Study Guide

Mrs. Jewls in Sideways Stories From Wayside School

By Louis Sachar

Mrs. Jewls

Mrs. Jewls, the teacher on the thirtieth floor, features in almost every story except the first—when the evil Mrs. Gorf is in charge. In contrast to scary Mrs. Gorf, Mrs. Jewls has a "terribly nice face" (2.1) and is supposed to be a "terribly nice teacher" (2.2)—which is as terrifying to the kids on the thirtieth floor, who are used to being turned into apples. Luckily though, it all works out for the best.

Mrs. Jewls happens to be terrified of terribly cute children, and the kids in her classroom are so cute she assumes they're all monkeys. Once she figures out they're actually kids, they all get down to business, because Mrs. Jewls takes learning pretty seriously when she's not dealing with monkeys.

Smarter Than You Think?

Mrs. Jewls can be both incredibly wise or incredibly clueless. She's dedicated to helping kids who are having trouble in class, and keeps them in at recess for individual help. Mrs. Jewls coaches Joe, who can't count in the right order, until she bangs her head against the wall in frustration, but tells him that he's going to figure it out one day—and she's right.

She can be very tolerant of different learning styles, though sometimes too much so. Sharie, for example, sleeps and stares out the window during class, but Mrs. Jewls insists that "a lot of people learn best when they stare out a window" (4.2). When Sharie starts snoring, Mrs. Jewls comments, "She must be learning an awful lot today. I wish the rest of you could be like her" (4.11). While this is probably pretty awesome for Sharie in the short term (having your nap interrupted is terrible), we're not so sure it serves Sharie very well in the big picture.

Mrs. Jewls doesn't mess around when it comes to discipline, although she has a terrible track record for blaming the right kids. She has a consistent system that the kids know well: the word discipline is up on the board, and Mrs. Jewls writes names under it, using a "three strikes, you're out" rule. A written name, circled, with a check next to it means a kid will be sent home early on the kindergarten bus. It's an effective policy—but a little too effective for Todd, who gets sent home every single day on the early bus despite not ever really doing anything wrong.

Mrs. Jewls' cluelessness extends to things other than discipline. She sends Calvin on a mysterious mission to take a note to a teacher who doesn't exist; she dismisses Myron from his job as class president when he's actually the best president the school's ever had; and she sends Dameon running up and down thirty flights of stairs multiple times just to ask Louis if he wants to watch a movie with the class.

A Jewel of a Teacher

Even with Mrs. Jewls' hilarious tendencies to get things wrong, she does have a nearly magical ability to get some things right. Before Bebe can kill thousands of trees with her artistic output, Mrs. Jewls teaches Bebe that quality in art is more important than quantity. She also turns mosquito bites into numbers to teach Dana math and get rid of her itching all at once. Mrs. Jewls helps flip John's worldview so he can read right-side up, and most magically of all, Mrs. Jewls has the ability to make ice cream in the flavor of any kid in her class.

But there's one reason Mrs. Jewls is a truly fantastic teacher, and it's that she actually realizes a very important truth. As she tells Allison:

"You learned that children are really smarter than their teachers," said Mrs. Jewls. (23.32)

By the way: Mrs. Jewls doesn't tolerate any dead rats in her classroom. Sammy, we hope you're listening.