he reaches the end of Where the Red Fern Grows the first book he's ever read.
  • Broken Ace: Mr. Kermit was once a strong contender for teacher and became National Teacher of the year, but now is a resented burn-out.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The elderly substitute teacher who no one takes seriously turns out to be The mother of a reporter who writes an article which saves Mr. Kermit's job.
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  • Drives Like Crazy: Parker. The fact that he only has a provisional license due to a family hardship that requires him to help drive the family delivery truck helps.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Mr. Kermit gets called "Ribbit" because of Kermit the frog.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Aldo is very easy to set off.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Teased but subverted. The local car dealership is owned by the kid who ran the cheating ring (Jake Terranova) whose a flamboyant salesman but Jake seems more honest in his adulthood, as well as upset to realize how much he hurt Mr. Kermit's life.
  • Long-Lived: The Kermit men tend to live past 100, causing the superintendent to be alarmed at the idea of having to pay him a pension for that long if he retires early. his own resentment over how he got some flak from the cheating scandal doesn't help.
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  • Memetic Badass: Elaine, all the stories about her feats of strength or beating people up are outright made up or grossly exaggerated, she's really a Gentle Giant.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Emma. Giving bunny tail stickers to middle school kids as a reward for good behavior is a bit unorthodox, although she does manage to make it work ok.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Kermit's career was destroyed by his students cheating decades ago and he still has lots of people hold it against him (particularly the superintendent who was also embarrassed by the scandal).
  • Phrase Catcher: When Elaine's name gets mentioned outside of her circle of friends, odds are someone will say "Rhymes with pain".
  • Second Place Is for Losers: When the class enters a science fair this trope is invoked. Their the ones who come in second, and their disconsolate because they needed a first place win to boost up the GPA's enough to save Mr. Kermitt's job.
  • Sleepyhead: Why Rahim is considered an Unteachable. The reason behind it is his stepdads band practicing keeps him awake a lot.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Subverted. Kiana calls her stepmom "Stepmonster" but its just broody teenage preference for her real mom and there's no real coldness or mistreatment there.
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