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Series / Teachers (2016)

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Teachers is a Work Com that aired on TV Land from 2016–19. It focuses on a group of teachers at Fillmore Elementary, a school somewhere in the vicinity of Chicago: Caroline Watson (Kate Lambert), an anal retentive hopeless romantic who teaches second grade; Mary Louise Bennigan (Katie O Brien), a naive, deeply religious second grade teacher; AJ Feldman (Cate Freedman), a laid-back stoner who teaches third grade; Chelsea Snap (Katy Colloton), a vain, promiscuous fashionista who is obsessed with reality shows and teaches third grade; Cecilia Cannon (Caitlin Barlow), a free-spirited activist who becomes the art teacher in the second season; and Deb Adler (Kathryn Renee Thomas), a cynical fifth grade teacher. Their boss is the effeminate Principal Toby Pearson (Tim Bagley). A variety of supporting characters crop up at various points in the series: Mary Louise's love interest Hot Dad (Ryan Caltagirone), Deb's husband Damien (Haley Joel Osment), Pearson's kiss-up assistant Marty (Eugene Cordero), macho security chief Frank (Richard T. Jones), and no-nonsense secretary Mavis (Patricia Belcher).

Nothing to do with the early 2000s British comedy-drama of the same name.

Teachers has examples of the following tropes:

  • 555: In "The Final Robe," Caroline's number is listed as (708) 555-0165.
  • Absurdly Powerful School Jurisdiction: This drives the plot of "Bad Tweeter." Ms. Snap gets suspended after using an inappropriate word in a tweet, and the other teachers decide to fight for their right to have a life outside of school.
  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • At the end of "Lunchtime! The Musical," Sharon calls Ms. Bennigan "Ms. Brannigan."
    • In "Passive Eggressive," Mrs. Adler refers to the late Ms. Cabot as Ms. Abbot.
  • Achievement Test of Destiny: "Passive Eggressive" actually deals with this quite realistically. The tests administered will probably not make or break the students' futures, but they're a big deal because they affect the school's funding and the teachers' merit pay.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • In "First Day Back," Ms. Bennigan talks about going to a garage sale in Nebraska. Then she says, "The Great Plains states have so much to offer." Katie O'Brien is originally from Omaha.
    • In "Wedded Miss," the church's sign says that there will be a Katydids show that night. The main actresses were all members of an improv group they called the Katydids.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: In "Duct Duct Goose," one of Feldman's students climbs into the ceiling and crawls around in the ducts. Interestingly, he's not trying to get out of the building—he plans to just stay up there.
  • Almost Kiss: Ms. Watson and Principal Pearson are interrupted by a stray dog in "First Day Back."
  • Ambiguous Gender: When asked whether her partner Geode is a he or a she, Ms. Cannon replies "Yes." This is an entirely off-screen example—Geode never appears.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Ms. Snap and Mrs. Adler both have shades of this. For Ms. Snap, it's because she's so wrapped up in her own problems; for Mrs. Adler, it's because of her persistent cynicism. At the end of the day, however, it's clear they do enjoy their jobs.
  • Ass Shove: At the beginning of "Jacob," Ms. Snap dares Ms. Bennigan to stick a bottle up her rectum.
  • As You Know: The terror Hell Class has inflicted on Fillmore is clearly common knowledge, but this doesn't stop the teachers from reminding each other of it.
  • Back for the Finale: Downplayed. At the end of "Wedded Miss," there is a yearbook graphic in which each teacher has written a note. Feldman is included.
  • Berserk Button: Do not steal Feldman's candy.
  • Big Eater: Feldman, probably due to her drug habit. Among other things, she eats the trail mix her students are supposed to be using for their mini-society project and starts dealing in contraband junk food when the lunch menu gets healthified.
  • Birthday Episode: "Thirty-One and Done" takes place on Ms. Snap's thirty-first birthday.
  • A Bloody Mess: As part of her audition tape for The Bachelor, Ms. Snap pretends to slam Ms. Bennigan's head into the whiteboard; they use catsup to leave a streak of "blood." The kid manning the camera freaks out when she sees it.
  • Bob Ross Rib: In "Dire Straights," Feldman and Chuck watch Carl Fromm, an afroed mountainscape painter with his own TV show.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Partway through "The Last Day," Feldman says she put her "recorder-pipe" (a recorder she's modified so she can use it to smoke weed) in Ms. Watson's bag. Ms. Watson says she didn't bring a bag. Turns out the bag Feldman put it in was the "man sack" Marty has been carrying around with him. Pearson finds Marty with it and fires him on the spot.
    • In "Hot Date," Hot Dad never gets a chance to finish the story he starts to tell Ms. Bennigan on their date. A scene in "Third Wheel" shows him continuing to tell it to her on a later date. It never does get finished on-camera.
  • The Bully:
    • Blake has a very brief stint as this in the pilot. He learns his lesson after a group of vigilante students start bullying him.
    • Mrs. Adler was bullied by Lauren Zellnek in high school. Among other things, she put fetal pigs in her locker and forced her to take a shot from a Diva Cup.
    • In "Bad Tweeter," Camille starts insulting people after Ms. Feldman coaxes her out of her shell.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ms. Snap, for all that she heavily incorporates reality shows into her curriculum and tries to use students to advance her own agenda, apparently qualifies for merit-based pay.
    • Ms. Feldman is beloved by her students and held in higher regard as a teacher than any other staff.
  • Burger Fool: Played with in "Brokebitch Mountain." A broke Feldman takes a second job at Suburbia, the same sub shop she worked at while she was in college. She doesn't really enjoy it, and her boss is a vindictive former co-worker, but it pays better than teaching, so she quits her job at Fillmore and goes to work at Suburbia full time.
  • But Not Too White:
    • In "Picture Day," Ms. Snap applies self tanner with the aim of looking "intriguingly ethnically ambiguous."
    • When Ms. Cannon tells Ms. Snap she's white in "Passive Eggressive," Ms. Snap replies, "Nice try. My spray tan artist says I'm Tuscan Buff."
    • Averted in "First Day Back"—the teachers are not impressed with the tan Principal Pearson got over the summer.
  • Camp Straight: Principal Pearson works in elementary education and likes ballet, Gilmore Girls, and interior design. He is also portrayed as straight—he has an ex-wife and later ends up dating Caroline.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Principal Pearson's signature interjection is "Peas and rice!"
    • For the duration of "Hot Lunch," Ms. Bennigan has "Do the math, people!" She uses it as the punchline to every one of the bad jokes she's writing for her stand-up routine.
  • Caught Up in the Rapture: Ms. Bennigan often references Rapture Camp, which seems to be some kind of Christian summer camp. In "The Last Day," Ms. Snap asks Ms. Bennigan when it is. She replies, "From mid-July to August, or if the rapture comes, forever."
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • At the beginning of "Picture Day," Ms. Watson mentions that Chardonnay and cough syrup are helping her cope with her traumatic breakup. At the end of the episode (after she's had a very rough day), she's seen sipping from a bottle of cough syrup.
    • The very first scene of "Stranger Danger" shows a total stranger walking into the teachers' lounge and borrowing Ms. Watson's mug. At the end of the episode, he and the mug reappear.
  • Chubby Chaser: Referenced in the pilot during Ms. Feldman's lesson on bullying.
    Student: Alison's mom is fat. Chuck's mom is fat. Brendan's mom is fat.
    Ms. Feldman: Alison, Chuck, and Brendan's dads like it like that. A lot of guys do.
  • Class Trip: In "Gender Bender," the teachers are getting ready to leave on a field trip when they discover a student is missing. During the course of the episode, they never get out of the parking lot.
  • Clown School: Principal Pearson spent a year in a French clown college. He claims it's considered an art form there.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In "Bad Tweeter," Ms. Cannon unveils a picture of Principal Pearson made up to look like Hitler. Everyone else is visibly shocked. Ms. Bennigan's reaction?
    Ms. Bennigan: "When did he shave his mustache?"
  • Companion Cube: Mrs. Adler has her dead cat professionally preserved and carries him around with her for most of "Getting Drilled."
  • Continuity Nod:
    • One of Ms. Watson's second grade students from the first season appears in Ms. Feldman's third grade class in the second season.
    • Mrs. Adler's picture of Wasabi (whose death figured into the plot of "Getting Drilled) appears in "Lunchtime! The Musical" and "Toxic Workplace."
    • In "Third Wheel," Mrs. Adler and Ms. Feldman try to torture a confession out of a student by playing "The Spooky Shuffle" from "Nightmare on Fillmore Street." When that doesn't work, they switch to "Snap Outta My Life" from "Dosey Don't."
    • Ms. Snap uses a recording of "Snap Outta My Life" in an attempt to reconcile with Kyle in "The Tell-Tale Cart."
  • Compressed Vice:
    • In "Dire Straights" Ms. Watson quickly develop a serious bingo problem. She isn't over it by the end of the episode (which sees her going to a gamblers' support meeting), but it never comes up again.
  • Cool Big Sis: Ms. Bennigan sees Ms. Snap like this.
  • Cool Teacher: Feldman has a very unconventional teaching style and the kids love her for it.
  • Cure Your Gays: Ms. Bennigan's religion apparently promotes this:
    • In the pilot, she posits that bullying can sometimes be a good thing. The example she gives is that someone she knew in high school got called "the f word" every day—and now he's head pastor of his church.
    • Her friend Josiah got caught kissing boys at Rapture Camp and was sent to North Dakota to be cured.
  • Dating Service Disaster: Zig-zagged for Ms. Watson. In "First Day Back," she gets an account with a premium dating website which promises to reveal her soulmate. She is horrified when the site determines her soulmate is Principal Pearson. However, after they get to talking, she realizes they have a lot in common. They take a walk together and are about to share a tender kiss when a stray dog charges at them. She gets turned off when Principal Pearson blubbers like a coward and climbs up a tree to avoid being attacked by the dog. However, they still strike up a romantic relationship later in the series.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Adler always has a cutting remark at the ready that she delivers completely straight-faced.
  • Description Cut: After Ms. Snap is suspended in "Bad Tweeter," Ms. Bennigan laments to Principal Pearson that she must be suffering. Cut to Ms. Snap polishing off a glass of wine at an idyllic outdoor bar. A short time later, Ms. Bennigan says to her fellow teachers, "Think about poor Chelsea!" We immediately see a soused Ms. Snap gleefully offering to expose herself to the sommelier.
  • Designated Driver: Ms. Bennigan apparently serves as this for Ms. Snap.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: When the Caroline (who literally never has a hair out of place) comes to school with a mussed up 'do, a delighted Deb asks, "Did a big old barge finally come through your Panama Canal?"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: "Thoughts and Bears" seems like a thinly veiled Take That! at the typical response to school shootings.
  • Dog Got Sent to a Farm: In "Picture Day," Ms. Watson tries to have a frank conversation with her second graders about pets dying. David, one of the students, says pets don't die—according to his mom, all of his hermit crabs went to "the farm."
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Ms. Bennigan is often seen drinking milk, which emphasizes her naivete. She says in "The Last Day" that because she's hypoglycemic, alcohol makes her "goofy."
  • Drugs Are Good:
    • This is definitely Ms. Feldman's attitude. Marijuana seems to be her favorite, but others are referenced.
    • For a time Mrs. Adler and her husband hoarded ADD medication that she foraged from the lost and found.
  • Egging: Referenced in "Jacob." Ms. Cannon says when she was in middle school she refused to help egg someone's house because it was mean...and she was vegan.
  • Dystopia: "Passive Eggressive" parodies some of the trappings of a typical dystopian setting, likely as a Take That! to standardized testing.
  • Election Day Episode: "Snap Judgement" focuses on Ms. Snap running for School Council.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: In "First Day Back," Ms. Feldman forgot about the first day of school and is still in South Dakota that morning, so she teaches while she's driving back by face chatting on a tablet in the classroom. When Principal Pearson calls her on the intercom and says he needs her to bring down her attendance sheets, she tells him she has diarrhea and he backs off. She even lampshades this trope:
    Ms. Feldman: Life lesson, kids: nobody ever questions diarrhea.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: In "Dire Straights," all Feldman has in her refrigerator is condiment packets (which she cheerfully consumes while high) and beer. Upon quitting marijuana, seeing this is one of the things that makes her realize how much her life sucks without drugs.
  • Epunymous Title: "Snap Judgement" refers to both Ms. Snap herself and the knee-jerk reactions people have to her attempt to unseat an incumbent on the School Council.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Shaming Deb using the Bible doesn't work, but comparing her to the Hamburglar and Grimace does.
  • Exact Words: In "First Day Back," people have been dumping trash outside Mrs. Adler's trailer-classroom all day. At one point, she tells a man, "Hey, you can't leave that bag here!" He promptly dumps the contents and takes the bag with him.
  • Excrement Statement: When Ms. Watson's ex's new girlfriend is subbing at Fillmore, Ms. Cannon defecates in her desk.
  • Fairy Tale Wedding Dress: Ms. Bennigan wears one in "Wedded Miss."
  • Fictional Counterpart:
    • Ms. Cannon once references a non-profit called Houses for Humans.
    • Enchanted Princesses on Ice seems to be the fictional version of Disney on Ice.
    • DIRE (Drug Information and Resistance Education) is apprently the in-universe version of D.A.R.E.
  • Fired Teacher: Downplayed.
    • Ms. Snap gets suspended for three days in "Bad Tweeter." This leads to Ms. Cannon staging a walk-out, which in turn gets her suspended. Then the other teachers ask her to help them organize a march. Principal Pearson gets wind of it, and Mrs. Adler, Ms. Feldman, Ms. Bennigan, and Ms. Watson wind up suspended as well.
    • In "Getting Drilled," all six teachers are put on probation after screwing up an evacuation procedure.
  • First Period Panic: Downplayed in "Gender Bender." A student gets her first period and hides out in the bathroom because she thinks it means she might have pooped her pants, but she doesn't think she's dying or anything.
  • Food as Bribe: A roundabout variation—in "Duct Duct Goose," Ms. Feldman bribes her students with Wendy's coupons. She also offered Jason a fro-yo punch card (and three dollars) in exchange for coming out of the ceiling.
  • Foreign Queasine: Ms. Watson isn't thrilled by Ms. Cannon's yak butter tea.
  • Formerly Fat: When they were in high school, Lauren Zellnek nicknamed Mrs. Adler "Dumb Fatter." We aren't given any indication as to whether this was just idle bullying or if Mrs. Adler actually had a weight problem, but she does say it led her to develop an eating disorder.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Mrs. Adler's anti-bullying club in the pilot is called Stop Teasing And Bullying.
    • The teachers christen their protest march in "Bad Tweeter" Teachers Working Against Tyranny. This is especially meaningful because it spells out the word that Ms. Snap was suspended for tweeting.
    • In "Dire Straights," Chuck works for Drug Information and Resistance Education.
  • Functional Addict: Drugs are apprently one of Feldman's primary pastimes, but they never seem to stop her from getting through to her kids or holding down side hustles.
  • Freudian Slip: Many of Ms. Bennigan's early conversations with Hot Dad include these.
  • From Dress to Dressing: In "Getting Drilled," Ms. Bennigan sacrifices one of her sleeves to wrap Ms. Snap's sprained ankle.
  • Gag Haircut: In the pilot, Ms. Feldman has students insult each other as part of a lesson on bullying. Maggie's "aunt hair" is a popular target.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Mary Louise decides against including Caroline in her wedding party, Caroline tells her "You've made a mistake, but I won't cry." The scene then cuts to Caroline with mascara running down her face.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Mrs. Adler tries to quit smoking like this in "Dire Straights," but withdrawal makes her so unpleasant (even for her) that Ms. Cannon and Ms. Snap start covertly dosing her with nicotine gum and patches. Deb eventually does quit, but by different means entirely.
  • Go On Without Me: After she sprains her ankle in "Getting Drilled," Ms. Snap insists that the others complete the required obstacle course without her. They refuse to leave her behind.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Apparently Mrs. Adler once punched a male teacher in the groin when he took her parking space.
    • In "Getting Drilled," Ms. Snap slips on the obstacle course and lands on a horizontal wooden pole groin first.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Parodied in "Brokebitch Mountain"—after Craig and Amy "break up," Ms. Watson (their Shipper on Deck) is seen weeping and eating ice cream straight from the carton.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Ms. Bennigan's religious beliefs lead her to take a very dim view of homosexuality.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ms. Snap and Ms. Bennigan:
    Ms. Snap: She is not my best friend.
    Ms. Cannon: Yeah she is.
    Ms. Snap: No, she's not. She's my co-worker. We just make our mid-afternoon French presses together. And we make fun of Rhonda the gym teacher and her FUPA, and one time when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and my cheeks blew up like a chipmunk, she shoved food in her cheeks so she looked like a chipmunk, and we created these characters called "Cheeky, cheeky chipmunk"— Oh my God, she's my best friend.
  • Hidden Depths: Mrs. Adler volunteers at a suicide hotline in her free time.
  • Hippie Teacher: Ms. Cannon is artistic, vegan, and has a very liberal outlook.
  • Honorary Aunt: Ms. Cannon refers to herself as Hagatha's "Aunt Cecilia" in "Playing the Partum."
  • House Husband: Hot Dad is a stay at home dad who supports his family by running a non-profit out of his home. He even dropped out of medical school so he could take better care of Blake. However, for the majority of the series, he isn't a house husband—he and Blake's mom are divorced, and she is by and large no longer in the picture.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • The pilot's very first scene shows Ms. Feldman and Ms. Snap on playground duty. In between calling out their students for misbehaving, they discuss Ms. Snap's one-night stand with a drug dealer. This also neatly serves as an Establishing Series Moment.
    • Mrs. Lark, the district anti-bullying expert, tosses a number of sincere insults in Mrs. Adler's direction during the pilot. Mrs. Adler happily reciprocates and also verges into this trope—almost immediately after telling her students that calling someone a lesbian isn't an insult, she calls Mrs. Lark a lesbian in order to insult her.
    • In "Dire Straights," Feldman kvetches about how the visiting drug enforcement officer is going to talk about how drugs make you lazy and unmotivated. She says this is total nonsense—right before flopping down on the couch and pouring her bag of cornchips directly onto her stomach so she can more easily reach them from her prone position.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Scene transitions are often marked by a clip of a student playing hopscotch or a shot of some playground equipment.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • The other teachers occasionally call Ms. Bennigan "ML."
    • Toby calls Caroline "Care Bear."
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The Christian faith Ms. Bennigan adheres to seems to be a combination of Catholic, Mormon, and evangelical stereotypes.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Principal Pearson is a fan of Céline Dion and does ballet moves when he thinks no one is watching. That said, he is a little self-conscious about these things and sometimes make a deliberate effort to be more "manly."
  • Intoxication Ensues: Ms. Bennigan goes nuts after having a shot of whiskey in "The Last Day."
  • In Vino Veritas: During "The Last Day," Ms. Cannon and Ms. Snap get drunk and start talking about how much they love teaching (and each other).
  • Key Under the Doormat: At the beginning of "Dire Straights," we see a high Feldman putting her key in a rock with a false bottom—but the rock is stored inside her apartment. She doesn't realize how illogical this is under she's quit pot.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: In "The Last Day," Principal Pearson asks Marty why he's carrying around a diaper bag. Marty retorts that it's his "man sack."
  • Literal-Minded:
    • Ms. Feldman shows shades of this when answering her health questionnaire in "Drunk Kiss":
      Ms. Feldman: If you had neighbors next door that were loud, you'd call that hearing voices, wouldn't you?

    • Ms. Bennigan is sometimes prone to this:
      Ms. Cannon: Principal Pearson, in support of our sister Chelsea's right to a life outside of school, I have decided to be the Rosa Parks of Fillmore Elementary...
      Ms. Bennigan: But you're white.
      Ms. Cannon: ...and stand up for justice.
      Ms. Bennigan: She definitely sat down.
  • Local Hangout: Fitzpatrick's Tavern is the teachers' bar of choice.
  • Love Hurts: One of the series' early arcs is Ms. Watson trying to get over her last boyfriend. She grieves the breakup for over a year.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Ms. Bennigan has a habit of saying "Hot Dad" under her breath when Blake's dad enters the room. When she learns something new about him, she will often modify what she says accordingly.
    Ms. Bennigan: (after learning he spent a year in medical school) Hot Doctor Dad!
    Ms. Bennigan: (after they agree having a relationship would be inappropriate) Hot Platonic Friend!
  • Malicious Misnaming: Hell Class's ringleader refers to Ms. Snap as "Ms. Snatch" at one point after a girl accuses Ms. Snap of hitting on her boyfriend.
  • Military Brat: Hot Dad moved around a lot when he was a kid because his mom was in the military.
  • Missing Mom: Blake's mom left prior to the pilot and is rarely around.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The plot of "Drunk Kiss" revolves around Ms. Bennigan thinking Ms. Snap wants a romantic relationship with her.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: On her first date with Hot Dad, Mary Louise excuses herself from dinner so she can go to the bathroom and scratch her chicken pox. Another patron gets the wrong idea when she walks in on her scratching her thigh and exclaiming in satisfaction.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: In "Hot Deadly Dad," Ms. Snap and Ms. Bennigan become convinced that Hot Dad is a serial killer. Turns out he's preparing to propose.
  • Musical Episode: "Lunchtime! The Musical" parodies a number of musicals, including The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and Les Misérables.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking:
    • In "Passive Egressive," Ms. Watson laments that she is running out of time to have children. Brutally discussed by her doctor:
      Ms. Watson: He actually said "tick-tock" as he swiped my cervix.
    • In "Operation Egg Drop," Ms. Snap, realizing that she may want to have children at some point in the future, decides to freeze her eggs.
  • Nerd Glasses: When Ms. Snap is put in charge of the gifted program, she complains that she can't relate to people with glasses.
  • New Transfer Student: A Swedish student transferring to Fillmore is one of the subplots of "Hot Lunch."
  • No Brows: Feldman very briefly sports this look in "Picture Day."
  • No One Gets Left Behind: In "Getting Drilled," the other five teachers are determined to make sure Chelsea gets across the obstacle even if it slows them down.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • From "Held Back"
      • This is apparently not the first time Mrs. Adler has sent Principal Pearson an email that includes a picture of her butthole.
      • At the end of the episode, Mary Louise shows up on Hot Dad's doorstep soaking wet. When he asks if it was raining earlier, she says no.
    • From "Getting Drilled":
      • Ms. Snap reveals that one of her stepfathers died in a go-kart accident—that really wasn't her fault.
      • Rain Owl tells the teachers that they are the worst group to do his program since the HR team from Kibbles 'n Bits.
    • In "Wedded Miss," Mary Louise says her mother never had more children because of a "silo accident."
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: In the pilot, Mrs. Adler and Mrs. Lark (an anti-bullying expert from the district) are doing a simulation at an anti-bullying workshop. Mrs. Lark calls Mrs. Adler a lesbian, and Mrs. Adler objects. She quickly clarifies (for the benefit of her students) that calling someone a lesbian isn't an insult.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • The worldly Ms. Snap and the chaste Ms. Bennigan are best friends.
    • Though it is much less pronounced, moody Mrs. Adler and laid-back Ms. Feldman seem to have a special bond.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Completely averted by the cast—The Katydids all have names derived from Katherine. Interestingly, however, there are no duplications among those names.
    • Also averted in universe—Fillmore has at least two students named Linda.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Among themselves, the teachers only ever call Blake's father Hot Dad. Even after they are in a serious relationship, Ms. Bennigan lists him as "Hot Dad" in her phone.
    • This is lampshaded in "Lunchtime! The Musical"'s parody of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen":
      Ms. Bennigan: (singing) I am a teacher, you are a parent—I don't even know your name.
  • Parental Substitute: As early as the pilot, Hot Dad claims that Ms. Bennigan is a surrogate mother to Blake; however, Blake doesn't really warm up to her in that way until "Wake and Blake."
  • Parlor Games: At the beginning of "Jacob," the teachers are playing Truth or Dare at Fitzpatrick's.
  • Pass the Popcorn: In "Third Wheel," Caroline just happens to be eating popcorn while she watches an explosive fight break out between Chelsea and Mary Louise in the teachers' lounge.
  • Paste Eater: Ms. Bennigan notes in "First Day Back" that two members of Hell Class only got stronger after they ate a bunch of glue sticks.
  • Perfumigation: Invoked in "Duct Duct Goose." After a student crawls up into the ceiling, Ms. Watson tries to smoke him out with a horrible smelling perfume ("It's better than tear gas"). Unfortunately, it doesn't have the intended effect—rather than coming down, the student opts to venture further into the air ducts to escape the stench.
  • Person as Verb: When they are in the ladies' room, Ms. Snap criticizes herself in hopes that Mrs. Adler will compliment her. It doesn't work, and when Ms. Snap complains, Mrs. Adler replies, "Sorry, Chelsea, I'm not going to Bennigan you."
  • Picture Day: Fillmore's picture day antics include Feldman losing her eyebrows, Hot Dad losing his shirt, and the photographer losing his life.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Ms. Snap directs a couple of these towards Ms. Bennigan in "Drunk Kiss."
  • invokedPortmanteau Couple Name: Ms. Watson christens Craig and Amy "Cramy" and Brad and Becky "Bracky" in "Brokebitch Mountain."
  • Pregnancy Scare: Mrs. Adler apparently had one when she was sixteen.
  • Pun-Based Title: These occur frequently:
    • "Duct Duct Goose"
    • "Hall of Shame"
    • "Brokebitch Mountain"
    • "Thirty-One and Done"
    • "In Security"
    • "Dosey Don't"
    • "Passive Eggressive"
    • "Dire Straights"
    • "All By Myselfie"
    • "Of Lice and Men"
    • "Leggo My Preggo"
    • "Step by Stepsister"
    • "Thoughts and Bears"
    • "Playing the Partum"
    • "Face Your Peers"
    • "Relationslut"
    • "The Tell-Tale Cart"
    • "Teacher Depreciation Week"
    • "Wedded Miss"
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Ms. Feldman dons a pair of reading glasses in "Drunk Kiss" as part of her effort to look more like a normal teacher.
  • Put on a Bus: Feldman moves to Denmark at the beginning of the third season.
  • Radish Cure: Mrs. Adler finally kicks smoking after being forced to eat an entire pack of cigarettes.
  • Rapid Aging / Younger Than They Look: At the beginning of "First Day Back," Hell's Class last teacher, a middle aged woman, wishes Ms. Snap good luck. As she walks away, Ms. Bennigan exclaims, "She's twenty-four!"
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Chelsea, for much of the show, sleeps with an inordinate number of men.
    • After breaking up with her boyfriend during the third season, Caroline spends an episode bedding as many men as she can.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In "Getting Drilled," Rain Owl/Harvey eventually gets fed up with the teachers not following his directions:
      Rain Owl/Harvey: Well, congratulations. You're officially the worst group to come through here since the HR team from Kibbles 'n Bits. You changed "ah-ho" to "hoo-ha," nobody became a spirit animal, and you broke my stick. Now get off my Synergy Course.
    • In "Passive Eggressive," Caroline goes off on Principal Pearson when he tries to sympathize with her:
      Pearson: I always wanted to be a father, but I could never convince Roberta. And now I'm all alone and she's expecting twins with a blue jean mogul. I feel like I'm running out of time, too.
      Caroline: Okay, I'm sorry. I can't listen to you complain about this. You're a man. You could be a hundred years old, paralyzed from the neck down, and still get somebody pregnant. I'm 29. In this culture, I'm practically dead.
      Pearson: That's not true.
      Caroline: Yes, it is! Do you have any idea what it's like to deal with a constant barrage of people asking you if you're married or have kids yet? Because apparently, that's what makes you a legitimate woman in this country. Do you think I wanna be like this? I don't! But when it comes down to it, women's bodies are operating on an unfair timeline. We're still programmed to be given away at 14 years old for a couple of sheep, and turn geriatric by the age of 35. So I'm sorry, Toby, but you're not running out of time. I am.
  • Rise of Zitboy: "Lunchtime! The Musical" does this with adult acne—mainly as an excuse for Mrs. Adler to don half a Korean sheet mask and sing a The Phantom of the Opera parody song.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: At the beginning of "First Day Back," an animated blue bird flutters around as Ms. Watson, Ms. Cannon, Ms. Snap, and Ms. Bennigan sing about going back to school. When it's her turn, Mrs. Adler squashes it.
  • Rule of Three: After Millard dies in "Picture Day," Mrs. Adler reminds her colleagues that death always happens in threes.
  • Scenery Censor: In Mary Louise's Fantasy Sequence in "Dosey Don't," Sharon's breasts are hidden behind towering piles of onion rings.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Mrs. Lark turns out to be Lauren Zellnek.
  • Secondary Character Title: "Jacob" is named after Ms. Watson's ex, "Hot Deadly Dad" is named after Ms. Bennigan's love interest, and "Wake and Blake" is named after that love interest's son.
  • Self-Harm: In the pilot, Mrs. Adler reveals that she cut in high school because she was being bullied. It's largely Played for Laughs because it fits in with her cynical, antisocial characterization.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Principal Pearson and Frank, respectively. Principal Pearson has a background in elementary education and is interested in dancing and interior design. Frank is a very macho former cop.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: In "Dosey Don't," Jerry starts having Korean War flashbacks when he sees strobe lights.
  • Shipper on Deck: One of the subplots in "Brokebitch Mountain" is about Ms. Watson shipping Craig and Amy, two of her second grade students. She gives them a Portmanteau Couple Name and drowns her sorrows in ice cream when they break up.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • In "Picture Day," Blake shows up in a shirt that would be inappropriate when photographed from the chest up. Hot Dad doesn't have time to go home and get him something else to change into, so he nonchalantly whips his shirt off and gives it to Blake. Ms. Bennigan is impressed with the result.
    • In "Dosey Don't," Mary Louise has a Fantasy Sequence which includes a shirtless Hot Dad lying on her desk.
  • Signature Headgear: One of Ms. Watson's trademarks is her headband with a bow on it.
  • Speech Impediment:
    • One of Ms. Watson's students in the first season stutters; another has a lisp.
    • In "Brokebitch Mountain," one of Feldman's students is reluctant to talk in class because of his stutter. Feldman tells him stutterers don't stutter when they sing and that he is always welcome to sing in her class. At the end of the episode, after she has quit teaching for a better paying job at a sub shop, the class goes to shop to try to convince her to come back. The stuttering student flawlessly sings the various budgetary steps she could take that would allow her to return to teaching.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Near the beginning of "Dire Straights," a student sees Mrs. Adler lighting up in her car and is very impressed:
    Mrs. Adler: Okay, you got me, but smoking is not cool.
    Max: Yes, it is. Obama smokes, and so do you. Both my heroes smoke.
  • Staging an Intervention: In "Dire Straights," the other teachers stage an intervention for Caroline (who has become obsessed with bingo). Feldman (who is trying to go off weed so she can date Officer Chuck) asks them to include her—she thinks some "guilt and shame" would help her. Then Caroline walks in and thinks the intervention's for Chelsea, who she calls a sex addict. After Caroline refuses help and storms out, the remaining teachers then shift gears and confess to Deb (who has recently quit smoking) that they have been secretly dosing her with nicotine.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Inverted. In "First Day Back," Ms. Watson exclaims that she should be a wife, not have a job.
  • Stop Copying Me: In "Jacob," Ms. Bennigan takes to saying "yeah" and repeating the last couple of words in each of Ms. Snap's sentences. Eventually, Ms. Snap gets annoyed:
    Ms. Snap: [to Ms. Cannon] Well, how about accepting that your deodorant crystal can't stand up to 80 degrees in alpaca?
    Ms. Bennigan: Yeah, alpaca.
    Ms. Snap: Okay, you need to stop that.
    Ms. Bennigan: [to Ms. Cannon] Yeah, stop that.
    Ms. Snap: Seriously?
    Ms. Bennigan: Oh.
  • Take That!:
    • In "Picture Day," Ms. Cannon confesses that the photographer said some unsavory things to her. Mrs. Adler replies, "Oh hell no! If he thinks he's gonna get away with that Cosby crap, he's got another thing coming."
    • Feldman says "Everything from Marshalls!" when her dress tears while she's crawling through the ceiling in "Duct Duct Goose."
    • In "Held Back," Feldman bluntly declares that the Common Core sucks.
    • In "Getting Drilled," Ms. Watson explains a traumatic event during her teen years by saying, "I ruined the magic of Neverland for everyone. And that was before Michael Jackson."
    • In "Lunchtime! The Musical," Ms. Bennigan looks wistfully at Hot Dad and says "I haven't been this depressed since I watched The Da Vinci Code."
    • Mrs. Adler remarks at one point in "Lunchtime! The Musical" that "My skin was so bad my senior year everybody called me Edward James Olmos."
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Parodied in "Duct Duct Goose":
    Mrs. Adler: I know how you feel. I've been there. Sixteen years old, your period's late, you don't know who the father is. But suicide is not the answer.
    Ms. Feldman: Deb, he's an eight-year-old boy in a ceiling, not a sixteen-year-old girl on a ledge.
  • Teacher/Parent Romance: One of the main arcs focuses on Ms. Bennigan's relationship with Blake's father.
  • Teachers Out of School: Ms. Bennigan repeatedly running into a student outside of school is one of the subplots in "For Poorer or Poorer."
  • Third-Person Person: The teachers will sometimes refer to themselves in the third person when speaking to their students.
  • Trauma Conga Line: While filming her Bachelor audition, Ms. Snap makes up a backstory like this for her late fake boyfriend:
    Ms. Snap: Trevor and I were in love, and then, on his eighteenth birthday, he decided to have elective plastic surgery to eliminate his nasolabial folds. During the procedure, he had a stroke and lost all feeling above his shoulders. He couldn't feel his head. When we were camping, due to Trevor's lack of feeling above the neck, he didn't notice a bear sniffing and licking him as he slept, so the bear ate half his face. And then when we went to the hospital for the face transplant, they put his half face on the side where he already had half a face, so he had a double-half-face! It was just so difficult...for me. And then he was hit by a bus.
  • Twisted Ankle: While there's no pursuer, Ms. Snap's sprained ankle makes it more complicated for the group to complete the obstacle course in "Getting Drilled."
  • Two-Teacher School: Downplayed. The main six and Principal Pearson get pretty much all of the focus, but one-off teachers will sometimes figure into episodes, and special ed teacher Mr. Spinnoli is a semi-recurring character. Also, plenty of other teachers show up to the trainings in "Stranger Danger" and "Thoughts and Bears."
  • T-Word Euphemism: This is Ms. Bennigan's preferred way to refer to profanities.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • In "Bad Tweeter," Ms. Feldman tells a student a story that involves drugs. She sanitizes it/makes it more accessible by calling a pot brownie a "courage brownie."
      • In "Brokebitch Mountain," she calls drugs "concert enhancers."
    • In "Stranger Danger," Ms. Bennigan calls breasts "Winnebagoes."
    • Ms. Bennigan refers to menstruation as the "girl flu" in "Brokebitch Mountain."
  • Vague Age: An interesting case. While the grades that Bennigan, Watson, Feldman, Snap, and Adler teach are established in-series, the one Ms. Cannon teaches in the first season is not.note 
  • Visual Innuendo: While sitting on his desk in "Lunchtime! The Musical," Principal Pearson holds his feather duster upright in front of his crotch.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Mary Louise gets one at the end of "The Last Day," probably as part of the fall out from her hypoglycemic meltdown.
    • Mrs. Adler gets several during the course of "Toxic Workplace" which are chalked up to asbestos poisoning. It turns out she's pregnant.
  • Water Torture: Ms. Snap claims that she was waterboarded to get into her sorority.
  • Wedding Finale: Ms. Bennigan and Hot Dad's wedding is the focus of "Wedded Miss."
  • Weight Woe:
    • Mrs. Adler developed an eating disorder in high school.
    • Ms. Snap is obsessed with her weight. She considers being called anorexic a compliment.
  • What a Drag: Near the end of "Sex Ed," Ms. Snap and a student are tied together for the three-legged race. Then the PTA president (who has been harassing Ms. Snap for the entire episode) starts raising the starting pistol. Ms. Snap thinks it's being pointed at her, so she panics and begins running. The kid can't keep up and falls, and he ends up getting dragged behind her as she makes a break for it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ms. Snap and Ms. Bennigan are aghast when Ms. Cannon tells off the special ed teacher.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: In "Sex Ed," Ms. Snap's room parent Mrs. Schneider's duties include lint rolling her sweater and bringing her a demitasse while she's teaching.
  • You're Just Jealous: After hearing a lot of her non-sensical jokes, some of the other teachers try to diplomatically suggest to Ms. Bennigan that she not do stand-up comedy for her church's talent show. She says they're just jealous that God gave her the gift of being funny.