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Literature / Wayside School

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Wayside School is a children's book series by Louis Sachar (Holes) about the weirdest elementary school ever.

Most notably, it's a skyscraper with one classroom per each of its thirty stories. It was supposed to be one story high and thirty classrooms long, but the school was accidentally built sideways. (The builder said he was very sorry.)

He also forgot to build the nineteenth story. Also: the principal's name is Kidswatter, there's the group of Men in Black living in the basement, and one time the school was filled with cows.

The series focuses on Mrs. Jewls' class on the 30th floor, in which each student has their own quirks and oddities. The books themselves always have thirty stories. There are four books in the main series:

  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School (1978) introduced the characters and devoted each chapter to a story revolving around each one, with the exception of Chapter 19.
  • Wayside School Is Falling Down (1989) introduced a new student to the mix but otherwise follows more-or-less the same structure. At one point a student ends up stuck on the non-existent 19th story, which results in three consecutive Chapter 19s.
  • Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger (1995) largely abandoned the formula to present a continuous story: Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave and the students must cope with a variety of substitutes in her absence.
  • Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom (2020) goes back to an episodic format, but features multiple running subplots, the most prominent of which involves the students and staff of the school coping with the effects of a large, gloomy cloud that looms over the school building.

There were also two Sideways Arithmetic books: Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School (1989) and More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School (1994), which involve a new student from a more normal school dealing with Wayside's weirdness and mathematical Moon Logic Puzzles, including letter-substitution arithmetic.

The series manages to show an accurate understanding of the average schoolchild's perspective: the world is a huge, strange place where arbitrary things happen. In 2007, the books were picked up by Nelvana and made into an animated series, which has its own page here.

This series includes examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • In Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Joy steals Dameon's lunch because she forgot hers and his looked delicious. She felt so guilty afterwards that she couldn't eat those foods again for a year. In Wayside School is Falling Down, she steals her best friend Maurecia's lunch for no apparent reason.
    • In Little Stranger, Dr. Pickell hypnotizes Paul so that every time he tries to pull Leslie's pigtails, he'll see them as rattlesnakes from then on. It's apparently worn off by the next book, where Paul pulls Leslie's pigtails on a few instances. The incident that triggered the hypnosis potentially counts too, since he'd also promised to stop pulling Leslie's pigtails in Falling Down after she literally saved his life.
  • Animal Goes to School: In the last story of Wayside School is Falling Down, Mrs. Jewels rings her cowbell really loud to calm the students of the thirtieth floor down. She unknowingly attracted all the cows from the country side and filled up the school. Lewis gets rid of all the cows in the school, except for one that's in the nineteenth floor in Wayside School Gets a Little Stanger.
  • Annoying Laugh: Sammy the dead rat, who is already described as having a horrible voice and a horrible smell, has a laugh apparently worse than either of those two things. The other students in the class try to cover their ears to block it out, but some of them struggle to when blocking their noses as well.
  • Apple for Teacher: Subverted. Mrs. Gorf transforms all the kids in her class into apples, but Louis, the yard teacher, assumes she's nice, because when he sees the pile of apples on her desk, he assumes the kids have all been giving them to her.
  • Arc Villain: A Little Stranger has three substitute teachers arrive to replace Mrs. Jewls while she's on maternity leave- all three of whom have it out for the students. It takes several chapters before one is removed and the next replaces them.
    • The first is Mr. Gorf, the son of the original teacher of Floor 30. He steals the students' voices with his third nostril and tries to make their parents angry.
    • The second is Mrs. Drazil, who turns out to have been Louis' old teacher. She's actually generally kind and a good teacher to this group, but the kids can't get past her history with Louis or the fact that she made him shave his mustache when they were reintroduced.
    • And the third of the substitutes is Wendy Nogard. She has a third ear on the top of her head which she can use to read minds, and uses this to secretly torment the students while presenting herself as a kind and fair teacher.
  • Artistic License – Physics: In Sideways Stories, Sharie falls out the window while sleeping. Never mind that Louis is able to run all the way across the length of the playground and pass through the various swing-sets, monkey-bars and ball-courts to catch her before she hits the ground — if you fall from any decent height, you're going to die from the impact, or at least suffer broken bones, whether or not you're actually caught. (That said, her heavy coat may have cushioned the fall. That, or physics saw what was going on at the school, and decided that it didn't want to get involved.)
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Miss Zarves is only mentioned as part of a gag in the first book, but in the next three, she appears as a fully-fledged character that gets a major role in at least one chapter.
    • Dr. Pickell only appears for two chapters in Little Stranger, one of which is simply his backstory. However, in Cloud of Doom, he is a regular member of the school's staff and plays a major role in Kathy's subplot for the book.
    • In the chapter "Allison" in the first book, the librarian appears for a brief scene, but she remains unnamed, and little about her is established. In the fourth, she is named Mrs. Surlaw, and gets a dedicated chapter to herself.
  • Asleep in Class: Sharie is always asleep in class. Mrs. Jewls doesn't mind—she believes Sharie learns better that way.
  • Association Fallacy: Everyone assumes all three Erics are fat (Eric Bacon is not), mean (Eric Ovens is not) and bad at sports (Eric Fry is not).
  • The Atoner: Mrs. Drazil, Louis' old Evil Teacher, is nothing but pleasant towards her current students, seeming to hint at this trope. But then it becomes subverted when she still bears grudges against her former students. Don't touch that blue notebook either.
  • Audience Surrogate: The math books introduce a new student, Sue, whose confusion over Mrs. Jewls' approach to learning is intended to mirror that of "normal" people (such as using words instead of numbers for math problems). She doesn't cross over into the main books, likely because she is never given any quirks of her own to set her apart from the other students.
  • Author Avatar: Louis, which is also the author's name. It's actually stated in the last chapter of the first book. The books are very loosely based on Louis Sachar's time as an elementary school T.A. and recreation supervisor in college.
  • Avenging the Villain: Mr. Gorf tries to get his revenge on his mother's former students for causing her death by stealing their voices and ruining their relationships with their parents.
  • Babies Ever After: Mrs. Jewls' is on maternity leave for the majority of the third book. She shows up at the end of the last chapter to show the class her new daughter.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Miss Nogard, who was disillusioned with humanity after being rejected by her boyfriend after he discovered her mind-reading third ear, is shocked out of her misanthropy when she reads the mind of Mrs. Jewls's baby daughter and feels only pure love and happiness.
  • Back to Front: Chapter 17 of Falling Down, "What?" is written in reverse paragraph order. It's about a student arriving to school late and only hearing the last line of a story, and reading it backwards so the beginning is still a surprise.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Happens in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger, when Dr. Pickell brainwashes Paul so that when Leslie says the word "pencil", he will see her ears as candy. The rest of the chapter deals entirely with the subject of a lost pencil, and Leslie is at the center of it but never says the word "pencil." That having been said, the chapter is titled "A Story With a Disappointing Ending", so one really ought to expect nothing less. Several chapters later, when you're not looking for it, the Brick Joke hits.
  • Bat Deduction: In Little Stranger, Miss Mush decides something must be wrong when she hears infamously-nasty Kathy politely wishing her a nice day. Somehow, she manages to conclude that Mr. Gorf is secretly a nasty teacher who has stolen the class's voices by sucking them up through his nose, which she can fix by shoving a pepper pie in his face. She's right, but how she got there is a total mystery, presented only as her deciding it was either that or Kathy suddenly turning nice, and she didn't think Kathy would have turned nice.
  • Beast in the Building: At the end of Wayside School Is Falling Down, Mrs. Jewels accidentally summons a herd of cattle into the school when she uses a cowbell as an alarm during a fire drill. The cows climb up the building's stairs and end up unable to go back down, forcing the school (a skyscraper where every floor is one classroom) to shut down and temporarily transfer the students while Louis the janitor clears the cattle out. Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger reveals that he mostly succeeded, but a few cows are still lost within the halls of the place.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Of the "kids picking on their secret crushes" variety. Joy picks on Todd, Jason picks on Allison, Terrence picks on Rondi, Paul is obsessed with pulling Leslie's pigtails, and Dana and John are arch-enemies who obviously really like each other. In one chapter in the second book, this trope is lampshaded when Dana thinks she hates hearing stories because they make her feel too many strong emotions; when Mrs. Jewls makes her realize that she really loves stories, she suddenly exclaims in disgust "What if I really love John too?"
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mrs. Drazil seems like a sweet teacher, but turns immediately sour when faced with one of her poorly-behaved former students, and don't you dare touch her blue notebook either.
    • Mrs. Jewls has a weird admiration for paper clips, so it's best that you don't lose the one she gives you at the start of the year, or even worse, bend one. It turns out to just be an act; she keeps a spare box of paper clips in a storage closet. When Mrs. Jewls asks the students to ignore picking up the paper clips strewn across the floor as the school is ravaged by the Storm of Doom, they know it's serious.
  • Beware the Mind Reader: Miss Nogard, who uses her ability to read kids' minds to make them feel miserable, and sow dissent between the kids in the class.
  • Bewildering Punishment: In the third book, Mr. Kidswatter declares "door" a bad word during his morning announcements. The same morning, Todd is late for class, and having missed the announcement, explains that he was late because his dad locked the keys inside their car, and needed a coat hanger to open the door. Mrs. Jewls makes him write his name under the discipline list, but he isn't sure why.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Miss Mush, of all people, gets to do this in Gets a Little Stranger. Upon hearing Kathy wish her to "have a nice day," she is able to deduce that Mr. Gorf is an evil substitute stealing the kids' voices, and so whips up a pie full of pepper, carries it up the stairs, and smashes it into his face. The resulting sneezing frees the kids' voices and foils Mr. Gorf's plans. Score one for the lunch lady.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When Mrs Jewls is in a very bad mood and the class is acting particularly rambunctious, she finally yells at the class to shut up. This shocks them, as she is normally nice and a teacher telling his or her students to shut up is a very bad sign. Mrs. Jewls even feels bad about this, and adds her name to the Discipline board out of guilt.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Eric Fry is the big one, Eric Bacon is the thin one, Eric Ovens is the short one.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: All of the substitute teachers in Gets A Little Stranger, especially Wendy Nogard.
  • Bizarrchitecture: When Wayside School was built, it was built sideways. And without a nineteenth story. (The eighteenth and twentieth are both there, but no nineteenth.) The builder said he was very sorry.
  • Book Ends: Louis explains at the beginning of Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School that he wrote the book because he wanted to show the readers who wished they could go to Wayside School to "eat ice cream, draw pictures, and watch movies about turtles" that Mrs. Jewls asks tougher questions than they probably expected her to. In the last chapter, Joy invites Sue to come to her house after school, so they can eat ice cream, draw pictures, and watch movies about turtles.
  • Break the Cutie: Miss Nogard does this with the class using the mind-reading ear on top of her head. Everyone, including Miss Nogard, gets better when Mrs. Jewls returns with her baby.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "A Story With a Disappointing Ending", Paul gets hypnotized into thinking Leslie's ears turn into candy whenever she says the word pencil. Unfortunately, despite the latter half of the chapter revolving around her breaking and then losing her pencil, she never actually says the word "pencil". Nine chapters later, the students throw a pencil sharpener out of the window and it breaks. Leslie remarks on how they're going to need a new pencil sharpener...
    • At one point, Bebe Gunn claims to have a brother named Ray, which her parents say she made up. It's later revealed that he's a member of Miss Zarves' class, along with all the made up students in the book. Or, Ray met the same fate as Allison finding his way into Zarves' class, and never got out...
    • The pencil sharpener incident also involves throwing down Mr. Kidswatter's coffee pot (they're testing Galileo's theory of objects with different masses falling at the same rate). Several chapters later, he asks on the intercom if anyone's seen it.
    • What is the first thing Mrs. Jewls does upon finding out Mark Miller's name is actually Benjamin Nushmutt? She hands him the lunch that's apparently been sitting on her desk since his first day of school.
    • At the beginning of the third book, it's revealed that Louis has gotten all the cows out of the building, but still sometimes hears a "moo" coming from somewhere inside the school. In the nineteenth chapter, it's revealed that there's a cow in Miss Zarves' room.
    • When Deedee asked Ron what the surprise was when he tried Miss Mush's mushroom surprise, his face flushed, his eye changed color and he gave Deedee a huge kiss across the lips (completely unaware that he had done it). Mrs. Jewls later asked Ron the same thing, Ron's face flushed and his eye changed color... A few chapters later, we learn that Mrs. Jewls has not only made Miss Mush throw away the rest of the mushroom surprise, she also made her promise to never make it again.
    • In "The Gonnnnng," Mr. Kidswatter learns that Louis has written books about Wayside School, and suggests to write a chapter called "The Best Principal Ever!!!," with three exclamation points, but Louis states that Mr. Kidswatter needs to do something to earn it first, like letting one of the kids ring the gong at the end of the day. Eight chapters later, Mr. Kidswatter does just that. Guess what the chapter is called.
    • Also in Cloud of Doom, Sharie at one point gets caught in an updraft and loses her umbrella. At the end of the book? Louis finds it on the roof.
    • An impressive example that spans all four books: towards the beginning of the first book, Mrs. Jewls asks Calvin to deliver a note (which she never actually gives him) to Miss Zarves on the nineteenth story. Miss Zarves, however, does not exist (neither does the nineteenth story), and so he's not able to pull it off... At least until the end of the fourth book, where everyone in Mrs. Jewls's class has to evacuate to avoid the Cloud of Doom, and somehow winds up inside Miss Zarves's classroom. Calvin, reaching inside his pocket, finds the note, and finally gives it to Miss Zarves. This was a gap of 42 years.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Joy shows signs of this at times.
  • Building of Adventure: Many strange things occur within the titular school.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Louis. He's like a slave for these obnoxious, crazy children every day and has gotten physically hurt by two. And, of course, he had to get a lot of cows out of a thirty-floor school building for over half a year. He couldn't even leave!
    • Todd is sent home early every day despite the fact that he's no worse behaved than anyone else; he just has the worst luck when it comes to getting caught. Even when Wayside closes for a year and the children are all sent to other schools, he's said to have been sent to the very worst one. He was sent to your school.
  • Call-Back: Many, often numerous chapters later. For example, lost shoes always being found in refrigerators is brought up early on, and three chapters later a student loses a shoe, which is found in the fridge of the teacher's lounge.
  • Canon Immigrant: Mr. Pepperadder, assistant to the lunch lady Miss Mush, initially only appeared in one chapter of the Sideways Arithmetic series before making his proper main series debut in Beneath the Cloud of Doom.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Todd, pretty much ever. This phenomenon is subverted in the last book when Todd comes in late but Mrs. Jewls doesn't punish him since she is glad to see he is okay. But then it's double subverted when Todd gets in trouble for saying the word "door" despite the fact he wasn't there when Principal Kidswatter banned the word.
  • Can't Use Stairs: In the last chapter of "Falling Down", Mrs. Jewls constantly rang her cowbell during a fire drill on a very windy day. Since the kids evacuated to the roof, the sound carried for miles. As a result, thousands of cows heeded the call and filled the school classrooms and stairs. The school ended up temporarily closing while the problem was dealt with because cows "don’t mind walking upstairs, but nothing can make them walk downstairs."
  • Care-Bear Stare: Something like this happens to Wendy Nogard in Little Stranger. She decides to use her telepathic powers on Mrs. Jewls' baby before she plans to drop her out the window, but what she hears changes everything: "Babies don't think in words. Miss Nogard heard pure love. And trust. And faith. With no words to get in the way. It was a love so strong that it dissolved away all the bitterness that had been caked around her heart."
  • Cassandra Truth: In Falling Down, Benjamin finally works up the courage to tell the class his real name. However, it just so happens that the class has a substitute that day; when she asks his name, he decides to carry through with his plan, but the other kids think Benjamin is just messing with the substitute and decide to go along with the "joke", so they all start claiming that their names are Benjamin also.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: In Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School, one of the True/False question is as follows:
    1. Statement 2 is true.
    2. Statement 1 is false.
  • Character Development:
    • In the first book, Eric Fry is explicitly described as a Jerkass. However, come third book, he goes out of his way to offer Leslie a pencil.
    • Nancy (a boy) is originally shy and quiet over shame of his name. But when he trades names and becomes Mac, he always has something to talk about.
  • Cheerful Child: All the children except Kathy (most of the time) could qualify, D.J. and Todd most of all. As of Cloud of Doom, even Kathy could be added to this group.
  • The Chew Toy
  • Child Hater: Pretty much all the teachers except Mrs. Jewls, Miss Mush, and Louis, although Mrs. Gorf takes the crown for turning the students into apples for petty reasons. The principal, Mr. Kidswatter, is also a Child Hater, though his Punny Name should be a dead giveaway.
  • Children Are Innocent: Miss Nogard, who is bitter over a broken engagement and capable of reading thoughts, is asked to hold Mrs. Jewls' new baby. As she does, Ms. Nogard realizes she's never read a baby's thoughts before. Curious, she listens to Mrs. Jewls' baby's thoughts. Whatever Nogard hears is left to the reader's imagination, but it's described as "pure love, trust, and faith, with no words to get in the way." As a result, Nogard's bitterness fades instantly.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Wayside School was a Weirdness Magnet before even being built: a thirty-story building with no nineteenth story that was accidentally built sideways because the general contractor read all the blueprints wrong. It only gets sillier from there.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Just about everyone, but three in particular stand out:
    • Sharie, who is next to never seen awake because she learns better that way, and when she is awake, she is doing things like bringing a hobo for show-and-tell.
    • Joe, who can't count but can always get the correct answer to counting problems in Sideways Stories. His strange mathematical methods also show up in later books.
    • Stephen, who not only dresses (in-universe) oddly, but believes that the more a necktie chokes him, the more important he looks. And he has green hair (it's explained in the third book, from a poem he wrote, that he swam in a pool with too much chlorine which permanently dyed his hair).
  • Collector of the Strange: All of Mrs. Jewls's class, in Cloud of Doom. Mrs. Jewls wants to demonstrate how big a million is, by collecting a million of something. Something small and inexpensive. That something turns out to be nail clippings, after Terrence is caught clipping his toenail in the middle of the class.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The playground balls are color coded. The green balls are the best, followed by the red balls. Then there's the one yellow ball, which doesn't bounce and never goes the way it's kicked. When Louis stitches back together a green ball with patches from a yellow raincoat, it results in an unpredictable ball that never bounces in a consistent direction.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Mr. Kidswatter interrupts a noisy music class in Mrs. Jewls' room by saying the teachers have started complaining that they can't hear. After he leaves, Mrs. Jewls tells the kids to play even louder so that the teachers who couldn't hear their music before can hear them.
    • When Todd brings in his baby brother on pet day, Mrs. Jewls says a human is not a pet. Todd simply replies that his brother doesn't bite.
    • When the kids are writing poems, Joe struggles with finding a rhyme for "red," so Mrs. Jewls tells him just to think of words that end in "-ed." So he writes the following poem:
    The fire truck is red!
    It hurried!
    The siren wailed!
    The house burned!
    The firemen saved
    The baby who screamed.
  • Comic-Book Time: Heavily, heavily downplayed, albeit still present. While the books generally try to avoid referencing contemporary events whenever possible, brief references to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would date later books in the series past the first book's publication in 1978.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Calvin needs to deliver a note he doesn't have, to a teacher that doesn't exist, who teaches on a floor that was never built. He presents this problem to Louis, the yard teacher, who says the following:
    "You are not supposed to take no notes to no teachers. You already haven't done it."
  • Content Warnings: In Falling Down, "Mush" opens with a joke warning not to read the story if the reader has recently eaten, or is about to eat, or ever plans on eating again.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In Sideways Stories, Myron saves the life of Dana's dog, Pugsy. Thus, when the class bring their pets to class in the "Pet Day" chapter of Gets a Little Stranger, Dana's pet is left out of the Who's on First? gimmick employed throughout the chapter since her pet had already been acknowledged in the previous book.
    • One of the problems in More Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School gets deemed the hardest question in the whole book before Mrs. Jewls asks it. However, it gets skipped over after the students trick Mrs. Jewls into canceling the pop quiz containing the problem. The number of the question treated like this? Nineteen.
    • In the first book, Stephen wears his Halloween costume to school and everyone finds it funny. In the next book, Stephen's picture day suit is met with a similar reaction with someone pointing out his history of wearing silly costumes.
    • In Sideways Stories, a boy named Nancy trades names with his female friend Mac. Falling Down mentions Mac walking home with his girlfriend Nancy.
    • A couple times in Cloud of Doom, including Dana bending down to scratch a mosquito bite at one point, and Allison pulling the peel off a tangerine in a single piece.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The penalty for doing anything wrong in Mrs. Gorf's class is being turned into an apple.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Mrs. Jewls. Aside from ringing a cowbell all the time, she's a relatively normal person who acts as a sort of Cloudcuckoolander's Minder to all the weirdness and strangeness that comes from her students. The substitutes and all the troubles that come with them prove that there's no one better for Wayside School than Mrs. Jewls.
    • Louis the yard teacher. He fully adapts to all of the strange things that happened around the school and has been shown as willing to go through great personal sacrifice for the sake of the kids.
  • Cosmetic Award: Miss Zarves dishes out tons of busy work, among it dictionary memorization, but she gives straight A's no matter how her assignments are completed, making the work even more hollow and meaningless. Allison eventually realizes the good grades are her way of keeping the students happy so they don't push back against everything else she does.
  • Covered in Gunge: Mrs. Jewls is about to dump a vat of pickle brine on Leslie for answering a question incorrectly, until Paul intervenes and pushes the vat in the opposite direction, causing the brine to fall on Mrs. Jewls instead.
  • Cynicism Catalyst:
    • Miss Nogard was once a genuinely nice person, but was rejected by the man she loved because she has an ear on top of her head. After that, she became bitter and started using her mind-reading abilities against people. In the final chapter of Little Stranger, she gets a reverse catalyst and goes back to being a good person.
    • Kathy, of all people, is revealed to have gone through one in Beneath the Cloud of Doom; she's contracted a severe case of "oppositosis", which causes a person to say the opposite of what they're truly thinking. Dr. Pickell cures this by having her step through a mirror, which flips her personality at the cost of mirroring her other aspects (such as her handwriting). When Pickell undoes the cure later on in the story, Kathy retains her newfound attitude, since she realizes that she genuinely enjoys being nice.
  • Darker and Edgier: Gets a Little Stranger is noticeably darker than the rest of the series. In comparison, it's actually closer in tone to the author's next book, Holes.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Kidswatter. The guy is a grouch all around who takes out his personal frustrations on the rest of the school, including banning the word "door" because of his troubles with them.
  • Death by Irony: Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher the class ever had, who turned all her students into apples, gets turned into an apple and eaten by Louis.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: In-Universe. Dana claims to hate when Mrs. Jewls reads stories like these to the class because they make her laugh and cry too much. Mrs. Jewls then explains to Dana that her laughing and crying over those stories means she actually loves them, and Mrs. Jewls wishes the rest of the class loved them as much as Dana.
  • Depraved Dentist: Jane Payne, nee Smith. She even pulls out teeth that don't need to be pulled out, because then her patients pay more.
  • Deus ex Machina: The kids are able to randomly produce a mirror to keep Mrs. Gorf from turning them back into apples.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • In the third book, Mr. Kidswatter finally has elevators installed in the school, but he doesn't want the chaos that the stairs had with kids constantly running into each other because they were on the wrong side of the stairwell, so the elevators were programmed to only go in one direction. One only goes up, and the other only goes down. They end up working perfectly once, and then never again.
    • Also, why were the kids constantly running into each other on the stairs? The rule for the stairs is to go up on the right side and go down on the left. Think about it for a moment... (Which is apparently more than Mr. Kidswatter ever did.)
  • Direct Line to the Author: Louis is stated to be the author and narrator of the books, yet is always referred to in the third person. In the first chapter, he explains that the stories you're about to read have been called strange and silly, but that's okay — when he told stories about your school to the kids at Wayside (as he does in the last chapter), they thought you were strange and silly, too. There's a clear line drawn between Louis-as-author and Louis-as-character in the second book (Louis is unaware that he ate Mrs. Gorf, even though he wrote that), but the fourth book blurs the line further (Louis mentions having written the books to Mr. Kidswatter; he requests a chapter that makes him look like "the best principal ever", which then actually shows up). Louis Sachar revealed in some interviews that he really did work as a playground supervisor before becoming an author (and all the kids called him “the yard teacher”), and that he named Mrs. Jewls' students after some kids who attended that school.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Jenny hates prune juice. She hates it so much, she ended up being late for school because her mother wouldn't let her leave the table until she drank her glass. Later after she got to school, she threw up. It was purple.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The hellish 19th Floor (which doesn't exist, yet does) features a classroom where students are given pointless tasks like alphabetizing numbers or memorizing the dictionary. They work in eleven-hour sessions with a two-minute break between them, and Miss Zarves, the teacher, gives them "A"s regardless of work quality. When Allison ends up trapped there in Falling Down, she can't focus on getting out or how things should really be because of the mindless busywork she has to do—and she realizes that is the point of the entire system: keeping people endlessly laboring over mundane things, denying them the chance to improve their situation, and giving them meaningless rewards as motivation. It's easy to interpret this as Sachar slipping in a Take That! against education systems that prioritize grades and unimportant work over imagination, creativity, and genuinely learning.
  • A Dog Named "Cat": One story features a pet day where a dog named Cat and a cat named Dog were brought in.
  • Double Meaning: Given the series' love of wordplay, this is frequently employed.
    • There is no nineteenth story. Sideways Stories from Wayside School additionally has no nineteenth story.
    • Myron names a bird "Oddly." It's mentioned that he named the bird oddly.
    • Mac is described as a "curious kid," both meaning that he's inquisitive, and also just weird.
    • The Ultimate Test, a large test that tests everyone's skills at everything, turns out to also be the ultimate test of the other three Unbreakables' friendship with Maurecia.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, true to its name, is definitely weirder than the preceding books, but the title also refers to the baby girl Mrs. Jewls gives birth to at the end of the book, the eponymous "little stranger".
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Allison when she joins Miss Zarves' class.
  • Dumpster Dive: Happens in "The Unbreakables," when Deedee loses her homework, and is eventually joined by Joy, Ron, and Maurecia.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger has a woman go to a psychiatrist to help stop smoking. It works, but she ends up hypnotized to slap her husband every time he says "potato".
  • Ear Ache: Mac tells a story about a hippie who got his ear cut off during a trip to the barber, which subsequently went missing when he went to the doctor to get it stitched back on. It turns out to be in a bag in Miss Zarves's room, and she has Mark Miller deliver it to the hospital.
  • Ear Worm: On Miss Nogard's first day at Wayside, D.J. has a song he hates stuck in his head. So Miss Nogard hums said song whenever she is near D.J.
  • Easily Forgiven: Wayside's builder got off the hook with a simple "Sorry." for building a 30-story school with one room per floor instead of a one-story school with every room on the same floor.
  • Eldritch Location: The Nineteenth Floor. No one can ever seem to leave once they get there, everyone becomes The Needless, time passes at random intervals, and the memories of any place except that classroom slowly start to fade.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Subverted with Calvin, who gets a tattoo of a potato on his ankle. The other kids mock him for it, but he appreciates it, knowing that he wanted something he'd want for the rest of his life, instead of something that would only be cool at the moment.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: A mild example in "Pet Day," Chapter Six of Little Stranger. A lot of it is nonsensical—even by the series's standards—until readers reach the last page of the chapter: a chart of each child in Mrs. Jewls's class and the name of their pet. Rereading the chapter with this knowledge makes the jokes and plot entirely sensible.
  • Epic Fail: In the Sideways Arithmetic chapters about grading tests, practically no one gets 100%, even though the questions look easy. For instance, at least four kids bombed a Nations of the World test, because, among other quandaries, they don't know where Australians come from.note 
  • "Eureka!" Moment: For one brief, shining second, everything — why Benjamin Nushmutt and Mark Miller got confused, who had their lunch, socks, and why Mark has dismembered body parts in a bag — makes perfect and logical sense to Allison... and then she forgets before she can explain.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Mr. Gorf cares about his mother enough to try and get revenge for her demise against her students.
  • Every Episode Ending: The last sentence of the last chapter of each main-series book follows a similar format:
    Sideways Stories: Everybody booed.
    Falling Down: Everybody mooed.
    A Little Stranger: Everybody oooohed.
    Cloud of Doom: Everybody chewed.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mrs. Jewls is hard on the students but nice to her coworkers. Normally, Miss Mush's meals are ignored because most kids bring their lunch. Louis is the only one who likes her cooking. Then Ron orders the Mushroom Surprise, and everyone finds out it's a Love Potion that compels you to kiss the nearest person. When Mrs. Jewls finds out, it's implied Ron kissed her while essentially drugged. Yeah. Mrs. Jewls told off Miss Mush, threw away the rest of the Mushroom Surprise, and made her promise to never make it again because it was a moral hazard.
  • Evil Teacher:
    • Mrs. Gorf and her son both count; as the mother turned all of her misbehaving students into apples, while the younger Gorf would steal his students' voices whenever they talked.
    • Later, Miss Nogard, who seems nice on the surface but has the secret ability to read minds, and uses this to turn her students against each other (for example, doing a homework review where she always calls on the person with the wrong answer, and then assigning extra homework because they supposedly did so poorly; in reality, the narration tells the reader, no individual had more than two wrong answers). She eventually makes a Heel–Face Turn and by book four is considered the kids' (and Louis') favorite sub.
    • Mrs. Drazil (who's not from Brazil) was this for Louis when he was a student. She's improved significantly by the time she comes to Wayside School and appears nice and caring, even making the kids cookies, but still retains her old attitudes towards the students she taught in her stricter days, including Louis. When she makes Louis shave off his mustache, the kids decide that, in spite of the fact that she's a good and kind teacher to them, she has to go.
    • Even Mrs. Jewls herself gets this in one story, which is introduced by saying that inside every nice teacher is a mean teacher waiting to come out. The nice teacher resurfaces in the end, and punishes herself for her temporary lapse in the same way that she punishes disobedient students — by sending herself home early on the kindergarten bus.
    • Though not strictly a teacher, the principal Mr. Kidswatter otherwise qualifies. He hates his job and the students. Heck, his name is Kidswatter!
    • Miss Zarves appears to be completely unaware she is holding her students prisoner. She isn't even aware that she is being held prisoner, or that no one can see them. She just keeps teaching, every day, all day. Forever.
    • Pretty much every teacher but Mrs. Jewls, Louis, Miss Mush, and Mrs. Franklin (the substitute for one chapter of Wayside School is Falling Down).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • Mrs. Jewls asks Dameon to ask Louis if he would like to join them for a screening of a movie called Turtles. After Dameon does this, Louis tells him to ask Mrs. Jewls what the movie's about. She answers "Turtles." Ultimately, Louis decides not to watch the movie, because "turtles are too slow."
    • Several chapters are named like this, such as one in Gets A Little Stranger titled "A Story With A Disappointing Ending".
    • From chapter 25 of Beneath the Cloud of Doom:
    On day two, the Major Event was Jump Rope Arithmetic. It is just what you'd expect from the name. The children had to answer arithmetic problems while jumping rope.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Louis loses his multi-colored mustache when he becomes stricter. It grows back after the sight of Miss Nogard causes him to lighten up again.
  • Failed a Spot Check: When Joy fingers other students for stealing Dameon's lunch in Sideways Stories, she's able to name two specific items he had in his lunch based on non-indicative wrappers, and also has chocolate all over her face when one of the aforementioned items was a piece of chocolate cake. Somehow, everyone including Mrs. Jewls fails to notice this, or at least to realize that it points to Joy herself having been the one who took Dameon's lunch.
  • False Reassurance: When the students get a substitute teacher named Mr. Gorf after Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave, they're afraid he might be Mrs. Gorf's widower who wants to avenge his wife's death. But when they meet him, he doesn't show any hostility towards them, and tells them he's never been married when they ask. He was telling them the truth; Mrs. Gorf was his mother.
  • Fashion Hurts: Stephen insists that uncomfortable shoes and a choking tie are necessary to look good for picture day.
  • Flanderization: In Sideways Stories, Joy steals Dameon's lunch (and frames several other students for the theft) because she's hungry, and feels so guilty over it that for the rest of the year, she can't eat a turkey sandwich, an apple, or a piece of chocolate cake (the foods that were in Dameon's lunch) without having the taste ruined by the memory. In the two subsequent books, one of Joy's major character traits is a habit of stealing things, including, on one occasion, another lunch.
  • Flat Character: As a series with several characters that only get focus in one chapter of each book, it can be figured that the series doesn't have the most developed cast. However, while most of the students have been gradually rounded out over the course of the series, Paul's only real defining personality trait across all four books is his love of pulling Leslie's pigtails, to the point where the fourth book Retcons this trait being hypnotized away in the third book.
  • Forced Transformation: Mrs. Gorf has the ability to turn kids into apples whenever they misbehave.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: Miss Mush, the school cook, often creates truly inexplicable dishes for the students, although it's stated that her food is only foul when he has to cook in large volumes. When cooking for one or two people, her meals reach Supreme Chef levels.
  • From Beyond the Fourth Wall: At the beginning of the third book, the students return from a few months spent at regular schools with horror stories about how unbearably normal and ordinary everything was in comparison to the zany curriculum at Wayside. Todd claims he went to the worst, most unimaginably torturous average school in the world: yours.
  • Frozen Face: Dana gets her face stuck in a chapter of Cloud of Doom. She gets it unstuck in a staring contest with Mr. Kidswatter, who subsequently gets the face himself, before transferring to Dr. Pickell, who transfers the face to his own reflection in the mirror, which he shatters, just to be safe.
  • Freudian Excuse: Wendy Nogard becomes a bitter Child Hater after being abandoned by her lover for having a third ear.
  • Funetik Aksent: Meez Valoosh, zee teacher of dahnce classes at Vayside School has one of these.
  • Funny Foreigner: Dance teacher Mrs. Waloosh, who pronounces her w's like v's, and whose dan—er, tango lessons sometimes include throwing children up into the air.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The professional organization that Louis belongs to is called the Professional Organization Of Playground Supervisors.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Toyed with. Nancy and Mac's names were meant to be this by their parents (Nancy is a boy, Mac is a girl), but in reality they know their respective names don't fit and are very embarrassed about it. They end up trading names and become much more self-confident.
  • The Generic Guy: With 30 students in all, it is clear that some of them are going to be characterized a little more than others. That said, some fall into this trope, notably Calvin, Leslie (except for her pigtails), and Ron.
  • Genius Ditz:
    • Joe can somehow get all the right answers despite lacking basic counting knowledge. He also has exceptional drawing and knitting skills that he seemed unaware of.
    • His best friend John is one as well. Although John is cited as one of Mrs. Jewls' smartest pupils, he can only read upside down.
  • Gilligan Cut: Invoked. As part of a punishment, Mrs. Jewls gives Joy a two-question true-false exam. Joy proclaims that she could solve it "in two seconds." The exam ends up being a Logic Bomb.
    1. Statement 2 is true.
    2. Statement 1 is false.
    Narration: While Joy continues to work on that...
  • Girlish Pigtails: Leslie has pigtails hanging all the way down to her waist. In the first book, Paul, who sits behind her, can't resist the temptation to yank them. In the second, Leslie uses her pigtails to hoist Paul back into the classroom after he falls out a window.
  • Good Feels Good: Kathy's reasoning for remaining nice, even after Dr. Pickell shatters the mirror, is because it genuinely feels nice to be good to other people.
  • Happy Fun Ball: Todd brings a sickeningly cute toy dog to class, which can be manipulated to turn into a man-eating wolf, that is able to bite other students. It doesn't let go.
  • Hate Plague: Wendy Nogard does a "realistic" example of this in Little Stranger. She uses her mind-reading third ear to eavesdrop on the thirtieth story kids' thoughts, then manipulates situations to prey on their insecurities or deliberately cause strife among them. The children slowly become "grumpier and grumpier" as time passes, until even best friends are shouting that they hate each other and fighting constantly.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Sharie. Not only is she hardly ever seen awake, but she sleeps in a winter coat with hood, regardless of season. She's also able to stay asleep while falling thirty stories out of a window.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Mr. Gorf's real voice, which is described as sounding like if a French donkey with a severe sore throat could speak.
  • Hey, You!: Mac and Nancy address each other this way before trading names, but mostly because they're too worried that if they ask for each other's names, they'll have to use their own. That being said, they still do this after trading, mostly out of habit.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: The students give a few different suggestions, all at once, for helping D.J. cure his hiccups: standing on his head and drinking a glass of water, eating a lemon, holding his tongue while he says the Pledge of Allegiance.
    D.J. tried their suggestions. When he finished, his mouth was puckered, his shirt was wet, and he still had the hiccups. He felt very patriotic, however.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Mrs. Gorf tries to turn Jenny into an apple, she holds up a mirror and Mrs. Gorf transforms herself instead. Then Louis eats her.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Mrs. Jewls, according to Dameon.
    • Miss Nogard as well. She's described as pretty in the text and Eric Bacon even mentions it. Louis is smitten with her the moment he sees her and spends most of the last part of book three trying to get her attention.
  • Hypno Fool: Psychiatrist/School counselor Dr. Picklenote  loves to play pranks on his customers. For example, he hypnotized a woman to quit smoking, but added the suggestion that she slap her husband whenever he said "potato". Later there's a Brick Joke where one of his pranks bears fruit after the reader has stopped looking for it.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Dr. Pickle gets his nickname from the fact that he uses a stone shaped like a pickle to hypnotize people.
  • I Am Spartacus: Benjamin tries to reveal his real name to the class, but it's on a day where a substitute, Mrs. Franklin, is teaching. The other students think he's pranking her, and all join in on it by saying that they are Benjamin as well. The substitute either doesn't realize, or doesn't mind, and at the end of the chapter, reveals that her name is also Benjamin.
  • Irony: In the last chapter of the first book, Louis tells Mrs. Jewls' class a story of what regular schools are really like. The kids, having only known Wayside, can't fathom things likes like a normal built building and teachers with no powers. They promptly boo him once he finishes the story. However at the end of the second book, the school gets closed down due to a cow infestation (it's a long story involving a fire drill and a bell). The kids are shipped off to regular schools where they do indeed find Louis's stories to be true. By the time the third book starts, they're more then happy to return to Wayside.
  • Ironic Nickname: The three Erics each have one. "Fatso" is the skinniest, "Butterfingers" the most athletic, and "Crabapple" the sweetest-tempered, because the other two have those qualities and the students just assume they all do.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The titular poem of Wayside School is Falling Down changes "London Bridge is Falling Down" into a scenario in which the school falls down and all the kids hit the ground and die. Kathy likes reciting this because if she and the other students died, they wouldn't have to go to school anymore.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Kidswatter repeatedly forgets to turn off the microphone. In Gets a Little Stranger he goes onto the morning announcements and sounds cheerful, then once the announcements are done goes into a loud rant about how he hated coming back there to look after a bunch of stupid kids.
    "What button? I don't see a red button, there IS no red button! Oh here it"
  • I Taste Delicious: Averted, or perhaps inverted, in an early story where Mrs. Jewls brings the students ice cream that tastes like themselves. Everyone remarks how delicious their classmates taste (especially Maurecia, who bites Todd at the end of the story because his ice cream flavor is so good), but when a student tries his or her own flavor, they taste nothing at all. (Which makes sense in a nonsensical, childlike way — it's the taste you taste when you're not tasting anything.) The only exception is Kathy-flavored ice cream, which Maurecia says tastes like old bologna.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The ballroom is both the room where the playground balls are stored as well as the room where the children learn ballroom dancing.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • How Miss Mush is able to figure out what's happening with Mr. Gorf. She hears Kathy say "Have a nice day," and, realizing that something is terribly wrong, explains that there were only two options: either Kathy had suddenly turned nice out of nowhere, or Mr. Gorf was an evil substitute who was stealing the kids' voices and using them to destroy their lives. She figured that the latter was far more likely and acted accordingly.
    • Really, the whole school runs on this. From Mrs. Jewls praising Sharie for always sleeping (because she's learning that way) to the whole "nineteenth story doesn't exist" thing, it's easier to count how often this trope doesn't apply.
  • Invented Individual: The nineteenth story seems to be populated by these, among them Mark Miller and Ray Gunn, but the nineteenth story's sheer weirdness in general makes it impossible to know for certain.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: Occasionally, but more often than not, it doesn't make sense even in context.
  • It's Personal:
    • Mr. Gorf. He's Mrs. Gorf's son, and is out to get revenge on Mrs. Jewls' class for what they did to his mother. This involves not only stealing all of their voices, but phoning - and cruelly insulting - their mothers while impersonating the children.
    • The children getting rid of Mrs. Drazil. She's perfectly nice to them and a good teacher, but no one makes Louis shave his moustache. Even when they realize Louis wasn't as innocent as he claimed in the feud between them, they still never even consider calling it off. Their method of getting rid of her also involves putting her on the trail of another former student she had a longstanding grudge against and hoping something comes of it that keeps Mrs. Drazil out of the classroom. It actually works.
  • Jerkass:
    • Mrs. Jewls punishing Todd, even when he saves the class from getting robbed. He does get a hero's goodbye, though.
    • Kathy, full stop. How bad is she? When Miss Mush hears her telling her to have a nice day, she realizes something's very wrong. As Beneath the Cloud of Doom reveals, this isn't entirely her fault.
    • Joy, to a lesser extent, though she does occasionally show regret for her bad actions, and even gets the occasional Pet the Dog moment.
    • Terrence is part Jerkass part Jerk Jock, described as "a good athlete, but a bad sport."
    • Eric Fry and Eric Bacon are described as being mean in the first book; Bacon because everyone calls him "Fatso" (due to their belief that all Erics are fat, since the other two Erics are fat), and Fry because he always has to play right field when the kids play kickball. As a further result, everyone thinks Eric Ovens is a Jerkass as well (earning him the unflattering nickname "Crabapple") but in reality he's quite nice and polite.
    • But the biggest one of all is Sammy, a dead rat in a disguise of raincoats.
  • Jerkass to One: During her time as a substitute for Mrs. Jewls, Mrs. Drazil is nothing but kind to everybody... except Louis, whom she still holds a grudge against from the time he was one of her students. She's constantly on his case, making him shave his mustache and causing him to act completely differently. (She does seem pleased with him when he follows her demands, but she's much stricter and harsher with him than with the kids.)
  • Just Desserts:
    • Mrs. Gorf turns herself into an apple after wiggling her ears and sticking out her tongue into a mirror. Louis subsequently finds the apple, and eats her.
    • Happens again in "Another Story About Potatoes," where she materializes as a plate of potato salad, only to be eaten by Joe and John.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Miss Nogard is never punished for the way she used her mind reading powers to make her students miserable and turn them against each other all while making herself look like a nice teacher in the process. In fact, nobody even finds out that she did it.
    • Invoked with Myron, who gave up his safety for complete impunity. Thankfully, Myron is just a Nice Guy who wants to have a good time.
    • Joy came off as one in the first book by virtue of sitting next to Todd, who gets in trouble for everything anyway. However, she does come into some Laser-Guided Karma in the second book.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Maurecia once found a bag containing a large amount of money on the playground. Instead of spending the cash herself, she submitted it to the lost and found. Eventually, the person who lost the money comes to reclaim it. He explains to Maurecia that he worked for much of his life making pencils for chump change. But now that he has his life-earnings back, he can open his own ice cream parlor. He then rewards Maurecia for helping him by allowing her to receive a lifetime's supply of free ice cream from his parlor. Joy subsequently points out that Maurecia wouldn't have found any bags in the bushes if not for her stealing Maurecia's lunch. As a result, the man gives her a pencil.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Dana worries about this after getting a bad haircut, especially due to having a gender-neutral name.
  • Lame Rhyme Dodge:
    "And you're a maggot-infested string bean," muttered Louis.
    "What?" asked Mr. K.
    "I said, you're a magnificent human being."
  • Lampshade Wearing: Jenny theorizes that Myron can do whatever he wants, because he's blackmailing Mrs. Jewls, threatening to show the principal a picture of her drunk, with a lampshade on her head. Todd, however, questions how Mr. Kidswatter could recognize Mrs. Jewls if he couldn't see her face.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • It doesn't always happen to Joy, but boy is it satisfying. In book two, she steals Maurecia's lunch for no reason, and watches her search through the bushes after asking for her chocolate milk. Then when Maurecia finds money, Joy tries to convince Maurecia they should keep it and split it, even saying the police may accuse Maurecia of having stolen it. It turns out the money's real owner is grateful for getting his lifesavings back. When he finds out that Joy stole Maurecia's lunch and demands a reward, he gives her a pencil.
    • Kathy also gets this in book two. She sees DJ is upset, and goes to tease him about it. Unfortunately, even though he lost his grandfather's watch, he's not upset for the reasons that she mentions: his parents or grandparents being mad or being unable to tell time. DJ then realizes he's upset over nothing and thanks her. Whoops.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Any two of the three Erics have one trait in common which the remaining Eric lacks. So no matter which order you list them in, this trope simultaneously applies to all three of them: Eric Bacon is the one that isn't fat, Eric Fry is the one that's actually a good athlete, and Eric Ovens is the one that isn't a Jerkass all the time. Double Subverted in that the other kids assume that all three Erics are fat, poor athletes, and generally jerks—even though the narrator explicitly points out otherwise.
  • Least Rhymable Word:In chapter three of Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger.
    • The students are asked to write poems about colors. Allison can't figure out what to rhyme "purple" with. She eventually writes "The baby won't stop crying. His face is turning purple. Will anything make him feel better? I bet a burp'll."
    • Rondi inverts this in the same chapter. Her color is "blue," and there are so many words that rhyme with "blue" that she turns in a blank piece of paper because she can't decide how to start.
  • Lethal Chef: Miss Mush, the school lunch lady, who at one point picks up a severed nose and decides it would go well with spaghetti sauce. However, the math book stated that she's a Supreme Chef... provided she cooks for a small number of people. The larger the number, the worse it is. Granted, it's not the food itself that's bad (Ron is able to eat it and says it's not bad) but it does cause some very weird effects. In Sideways Stories, it is said that Miss Mush has "the remarkable ability to overcook and undercook a dish at the same time."
  • Logic Bomb: In the second-to-last chapter of Sideways Arithmetic, Mrs. Jewls overhears Joy mock Myron and Stephen for doing more poorly than she did on some True/False quizzes. In response, Mrs. Jewls gives Myron and Stephen some insanely easy quizzes to rebuild their confidence, and punishes Joy with a paradoxical quiz that proves impossible to answer. ("1. Statement 2 is true. 2. Statement 1 is false.")
  • Love Makes You Evil: Miss Nogard in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger has this in her backstory. She revealed she had a third ear to her lover, who dumped her for it.
  • Love Potion: What Mushroom Surprise is. When Mrs. Jewls finds out, she's not impressed because it's implied that Ron, one of the students, kissed her while under the influence.
  • Mass Transformation: In the first story of Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Mrs. Gorf turns all the students on the thirtieth floor into apples. The transformed children attack Mrs. Gorf and demand that she change them back to normal. She does what the children tell her to, but she decides to change them back into apples.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Miss Nogard can hear other people's thoughts with the third ear on her head, using this knowledge to spread chaos and dissent among the students out of petty spite.
  • Meaningful Name: "Wayside" is basically a backwards way of saying "sideways"; both the school itself and everything that goes on in it are backward or sideways in some way.
  • The Men in Black: The Men with the Attache Case.
  • Mind Screw:
    • In Sideways Stories, Calvin is told to take a note to the non-existent Miss Zarves. Additionally, Mrs. Jewls forgets to give him the note. Calvin isn't sure what to do, so he asks Louis' advice. Louis tells him that "you're not supposed to give no notes to no teachers". Calvin goes back to the classroom without doing a thing. Mrs. Jewls thanks him for carrying out her errand. Calvin tries to explain, but when he proves unable to do so, he just says, "Really, it was nothing."
    • Hell, the entire (non)existence of Miss Zarves and her class is one of these. The 19th floor room seems to be the habitat of people who are forgotten, made-up, or are alternate versions of real people.
    • The story where everyone brings their pets into class, at least until the Mind Screwdriver at the end, a list of all the pets with their names, species and owners.
    • All the books have at least one of these for certain. There's even one chapter simply called "What?" (which is written in reverse paragraph order).
  • Mind Rape: Miss Nogard takes advantage of every single insecurity and issue that the students have to slowly transform them all into bitter hateful jerks.
  • Mirrors Reflect Everything: Jenny uses a mirror to make Mrs. Gorf turn herself into an apple.
  • Missing Floor: The nineteenth. It does exist, but it's a weird Eldritch Location to anyone who finds it.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Technically, the kids didn't kill Mrs. Gorf; Louis did that by accident. Her son doesn't care; he wants revenge on the kids.
  • Mood-Swinger: Dana is very emotional, and it doesn't take a lot for her to switch from hysterical laughter to loud sobs and back again. This is especially evident during story time, because all the emotional beats of a story hits her much harder than anyone else.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: The math books.
  • Motor Mouth: Mac becomes this from the second book on. When he was called Nancy, he barely spoke because he was embarrassed about his name, but once he becomes Mac, his newfound confidence makes a difference. Mrs. Jewls isn't too thrilled by it, since most of the time what he says is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.
  • Mundane Fantastic: All the books have a lot of weird things going on, like dead rats that show up in raincoats posed as school children. Amusingly enough, the final chapter of the first book features the characters learning about an ordinary school, and they find that to be strange.
  • My Hair Came Out Green: It's not explained at first, but Stephen's green hair is eventually revealed to have accidentally been dyed that color when he swam in a pool with too much chlorine.
  • Mysterious Teacher's Lounge: Although the room hasn't been given much focus, Mrs. Jewls briefly refers to the teachers' lounge as a "secret place" when Bebe comes inside to tell her that Ron's eating the Mushroom Surprise.
  • Mystery Meat: Miss Mush, the lunch lady, can cook very well — if she's only cooking for one or two, but the more food she cooks, the worse it tastes. It's said that she cooks 500 meals a day, and only two students at a time are willing to eat it, and half of those who eat it go home sick. Mystery Meat is only part of the dishes she serves. Not to mention the side effects.
  • Namesake Gag: In one of the books, the kids are playing music and wonder how the triangle got its name. They decide it can't be named for its shape because "then the tambourine would have to be called a circle", so they reason it must have been invented by Joe Triangle.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In "Pencils", Allison and Rondi make fun of Jason after Mrs. Jewls tapes his mouth shut. Jason's response is muffled ("Mh mhhh mhrhhmmm!"), and the narration notes that "it was a very bad thing to say."note 
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • Invoked in a chapter titled, "Mush". Ron has some of Miss Mush's mushroom surprise for lunch, and gets compelled to suddenly kiss Deedee, then Mrs. Jewls. The chapter begins with a warning that the reader probably shouldn't read the rest of it after eating, or before eating, or if the reader planned to eat something ever again.
    • In general, Miss Mush's food is repeatedly mentioned to be this. However, in Falling Down, the only book where we actually see anyone eat her food (until the end of Cloud of Doom, and that's mentioned to be an exception), none of them find it all that bad. Side effects notwithstanding, Ron doesn't seem to mind the taste of the mushroom surprise; in a later chapter, Joe and John, after eating some potato salad, decide they like it enough to go back for seconds.
  • The Needless: Dialogue from the characters trapped on the nineteenth floor suggest they no longer sleep, eat, or even produce waste. Whether it’s Zarves’ or the floor’s doing, this keeps the students from ever needing to leave the classroom.
  • Never My Fault: Kathy's introductory chapter in the original Wayside School book has her repeatedly say "I was right, you were wrong", despite every misfortune she suffers during the chapter being her own fault (wasting a cookie Allison made for her by leaving it in her desk until it got stale, closing her eyes while trying to catch a kickball coming right towards her, keeping her pet cat she's afraid will run away in her closet for so long that it bolts when she finally opens the door). The book even lampshades it by saying "It's amazing how somebody who's always right can still be wrong".
  • New Transfer Student:
    • Benjamin Nushmutt in Falling Down. Only everyone thinks his name is Mark Miller until near the end, when he FINALLY corrects them. They don't seem bothered by it though, and many of them chime in to point out that it's hardly the weirdest thing that's happened in that book.
    • Sue, in the first "Sideways Arithmetic" spinoff.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Louis, who is probably the single nicest adult in the series. That is, unless he's been made to shave his mustache off — then he becomes an uptight, snooty, borderline Jerkass. Luckily it doesn't last.
    • Myron is one of the friendliest and most laid-back kids on the thirtieth floor. Says a lot that when he in Falling Down gets complete freedom to do whatever he wants, he never does anything worse than skip a few tests or lessons he doesn't feel like taking.
    • Allison, in addition to being the closest thing the series has to an Only Sane Man, is also one of the kindest kids in the series, always doing kind things for others. She even tries to befriend Kathy, even if this backfires.
    • In addition to his constant smiling, Falling Down shows D.J. to be this; he loses an expensive watch given to him by his grandfather, and his only concern is that a bird might mistake it for food and choke on it. When the watch is found, he gives it to Kathy in thanks for making him feel better note .
    • Maurecia, though less blatantly so than Allison, is still a very sweet girl and everyone likes her. It doesn't hurt that Jerkass Joy is her best friend — Maurecia's sweetness just comes better across when contrasted against Joy's far less sweet nature.
    • And of course Eric Ovens, who's always friendly and polite, even if everyone mistakenly thinks he's a jerk because to the other two Erics are jerks.
    • Kathy, formerly a Jerkass, becomes this in Cloud of Doom after she's cured of her oppositosis. Even after getting it back, she remains nice because she enjoyed being nice and having friends for a change.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Eric Ovens is the nice one, Eric Bacon is the mean one, and Eric Fry is in-between (or at least, not as bad as Eric Bacon).
  • Nightmare Retardant: In-universe example. Mrs. Gorf returns as a ghost one Halloween afternoon, to exact revenge on Mrs. Jewls' class. Stephen becomes elated that someone else in the school remembered to celebrate Halloween, and hugs her. This causes her to vanish before she can punish anyone.
  • No Indoor Voice:
    • Jason. Mrs. Jewls even tells him that he "has a big mouth."
    • Implied with Mac, since Chapter Eleven of the third book describes some of the kids' voices, the narration describes Mac's voice as being "like a freight train," which are quite noisy.
  • Nobody Poops: This applies to the students on the 19th story, which Allison finds out when she ends up there.
    Allison: What if you have to go to the bathroom?
    Virginia: What's a bathroom?
  • Non-Giving-Up School Guy: Mrs. Drazil is one of these, keeping a blue notebook filled with every bad thing any one of her students has ever done. It turns out Louis, the yard teacher, is one of those students, and is forced to shave his mustache and become a strict Professional Playground Supervisor. The students, outraged, find the one student she hates more, a Depraved Dentist who has been out of her class for twenty-five years. When the students reveal her current location to Mrs. Drazil, she takes extreme measures to track her down so she will do her homework, but instead, she runs off into the woods, with Mrs. Drazil chasing her, both of them never to be seen again.
  • Non-Promotion: Myron gets promoted to class president, but the duty only comes with turning the lights on and off at the beginning and end of the day. When he's late to class one day, he gets demoted, since without him, the lights aren't on. Mrs. Jewls can't teach without light, and the students can't learn.
  • Not Even Human: Sammy, once he's stripped of every raincoat. He's a dead rat.
  • Not Quite Dead: It is said that dead rats are always trying to get into Mrs. Jewls' room. Said rats are also capable of speech and raincoat-wearing.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Sharie manages to stay safe after falling out of Wayside School's thirtieth-story window, because Louis catches her before she can hit the ground.
  • Objectshifting: The evil Mrs. Gorf had the ability to transform her students into apples, which she did when they caused problems of any kind. She gets thwarted when she is also turned into an apple.
  • Odd Friendship: Joy, a dishonest kleptomaniac and Karma Houdini who is usually responsible for Todd getting sent home early every day, and Maurecia, a forthright girl so sweet she is everyone's favorite ice cream flavor, are best friends.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the third book, when Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave, and the class finds out that their substitute teacher is a man named Mr. Gorf. They wonder if he's Mrs. Gorf's widowed husband, but they're relieved to learn that he's never been married. They get a second Oh, Crap! when he reveals that he's actually Mrs. Gorf's son.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: After being stripped of all his raincoats, it's revealed that Sammy is actually a dead rat. It's the third time one of them tried to sneak into Mrs. Jewls's class all year.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • Eric Fry was a nearly-flawless athlete, but became saddled with the nickname "Butterfingers" because of one play he failed to make in a baseball game. For bonus points, the ball was hit to left field, he was in right field, and he almost made it. Which makes you wonder what kind of useless athletes the left and center fielders must have been. Thankfully, the fourth book subverts this by mentioning that the other students finally recognize him as a talented athlete.
    • "Why the Children Decided They Had to Get Rid of Mrs. Drazil" starts out with a long list of Mrs. Drazil's admirable qualities (e.g. her great cooking skills, her patience with struggling students), before finally noting that the children will never forgive her for making Louis shave his mustache off.
    • In the second chapter of the first book, when Mrs. Jewls first comes to Wayside, she happens to overhear Todd talking and makes an example of him by placing his name on the discipline list. From that moment on, Todd is the one who always gets caught whenever he puts so much as a toe out of line.
  • One-Note Cook: The only food Miss Mush doesn't know how to ruin is milk. And nothing, which is so popular that she eventually runs out of it.
  • One of the Kids: Louis the yard teacher not only enjoys his job but also loves to play with the children he oversees during recess.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Sideways Stories has one. "There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth story. Sorry."
  • Only Friend: Nancy's only friend is a girl who never asks what his name is. Turns out he is her only friend for the same reason. Her name is Mac. Then they trade names. After this, he becomes very friendly and talkative.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Allison is arguably the most normal character in the series. Her stories usually center around her reacting to the strangeness that surrounds her. She's also the only one to realize some of the weirder implications of the stories' universe, such as the fact that if there is no nineteenth floor, then their classroom is really only on the twenty-ninth floor. Of course, given the Mind Screw nature of the universe, the moment she realizes this, everyone in Mrs. Jewls' class forgets about her and she ends up in Miss Zarves' class.
    • Sue in the Sideways Arithmetic books.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Joy and Kathy claim to be scared of nothing. There is one case where Kathy isn't a Nightmare Fetishist: if there is even the slight hint that Ms. Gorf has returned. Then they ally with their classmates in their terror.
    • In Cloud of Doom, Mrs. Jewls is shown to have a weird love for paper clips, and can not stand when a student loses or bends one, trying to conserve the number she uses as much as possible, which is why it's surprising when she asks the students to ignore picking up the paper clips strewn across the floor when the school is being ravaged by the Storm of Doom.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Mr. Gorf nearly manages to convince Ms. Mush that there's nothing untoward going on in his classroom by talking to her with the students' stolen voices... but then he makes the mistake of using Kathy's voice to tell her to have a nice day, unintentionally tipping her off that something's wrong.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Mrs. Jewls struggling to remember the password needed to fix her home computer.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • Speakers who are upside-down for whatever reason often have their dialogue printed upside-down. Examples include John when he's standing on his head, Deedee when she's hanging from the monkey bars, and Deedee, Ron, Maurecia, and Joy as they go on a Dumpster Dive for lost homework.
    • Chapter 17 of Wayside School Is Falling Down is about Jenny reading a story backwards so she could be surprised by the beginning (she only liked stories with surprise endings and already knew how this one ended). The entire chapter is backwards. The audiobook takes this a step further — after reading the story the way it's written in the book, the narrator says this doesn't sound right and reads it backwards, including reading the chapter title at the very end.
    • There is no nineteenth story, and in Sideways Stories, there is no nineteenth story.
    • Chapter 19 is three chapters in a row, also from Falling Down, which are three chapters about Allison being stuck on the nineteenth story of the school.
    • The three chapter 19s are immediately followed by "Chapters 20, 21, & 22," a single chapter story about the three Erics, to get the chapter numbering back on track.
    • In chapter 6 of Cloud of Doom, Dr. Pickell has Kathy imagine herself stepping through a mirror to become a nicer person, and tells her that she will stay on the other side of the mirror once she wakes up. It mostly works — except it turns out she now writes everything backwards, including the last sentence of the chapter.
    • Later in chapter 9, Louis brings up that he wrote books about Wayside to Mr. Kidswatter, who then asks that he writes a chapter titled "The Best Principal Ever!!!", with three exclamation points. Not only does the chapter in question appear later on, but for the rest of the book, every instance of "the best principal ever!!!" is written as such.
  • Parasol Parachute:
    • A variation of this happens in Cloud of Doom, where Sharie's umbrella is caught in a gust of wind that brings her up to her class.
    • Averted towards the end of the book, where Louis considers trying this, but unfortunately, he's holding the wrong end of the umbrella. Instead, the hook of the umbrella's handle catches the school's flagpole, causing him to spin around it several times as he falls to the ground.
  • Parental Neglect: Miss Zarves became so mean because growing up everyone treated her like a doormat or didn't care for her opinion. Even her parents were too busy for her.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word:
    • Mr. Kidswatter once spilled his coffee by accidentally bumping into a closed door, and got so mad, he announced that no one in Wayside School can ever use the word, "door", again. He tells them to use the word "goozack" instead.
    • "Mr. Kidswatter is a Mugworm Griblick."
    • When Mrs. Jewls asks for which words to include in her spelling lesson, D.J. suggests "grumple."
    "I don't think 'grumple' is a word," Mrs. Jewls pointed out.
    "So?" asked D.J. "We should still know how to spell it."
    "It might become a word someday," Kathy agreed.
    • Mrs. Jewls runs out of dictionary words for her spelling bee, so she needs to resort to words that aren't in the dictionary, like "thruppledub," "fudge-squiggle," and "whummph."
  • Perpetual Smiler: D.J. When he's asked why he's always so happy, he replies, "You need a reason to be sad. You don't need a reason to be happy." In fact, it's a real sign of how bad things are getting in A Little Stranger when D.J. is in a bad mood.
  • Perpetual Storm: The main plot thread of Cloud of Doom.
  • Pie in the Face:
    • Miss Mush has to do this to Mr. Gorf to get the kids' voices back. It's made with pepper, causing him to sneeze all the voices out.
    • Dr. Pickell additionally makes Mr. Kidswatter imagine getting this in Beneath the Cloud of Doom.
  • Playground Song: The eponymous song in Wayside School Is Falling Down.
  • Pointy Ears: Mrs. Gorf has these. If she wiggles them and sticks out her tongue, she can turn kids into apples.
  • Poor Communication Kills: At the end of the second book. Failure to understand what everyone is saying results in Wayside School being flooded by a herd of cows.
  • Precocious Crush: Dameon has one on Mrs. Jewls. "Love and a Dead Rat" handles that crush in a sweet and rather mature way where Mrs. Jewls says that she loves Dameon too (albeit in a platonic way) and explains that love is an emotion, not an item, so giving away love means that you end up receiving more love.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: In the illustrations of the UK edition books, Leslie is often seen going barefoot.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: In Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, Mrs. Drazil includes a mnemonic device for her surname's pronunciation when she introduces herself: "My name is Mrs. Drazil, and I'm not from Brazil." This mostly just confuses the students: one of them conflates "Brazil" with "brassiere".
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Mrs. Jewls hates dead rats more than anything in the world. Dead rats are always trying to get into her room.
    • Jane Smith had a suitcase and getaway boat handy in case her former Sadist Teacher from 26 years ago ever tracked her down. It actually happens.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Pickell, the school psychologist. He's not Ax-Crazy, though, he just likes to use hypnosis on people to make them do stupid things. For example, he helped a woman kick her smoking habit but now she slaps her husband whenever he mentions potatoes.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Dr. Jane Payne, in addition to being a Depraved Dentist, is rather immature, as her favorite response to people informing her that she upsets them is to tell them to rub a monkey's tummy with their head.
  • Punny Name: Bebe Gunn and her imaginary little brother, Ray Gunn.
  • Puppy Love: Nancy is stated to be Mac's girlfriend in the second book, and one of the spin-offs seems to confirm that Jason and Allison may harbor feelings for each other.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: Wendy Nogard, in Little Stranger, does this after having her heart broken by the first person she ever showed her third ear to. She decided that, if she couldn't be happy, no one should be, and thus became a substitute teacher to spread pain and negativity to as many children as possible.
  • Race Lift: Since the books don't specify race for any of the characters, the illustrations interpret them differently Depending on the Artist. The illustrations have gotten more diverse over time, particularly with the 2019 editions by Tim Heitz.
  • Real-World Episode: Every student is sent to a different school after Wayside School closes when it's flooded by cows. Todd, however, was sent to the worst school of all: He was sent to your school.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Louis.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played with: look at the names of the substitute teachers in Gets a Little Stranger...
  • Ret-Gone: It's implied any student who ends up on the nineteenth story vanished from real life. Virginia's a thirty-year old lady memorizing the dictionary, Ray is nine years old.
  • Rich Bitch: Kathy, if you believe she's telling the truth about her parents being rich.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Kathy's chapter in the first book. She always expects things will go wrong, and ignores everyone's advice that'll help prevent that. When things inevitably do go wrong, she remarks that she was right the whole time.
  • Running Gag:
    • Todd getting sent home on the Kindergarten bus every day.
    • Paul loving to pull Leslie's pigtails.
    • All four books mention potatoes at least once.
    • There is no 19th story.
    • Mrs. Jewls hates dead rats.
    • A literal example, Dameon running up and down all of Wayside.
    • In Falling Down specifically, characters holding objects in paper bags that are mistaken for their lunch.
    • In Gets a Little Stranger specifically, Terrence saying "Cool" at things others might consider weird or gross.
    • In Cloud of Doom specifically, the words "skeptical" and "spectacle" being used in close proximity of one another.
  • Sadist Teacher: Anyone that isn't Mrs. Jewls, Louis, or Miss Mush.
    • Mrs. Gorf turns the kids into apples over the slightest of infractions, fully intending to leave them there and retire early for no real reason than she can. Her son Mr. Gorf arrives to take revenge on the kids in book three, stealing their voices and trying to ruin their relationships with their parents before Miss Mush intervenes.
    • Mrs. Drazil doesn't appear to be one on the surface; she's nice, patient, and makes cookies for the kids. But she's shown to have a serious problem with grudges and will not let any past slight made by her problem students rest. She turns Louis into a stern disciplinarian and has him shave his mustache (which is why the kids decide she has to go), and chases down one of her other problem students who hadn't been in Drazil's class for twenty six years.
    • Wendy Nogard is a Woman Scorned with a third ear that allows her to read minds. She uses this to manipulate the students into turning on one another, because she was cruelly dumped by a guy who couldn't get over the third ear thing and so decided to spread her misery around to everyone else.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Sideways Stories never mentions Nancy's gender until near the end, when the chapter revolving around him unexpectedly reveals him to be male.
  • Santa Ambiguity: The plot of a chapter in Gets a Little Stranger. Kathy tries to tell the rest of the class that Santa doesn't exist, so the rest of the students go to Mrs. Jewls to prove her wrong, though she doesn't say anything. Eventually, a man with a red suit, a white beard, and a large belly walks into the room. It's Louis, the Yard Teacher. Kathy claims that Louis having to dress up as Santa proves he isn't real, though Mrs. Jewls finally steps in saying Louis is one of his helpers. She then goes on to say anyone can be one of Santa's helpers by spreading holiday cheer. This doesn't change Kathy's opinion, though Mrs. Jewls states that if he doesn't exist, then he really needs their help.
  • Satan: It's implied that Miss Zarves may be this. Though it's later hinted that she's being held against her will by a higher power. Which may or may not be enforced by three men who are known for breaking the barriers of reality and "mysterious contracts".
  • Satellite Character: Most of the time, all Paul ever is seen doing is pulling Leslie's pigtails. He doesn't get much development outside of that.
  • Scary Librarian: Subverted. The kids are all scared of Mrs. Surlaw, but even though she looks severe, she is shown to be surprisingly soft, and enjoys hearing the kids talk about the books they like.
  • Schmuck Bait: Sideways Arithmetic has a chapter solving math problems using words as ciphers for numbers. Mrs. Jewls uses EARS + HEAR as an example problem. Todd blurts out SWEAR... and gets sent home on the kindergarten bus for swearing, even though that was the correct answer.
  • Screwball Serum: Miss Mush's mushroom surprise, which causes you to kiss whoever's closest to you whenever you eat it.
  • Sdrawkcab Name:
    • Various faculty at the school follow this theme: Sadist Teacher Mrs. Gorf, substitute teachers Mr. Gorf, Mrs. Drazil, and Miss Nogard, and school librarian Mrs. Surlaw (who, fittingly, has a large plush walrus in her room).
    • Falling Down has an entire backwards chapter, where you have to start at the end for it to make any sense. Appropriately, the chapter is titled "What?" The whole concept is used to its maximum comic potential; read forwards, Jenny seems to take off her motorcycle helmet before saying she was going to do so before Mrs. Jewls told her to do so — which leads to apparent Department of Redundancy Department in some cases. Read backwards, however, it becomes a normal story (if a little heavy on the details — for instance, people saying what they're going to do followed by a description of them doing it — due to the lines that were put in specifically to maximize the gag).
  • Selective Enforcement: Todd. Every day, he does something that no one else in Wayside School would ever get in trouble for, yet he's the one who has to write his name on the blackboard every day.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The crux of Kathy's introductory chapter in the first book. Kathy hates everyone she knows because at one time or another, they told her something bad wouldn't happen, or something would be fun or taste good, with Kathy always angrily insisting the opposite — but it's shown that her negative predictions only came true as a result of her own actions. The chapter concludes with Kathy's reason for not liking you, the reader: She thinks that if you met her, you wouldn't like her.
    See, she was right! It's funny how someone who's always right can still be wrong.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • "A Package For Mrs. Jewls", the first chapter of Wayside School is Falling Down, has Louis carry a heavy computer from the first floor to Mrs. Jewls' floor. When he reaches her door, he has to hold up the computer for several more minutes, while the kids decide who should open the door. After Louis finally brings the package inside the room, Mrs. Jewls unpacks the computer and proclaims that it will help her students learn new things more quickly. She then demonstrates the concept of gravity by dropping the computer out the window and letting the kids see how quickly it can fall to the ground and smash.
    • The construction of one-way elevators in the school that are literally one-way, not even going back for students on floors behind it. They're used until they reach the top and bottom floors, and then are never able to be used again.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sickeningly Sweet: "Love and a Dead Rat" ends with Dameon and Mrs. Jewels having a sweet conversation about love. It's so sappy that the dead rat inside Mrs. Jewels' desk comes back to life and walks out.
  • Significant Name Overlap:
    • There are three Erics in Mrs. Jewls's class, which often leads to confusion. In the first book, it's explained how each of them got a nickname that doesn't represent them well at all, just because it corresponds to a trait that the other two Erics have - the skinny Eric Bacon is nicknamed "Fatso," the athletic Eric Fry is named "Butterfingers," and the kind Eric Ovens is nicknamed "Crabapple." In the chapter "Eric, Eric, and Eric" in the second book, Mr. Kidswatter calls Mrs. Jewls to send Eric to the principal's office, because he found an appointment card with Eric's name on it that called Kidswatter a "mugworm griblick." Mrs. Jewls sends all three Erics down one by one, and Mr. Kidswatter can't figure out which one of them wrote the mean message (though it's heavily implied that Eric Bacon did it). In the third book, the first chapter sees the Erics greet each other- but we can’t tell which one is greeting which because none of them use their last names.
    • The confusing Who's on First?-style "Pet Day" chapter in the third book writes that "Billy barked," "Billy meowed," and "Billy bleated." At the end of the chapter, it's revealed there are three different pets named Billy - a dog, a cat, and a goat. Naturally, the Erics are their owners.
  • Sleep Learning: Sharie. At least, that's what Mrs. Jewls believes, which is why Sharie always gets to be Asleep in Class.
  • Sleepyhead: Sharie is able to fall asleep in just about any situation, regularly sleeping through class, even after she falls out of a window.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly on the idealistic side; despite taking place in a Bizarro Universe, it's also a much happier place than our own, which is particularly noted when the children are told about "normal" schools and react with disgust. Per Louis Sachar himself, Wayside represents an ideal universe where the biggest threats are teachers that turn misbehaving children into apples and an abstract storm cloud that makes everyone gloomy, contrasting his other works such as Holes and Fuzzy Mud, which take place in Crapsack Worlds with real threats.
  • Snicket Warning Label:
    • In "Mush:"
    "Warning: Do not read this story right after eating. In fact, don't read it right before eating either. In fact, just to be safe, don't read this story if you're ever planning to eat again."
    • In "Mr. K and Dr. P:"
    "(Author's note: Due to strict rules about confidentiality, and to avoid unnecessary embarrassment for those involved, the names of the characters have been omitted from this story. Please don't try to guess.)"
  • Something Only They Would Say: "Rub a monkey's tummy! Rub a monkey's tummy with your head!" note 
  • Spelling Bee: Chapter 24 of Beneath the Cloud of Doom. Mrs. Jewls eventually uses up every word in the dictionary, and has to start resorting to Perfectly Cromulent Words from elsewhere in the book.
  • Spoof Aesop: "It's on the inside that matters." One of the students wears an expensive suit to be important, however Mrs. Jewls tells him the standard line, only to add "that's why you have to wear expensive underwear."
  • Start of Darkness: Miss Nogard's backstory is revealed in the first chapter after Mrs. Drazil is forced to leave. You'd expect it would have been after her mind-reading trick was revealed.
  • Stealth Pun: In the third book, we're introduced to Jason's dentist, Dr. Payne. Later, we're introduced to her husband, Sham. Which means her husband's full name is Sham Payne.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Dr. Pickell, who is often nicknamed Dr. Pickle, partially because it works with his name, but mostly because he swings a strange, pickle-shaped stone to make people fall asleep during their psychiatry appointments.
  • Sticky Fingers: Joy is eventually flanderized into someone who can't stop stealing stuff.
  • Sticky Situation: Jason's chapter in the first book, where he gets stuck to his seat by a wad of gum.
  • Stock "Yuck!": Jenny hates prune juice.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Mrs. Jewls' students all seem to intuitively understand her strange approach to math, while outsiders are utterly baffled by it.
  • Strange Secret Entrance: The school is thirty stories tall, but of those thirty, they forgot to build the nineteenth. It does not exist, and its resident teacher Miss Zarves and her entire class are entirely imaginary. Nonetheless, a student ends up there by accident in one story. Hell, somehow, a cow ended up there. (It was probably unaware that there was no nineteenth floor.) In Cloud of Doom, the entire 30th story class somehow ends up there.
  • Stupid Crooks: A pair of robbers show up to Mrs. Jewls's class, upholding it as if their staging a bank robbery. As it turns out, they actually think they are in a bank: they Never Learned to Read. Todd manages to dispell them by giving them Joy's workbook.
  • Supreme Chef: Miss Mush is stated to actually be one of these—as long as she doesn't cook for too many people. Because she has to cook for every kid at Wayside, however, her food ends up tasting terrible.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: At the end of Falling Down, the school is flooded with a herd of cows. The opening chapter of Little Stranger showed that despite Wayside School being a World of Weirdness, the cows caused so much damage to the school that the students had to be sent to other schools while Wayside was repaired.
  • Surreal Humor: A major part of the appeal of the books comes from how outlandish the events of the stories can get, with the characters being placed in increasingly ridiculous situations with each story. And it starts with a teacher turning students into apples.
  • Sweet Tooth: Maurecia loves ice cream, and it's noted that her desk is sticky since she's used it to stash some of her midday snacks. Mrs. Jewls even manages to invent new flavors of ice cream after being inspired by her.
  • Talking Animal: All dead rats can talk. Though it's unknown if they only gain the ability to speak after they're dead.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Exaggerated in "Teeth" from Falling Down; after Rondi's new front teeth grow in, she worries that people won't think she's cute anymore and provokes Terrence so he'll punch them out for her. While he winds up, the other students notice her new teeth for the first time, hold a discussion and poll on the subject, and convince her to keep them. She manages to duck just in time.
  • Tastes Like Purple:
    • Mrs. Jewls brings in flavors of ice cream based on her students, that taste like what that student tastes when they aren't tasting anything at all.
    • Miss Mush's rainbow stew is a more literal example, when the students eat it, they taste colors, tasting more the longer they chew. It turns out to be the best meal she's ever made.
  • Teacher's Unfavorite Student: Mrs. Jewls pays special attention to Todd and writes down even tiny or accidental misdemeanors. He's sent home early for being disruptive every day.
  • Technology Marches On: In the first chapter of Wayside School Is Falling Down, Mrs. Jewls's class gets a new computer described as having "a full-color monitor and two disk drives." When the book was written, Louis Sachar was trying to future-proof it by describing the most advanced computer he could think of.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: In Cloud of Doom, Bebe draws the clouds she spots as various different things, a cumulus cloud as a sleeping giant's pilow, and a cirrus cloud as the fallen feathers of angels. The titular Cloud of Doom resembles "the inside of a vacuum bag while the vacuum is still on," but Bebe has never seen that, so she can't draw it.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The three Erics' last names are Bacon, Ovens, and Fry.
    • Several of the non-Mrs. Jewls teachers and staff (Mrs. Gorf, Mrs. Drazil, Miss Nogard, Mrs. Surlaw) have surnames that, when spelled backwards, are various animals (even if one of them doesn't technically exist).
  • There Is No Rule Six: There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth story. Sorry.
  • This Isn't Heaven: When Allison gets stuck doing busy work for a week on the 19th story, her classmate Mark Miller thinks they've died and gone to--
    Allison: This isn't heaven!
    Mark: That's not what I was going to say.
  • This Loser Is You: When Wayside School closed and the students sent to other schools, Todd was sent to the worst of all. The narrator begins to describe what he had to do every morning, but then stops himself. You already know what Todd had to do, because Todd was sent to your school.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: Terrence's introductory chapter is about him kicking all the balls over the fence. Eventually, as punishment, he too gets kicked over the fence.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • Happens twice in Wayside School is Falling Down.
      • Todd for Show-And-Tell brings a toy dog that everyone admires. It gets him out of trouble twice, once when Mrs. Jewls tries to confiscate it but she doesn't on seeing how cute it is. He then has it change into a scary dog. The second time is when Joy frames him — as usual— and tries to steal the toy. It then bites her, and she screams, outing herself as a thief. It's one of the few days where Todd isn't sent home early.
      • When Mrs. Jewls's dark side tries to take over and nearly whacks him with her yard stick for not following her Insane Troll Logic instructions, she writes only one name under Discipline: hers. Todd doesn't go home that day because Mrs. Jewls sends herself home on the kindergarten bus for yelling "SHUT UP!" three times, nearly hitting Todd which is a firing offense, and almost dousing Leslie in pickle brine.
    • Todd gets a couple in Beneath the Cloud of Doom.
      • In "The Bells of Wayside," Todd is struggling with a difficult day in class when Mrs. Jewls piles up homework, has the class prepare for an Ultimate Test, and has two strikes against him on her discipline list. However, at the end of the chapter, the "Erase-the-Blackboard-Bell" rings, forcing Mrs. Jewls to erase the board, postponing the test, cancelling all the homework assignments, and getting Todd out of trouble for the day.
      • In "Blame It on the Cloud," everyone in Mrs. Jewls's class has to write their name on the discipline list after using the cloud as a scapegoat for their bad behavior... Except Todd. He's the only one who's been good.
  • Title Drop: "Wayside School is falling down" becomes part of a song the children sing, as well as the last chapter of the second book.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Arguably, Joy and Maurecia, respectively.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Kathy, in Cloud of Doom, after Dr. Pickell cures her of her "oppositosis." She remains this way, even after the mirror he had her imagine stepping through shatters, simply because Good Feels Good.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Maurecia loves ice cream.
  • Tribute to Fido: Sideways Stories From Wayside School has an in-universe example: a boy named Nancy, who dislikes his name, trades names with a girl named Mac, who disliked hers because she had been named after a dog.
  • Trigger Phrase: Dr. Pickell does this for many of his patients. One woman now slaps her husband whenever he says the word "potato," one man takes off his shoe whenever someone says "parking meter," and Paul tries to eat Leslie's ears whenever she says "pencil."
  • True Companions: The Unbreakables, consisting of Ron, Deedee, Joy, and Maurecia. They may occasionally tease each other, but at the end of the day, they're always willing to help one another search through dumpsters for lost homework, and will support one another, even if one of them gets ahead.
    "Friends stick by each other when one is down. That is a true test of friendship. But sometimes, it is harder to stick by a friend who is up. That is the ultimate test of friendship."
  • Tuckerization: All the kids in Mrs. Jewls's class are named after kids Louis Sachar taught during his stint as a playground supervisor at Hillside Elementary School in Berkeley, California, while Louis, the yard teacher, is named after himself. Mrs. Jewls, the class's teacher, is named after Mrs. Jukes, who taught the class he worked with, and Mavis Jewls was named after her daughter, who additionally helped get the books published.
  • The Unfavorite: Bebe claims she is this in her family to her younger brother, who, with his presence on the nineteenth story, may or may not have existed.
  • Unhappy Medium: Before she started using her mind reading power to make everyone as miserable as she could, Wendy Nogard found most people's thoughts to be "boring."
  • Uninstallment: Chapter 19 in the first book is about Mrs. Zarves and the nineteenth floor. Here is the chapter in its entirety: "There is no Mrs. Zarves. There is no nineteenth floor. Sorry." Notably, the chapter's illustration is a large number "19" that's been crossed out.
  • Unconventional Formatting: The second book has three Chapter 19s, all back to back, as Alison tries to escape the Eldritch Location that is the nineteenth floor. The following chapter is "Chapters 20, 21, and 22" to make up for it.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Invoked by Miss Nogard, who can read minds and uses it to pick at people's insecurities. Dana gets a haircut and worries that it makes her look boyish, so Miss Nogard intentionally calls her a "handsome young man".
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The second book has three Chapter 19s. The following chapter is "Chapters 20, 21, and 22" to make up for it. Which, in a strange way, makes perfect sense, as each chapter usually focuses on one kid. Chapters 20, 21, and 22 focus on three kids in one story.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Much of the humor requires at least two or three reads to fully grasp.
  • Vocal Dissonance:
    • After Miss Mush tricks Mr. Gorf into sneezing out all the voices he stole, some of them end up in the children's empty throats. They get the wrong voices at first.
    • Mr. Gorf's natural voice is high-pitched and raspy, sounding like a French donkey with a sore throat, which is utterly at odds with his gentlemanly appearance. The voice he normally used was a gentle brogue stolen from a Scottish man.
  • Voice Changeling: Mr. Gorf can not only steal voices through his third nostril, but imitate them as well. He uses this to attempt to separate each student from their mother, since they did the same to him.
  • Wacky Cravings: Mrs. Jewls is seen eating Baloneos before she announces her pregnancy to the class, which are Oreo cookies with balogna instead of cream.
  • Wacky Homeroom: Oh so very much. Everyone has their own odd quirks, some more so than others.
  • Weather Dissonance: From Sideways Stories.
    On June tenth there was a blizzard.
  • Weird Weather: The titular Cloud of Doom from Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom not only darkens the sky and causes intense storms with booms of lightning and harsh gusts of wind, it also does things like getting a kid's face stuck in place, and causing everyone's fingernails and toenails to grow faster.
  • Wham Line:
    • One chapter of the first book has Bebe Gunn explain that she didn't intend to misbehave at school, but her Bitch in Sheep's Clothing brother Ray was trying to get her in trouble. Mrs. Jewls lets her off without punishment, and later tells Bebe's parents about the situation, and they respond thusly:
      Ray? Who's Ray?
    • After Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave in the third book, her class gets a substitute teacher named Mr. Gorf. While they're initially afraid he might be her husband out to avenge her, their meeting with him puts their worries to rest. He shows no hostility towards them, doesn't even seem to have much prior knowledge of them, and says he's been a bachelor his whole life. But then he says this:
      "Mrs. Gorf was my mommy!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Sue is a student in the Sideways Arithmetic books. She is never seen or even mentioned in the main series, and in a few cases, it is specifically mentioned the class only has twenty-eight kids.
    • The three Erics' nicknames are brought up in the first book, but never seen again. Even the students' attitudes towards the Erics seems to have changed, as in Cloud of Doom it's mentioned that Eric Fry is now usually picked first on teams, and Eric Bacon is popular for being funny and clever, even if no one completely trusts him.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The narrator, of all people, regarding Myron.
    Narrator: Myron named [the bird] Oddly. Myron named him oddly.
  • Who's on First?: Pet day for this school is pretty much like this. Except even bigger.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mrs. Jewls is Properly Paranoid of dead rats. (Don't underestimate them just because they're dead!)
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: In the first book, Calvin is asked by Mrs. Jewls to deliver a note to to the nineteenth story, which doesn't exist. After finding nothing between eighteen and twenty, he asks Louis for advice, who points out that he doesn't even have a note to deliver, as he wasn't given one. When he returns to the classroom in defeat, Mrs. Jewls congratulates him on a job well done and gives him a lollipop, which he accepts with confusion. Lampshaded by this exchange:
    Jason: You delivered a note to Miss Zarves on the nineteenth story? How did you do it?
    Mrs. Jewls: What do you mean, how did he do it? He gave Miss Zarves the note. Some people, Jason, are responsible.
    Calvin: Thanks, but it really was nothing.
  • With Friends Like These...:
    • Joy consumes her BFF Maurecia's lunch when Maurecia isn't looking and only fesses up to it when she thinks there's something to gain from it.
    • Rondi wants to write a poem about the color purple, but her best friend, Allison, asks Rondi not to since she wants to use purple as well and wouldn't let it lie even when Rondi suggested that they both could use purple.
    • There was a rumor that Allison knocked out Rondi's two front teeth.
  • Woman Scorned: Wendy Nogard, and how! After being dumped by her boyfriend because he finds the third ear on the top of her head off-putting, she became bitterly cynical and dedicated her teaching career to making students feel as insecure and angry as she does.
  • World of Pun: The books are full of puns, both stealth and otherwise.
  • World of Weirdness: Especially in the third book, appropriately titled Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, which had, among other things, a substitute teacher with an ear on top of her head that allowed her to "hear" people's thoughts.
  • Would Hurt a Child: It's implied Miss Nogard wanted to throw Mrs. Jewls' newborn out the window.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Paul gets in trouble twice for pulling Leslie's pigtails, and realizes he can do that every day without getting in trouble, since it takes three strikes to get sent home early on the kindergarten bus. Suddenly, unprovoked, Leslie screams a third time, and Paul gets sent home anyway, despite doing nothing.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: In the story "A Giggle Box, A Leaky Faucet, and a Foghorn" a book and a song both make Dana cry. Neither title is mentioned nor are they quoted, but they are clearly meant to be Charlotte's Web and Puff the Magic Dragon.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Miss Zarves' class.
  • You Killed My Father: Inverted. Mrs. Gorf's son swore revenge on the class of Wayside's 30th story after they tricked her into turning herself into an apple, which then got eaten by Louis. He carries out his revenge by substituting for a pregnant Mrs. Jewls, stealing the kids' voices, and attempting to frame the kids for making hateful phone calls to their own mothers.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Downplayed with the Zombie rats, as they don't show any actual zombie traits. They're dead rats that walk and talk.

Alternative Title(s): Wayside