During the course of the film, School of Rock, the main character, Dewey Finn, manages to become a successful teacher. Discuss School of Rock examines the farcical situation that develops when failed rock guitarist, Dewey Finn, becomes a substitute teacher at the prestigious prep school, Horace Green. Dewey lands the job by pretending to be Ned Schneebly, his flatmate and best friend. We expect him to fail miserably but despite some setbacks, Dewey manages turn himself into a caring and inspiring teacher.
When Dewey first arrives at Horace Green, he is clearly unfit for teaching. Things change, however, when Dewey overhears the students’ music class and realises that they could help him win ‘Battle of the Bands’. He invents a class project, ‘Rock Band’, and assigns tasks for all of the students. At first Dewey’s teaching style is very teacher-centred, but as he bonds with the students they start to take ownership of the project. We see some of Dewey’s emerging skill as he brings out the best in students who seem to lack confidence, in particular, Zack, Lawrence and Tomika.
After some ups and downs the band plays a great show and the approval of the audience affirm that Dewey has become a legitimate and successful teacher. When we first meet Dewey Finn we quickly recognise him as a try-hard loser. He is on stage playing guitar and clearly digging it. However, his comical, exaggerated, self-indulgent stage antics are not popular with the audience or the rest of the band and he experiences the ultimate humiliation when his stage dive lands him flat on his face; the audience having parted to avoid his considerable bulk.
Things get worse for Dewey when he fronts up late to a band rehearsal the next day to discover he’s been ‘fired’. Desperate for ‘cash’ to repay Ned for covering his ‘share of the rent’, Dewey is forced to consider selling one of his guitars, despite sprouting the ridiculous line, ‘Would you tell Picasso to sell his guitars? ’ When this also falls through, fate intervenes in the form of Principal Mullins from Horace Green, who calls Ned Schneebly desperately needing a substitute teacher. Dewey successfully impersonates Ned and lands ‘the gig’.
When Dewey/Ned arrives at the school and informs Ms Mullins that he is ‘a hard-ass’ and has ‘no problem smacking’ a student who ‘gets out of line’ we sense that Dewey’s career as a substitute teacher will soon end in disaster. Our confidence in Dewey is further eroded when he gets inside the classroom; as he can’t spell his ‘own’ name, Schneebly, and then confesses to being ‘hung over’ and ‘hungry’. Dewey orders ‘recess’ for the rest of the day and upsets ‘class factotum’ Summer Hathaway when he tears the gold star and demerit chart off the wall.
The sight of Dewey poised waiting for the bell and then sprinting to his van, ignoring Principal Mullins in the process, reinforces our sense of doom. However, the tone of the classroom changes after Dewey inadvertently overhears the students’ music class. He quickly grabs equipment from the back of his van – guitars, drums, amps etc. – and transforms the classroom into a rehearsal space. At first his actions are motivated by self-interest: winning ‘Battle of the Bands’ and claiming the ‘$20,000 prize’.
However another side of Dewey Finn begins to emerge as he identifies with and encourages some of the less confident students. After a few wrong turns, Dewey manages to assign every student a meaningful role and to bind the class into a cohesive team. Dewey intuitively responds to the needs of students like lead guitarist, Zack, Lawrence on keyboards and backing singer Tomika. Dewey sees Zack being bullied by his father in the carpark before school – ‘guitar after homework and chores’ – and devises a special lesson to help Zack find the strength to stand up for himself.
Zack responds by writing a great song. Lawrence only plays ‘piano’ not keyboards, and sees himself as ‘not cool’; but with Dewey’s support Lawrence becomes ‘the bees knees’. He is Dewey’s most loyal supporter when the parents discover the scam, adamant that the project ‘was not a waste of time! ’ Tomika is a wonderful singer but too shy to audition because she’s ‘fat’. Dewey’s generous encouragement, ‘You got talent, girl! ’ helps Tomika find the confidence to fulfil her potential. Other students like Summer (band manager), Gordon (lights), and Billy (costumes), all make significant contributions.
So after a shaky beginning, Dewey’s class is successfully working together to create ‘a kick-ass show’; however, this is thrown into turmoil when the principal and the parents discover that Dewey is ‘not a real teacher’. Dewey is one day away from ‘Battle of the Bands’ when his scam is discovered. A concerned policeman breaks the news at a parent evening and Dewey is chased out of Horace Green by angry parents. He immediately reverts to old habits, sleeping in and feeling sorry for himself, but the students are determined to see it through.
Once again they find themselves without a teacher and take advantage of the situation by tricking the bus driver to take them to the show, picking up Dewey on the way. Running late there is only time for one song and Dewey shows his increased maturity by recommending they play ‘Zack’s song’ as he finally realises the students are ‘better than’ him. They play the song to rapturous applause, but Dewey’s excitement vanishes when No Vacancy are announced as winners. The students remind Dewey of some of his critical lessons, ‘Rock isn’t about getting an A’ and ‘Don’t let the man get you down’.
The band is called back for an encore and Dewey is vindicated when Principal Mullins, the parents and even Ned, forgive him and join in the celebrations. This reminds us of Ms Mullins’ words, ‘You are a dedicated, talented teacher, and those parents are gonna love you. ’ Dewey’s words, ‘Look they’re really cool kids, and if they were mine, I would be so proud’ are even more insightful and show his transformation from wannabe rock star to an inspiring teacher. Dewey Finn initially seeks employment as a substitute teacher at Horace Green for selfish reasons.
Desperate for money, he lies about his identity and has no intention to keep to the ‘curriculum’. At first he tells the student to ‘chill’, but after he overhears the students’ music class he devises a class project. Again Dewey is motivated by selfishness; he wants to win ‘Battle of the Bands’ and score the $20,000. However, Dewey’s passion for music helps him bond with the students. He becomes a supportive and encouraging figure and the students begin to take ownership of the project.
Each student achieves individual success and despite a few setbacks The School of Rock put on a great show; winning over Principal Mullins, the parents and the real Ned Schneebly. In the last scene we witness the completion of Dewey’s transformation from failed guitarist to successful teacher as he and Ned open their own music school. As Dewey jams with the band over the final credits we see a contented man who has finally found his calling. It’s a long way to the top If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll