‘Abbott Elementary’ is the most real show about being a teacher to hit the small screen
If you haven’t started watching the new ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary, you should probably hop on that, STAT. For those unfamiliar, the mockumentary-style show follows a group of teachers at Abbott Elementary, a wildly underfunded public school in the heart of Philadelphia, as they try their best not just to keep their head above water, but to ensure that their students are getting a compassionate, full education as well. Created by and starring Quinta Brunson, the hit comedy has already racked up a solid fanbase, with more than 7 million total viewers, according to the network.
To anyone who’s ever been involved in the public education sector, the show hilarious in that all-too-real way. In one scene, the school janitor, an Illuminati conspiracist, takes over teaching a class due to massive understaffing. In another, a severe lack of funding leaves the lights in one hallway of Abbott Elementary flickering, scaring the children who have no choice but to walk through the seemingly haunted hallway. As a former teaching assistant, this scene instantly brought me back to my own experience where we had one entrance sealed off because of a rampant termite infestation the school couldn’t afford to fix. Yes, really.
Even without the added stress of Covid-19 safety protocols in schools, the show strikes a chord with teachers everywhere
Brunson, who plays newer teacher Janine Teagues, credits growing up with a mother who was a teacher as a reason for creating the show. She also hopes that the show continues to bring to light the host of issues in our country’s public education system and inspire continued conversation.
“Schools are at the center, unfortunately, of Covid debates, at the center of gun violence debates, at the center of educational debates, like critical race theory and all that stuff. It just happened to come at this time,” Brunson told EdWeek.
“Three years ago, no one was talking about teachers as much as they are now, not in this way. And now, everywhere we look, we’re talking about education, which is unique. I hope that it leads us into a better place in this country with our treatment of education, specifically public education.”
The good news is people are already talking about the show — specifically teachers, both current and former.
Not only do these teachers feel like the show captures the chaos that is teaching elementary students, but they also have some suggestions for show topics as well — anyone else hoping for a Scholastic Book Fair-themed episode?
The show can be light-hearted and tender, but it also gets real and addresses the systemic racism in public education and the school-to-prison-pipeline. In one episode, the teachers get new tablets, but by the end, the school’s aloof Principal Ava takes away the new tablets, as she learned that the data is being tracked by prisons.
It also touches on something near and dear to every teacher’s heart — that one, how do we say, special student that always manages to strike a nerve and wiggle out of assignments, no matter how you try to approach the student or situation. We all have our Courtney.
Here’s to hoping that Abbott Elementary gets renewed for a second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) season, and that it helps shed light on just how damn hard teachers work, sometimes quite literally, to keep the lights on.