In the spring of 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic, teachers were hailed as heroes whose superpowers took shape inside of computer screens instead of school buildings. By that winter, though, many educators reported that their favorable public reception had rapidly dwindled as schools and families warred over the return to in-person schooling.
Lack of public respect for the teaching profession isn’t a symptom of the pandemic, though it may have intensified over the past two years. Low pay and poor school building conditions are perennial issues.
Seeing these issues be brought to life in a mainstream TV show has offered some exhausted and anxious teachers comedic relief—but more importantly, inspiration, representation, and hope for the future of teaching and learning.
‘Funny, relatable, and encouraging’
Education Week reporter Ileana Najarro recently interviewed the creator and star of “Abbott Elementary,” Quinta Brunson, about the new award-winning ABC show set in a fictional West Philadelphia public school. Brunson, whose mother who taught in Philadelphia, aims to “[capture] the nuances of the teaching profession, the significance of Black teachers and predominantly Black schools like Abbott, and the hope that the show can garner more support for real teachers across the country.”
Here are some responses to “Abbott Elementary,” which premiered in December 2021, from the very demographic the show wishes to honor: teachers.
‘Set aside for summer’
Some educators took exception to a comedic framing of the teaching profession in 2022, especially considering the mile-high hurdles teachers must jump over during the pandemic.
‘Thank you for your service’
Teachers aren’t the only viewers appreciating the show’s raw depiction of K-12 education. Some non-educators on Twitter voiced how the show’s transformed their view on teaching, reminding them of how difficult—but necessary—the profession is.
“I want people to be moved to support schools and teachers in any way they can, whether that be to donate to a wish list, because that’s what people need right now,” shared Brunson in her interview with Education Week.
“Teachers are already fighting for change within the schools, but they’re also teaching so I think that citizens could offer a little bit more help,” she said. “There’s so many things you can do to make sure that this show doesn’t exist anymore.”