I’m really fallen in love with Abbott Elementary lately. It’s a sitcom about schoolteachers doing their best and it’s the sort of sitcom filled with such warmth and heart that it scratches that itch inside me that needs stories of hope.
It’s especially remarkable the way the show is able to weave together its optimistic outlook with its characters and comedy. Take the first episode of the second season. One of the episode’s running gags involves Jacob learning ASL while teaching abroad in Peru. The joke stems from Jacob, the one white teacher in a predominately Black school in Philadelphia, almost always trying way too hard to be a good ally. His heart’s in the right place and it’s fun to watch him do the most to try and account for his white guilt. So of course he spent the summer teaching abroad (where he was nicknamed el diablo blanco) and of course he tried to learn American Sign Language after watching CODA. Great joke: gets a solid laugh and works with the character.
When Philadelphian icon Gritty shows up on the wrong day due to a scheduling snafu, Jacob is able to communicate with him in sign language. It’s the payoff to the joke: his sign language does come in useful! Except it’s to communicate with a furry, orange mascot. It’s a great punchline to an overachiever trying too hard.
But that’s not the end of it. The episode ends with the first day of school and the teachers meeting their new students. One of Jacob’s students is a student who uses ASL and he introduces himself to her in sign language. Her face brightens and she responds in kind. And here is where we see that beautiful warm heart of Abbott. Jacob’s a teacher who wants the best for his students and will go above and beyond to be the best possible teacher. In this show, that’s not a joke, that is an ideal. So Abbott rewards that work, that effort. Yes, doing the most can look silly, but it’s absolutely worth it, even for just one student.
Time and time and again in Abbott the conflicts stem from the teachers struggling against the limitations of the systems to try and make the school a better place for their students. It’s funny and sometimes more than a little silly, but through it all the ethos of the show rings true. The world can be a better place and it’s worth trying to make it one. Besides, you just might get to talk to Gritty in the process.
1 thought on “A Hopeful World”
We just started watching Abbott (just finished the 1st season) and we’re really enjoying it, too! (Also – hey, I still read your blog 😉 and if you’re suddenly getting pings from France… that’s us)