“Abbott Elementary” finds the humor in education issues

Sarah Buchmann, Staff Writer

Released in December 2021, the hit ABC show “Abbott Elementary” has made waves with educators and non-educators alike. 

April 15 marked the finale of the first season of the show after just 13 episodes and the show has already been renewed for a second season. 

A mockumentary sitcom similar to “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” “Abbott Elementary” focuses on the teachers and staff at a Philadelphia elementary school. 

Primarily following second grade teacher Janine Teagues, “Abbott Elementary” highlights some of the struggles that public school teachers face on a daily basis: difficult parents, a severe lack of funding, school politics and standardized testing. 

While all of these are serious problems with the education system, creator and star of the show Quinta Brunson managed to make every situation hilarious. 

“We didn’t try to make anything funny that couldn’t be made funny,” Brunson said to Time Magazine.

“Abbott Elementary” also avoided discussing the COVID-19 pandemic. Brunson said she thought it was “a stronger play to show what teachers are dealing with outside of COVID.” 

Seeing how other shows have attempted to address the pandemic, I think it was a wise choice. Teachers already have so much to deal with, and adding the pandemic stress may have been too much for the show to handle in its first season.

Part of the show’s success can be attributed to its diverse cast of characters. The cast is mainly Black and also features queer teacher Jacob Hill, played by Chris Perfetti. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Brunson said, “It was important to us to not make it a ‘coming out’ story. Instead it was like Janine and Jacob are people who probably have grown up with queer or gay people in their life. They’re not going to have a coming-out discussion.” 

“Abbott Elementary” makes it a point to not make racial or sexual identities a plot point. Characters just are who they are, and that’s part of what makes the show so appealing.  

Of course, the slow-burn romance between Janine and Gregory also keeps audiences hooked. Gregory has been likened to Jim from “The Office,” with his good looks, disappointed looks into the camera and his pining after Janine. 

It’s similar to Jim and Pam, or even Ben and Leslie from “Parks and Recreation.” While Gregory and Janine haven’t made any definite moves towards a relationship yet, it’s clear they’re headed in a romantic direction. The only question for fans now is when. 

Real life teachers are excited about the show. Black teachers make up less than seven percent of the teachers in America, and only two percent of teachers are Black men.

Buzzfeed interviewed Marquise Richards, a Black teacher in Philadelphia, who connected deeply with Gregory Eddie, a substitute teacher on the show played by Tyler James Williams. 

Richards said, “There’s not that many Black men in education [and] we don’t get to see Black men really interact with children. To see [Gregory] let loose during an episode and start dancing, I said ‘Oh, my gosh, this is so nice to see.” 

Other teachers have directly reached out to Brunson to let her know how much of an impact the show has had on them. 

Brunson even donated the show’s marketing budget towards school supplies for teachers, giving back to the community she loves so much. 

“Abbott Elementary” is not only a must-watch for education majors, but for anyone who needs a little light in their day. Brunson has stated that the show is her “heart on paper”, and that’s certainly how it feels. 

The show is a love letter to teachers, people of color and members of the queer community and found the perfect balance of pointing out issues and maintaining humor.

 

5/5 Stars