October 17, 2022

Jose Luis Vilson: Cry on the Last Day of School, Too (On Abbott Elementary)

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Just in case you need one more recommendation to watch this show, Jose Luis Vilson is prepared to give you more reasons to watch and appreciate Abbott Elementary.

Vilson points out the recognizable characters, the people that every teacher has worked with in their career. But he also talks about why this is the show teachers need right now.

This show feels even more necessary as the profession is under serious turmoil. As many as 570,000 educators have left the profession, depending on how you look at the numbers. On the one hand, the pandemic has had a deleterious effect on the teaching workforce. Many of us who’d been asking our school systems to rectify working conditions, including capacity for digital learning, were rebuffed repeatedly and systemically. This happened across the country, whether the teaching force was unionized or not. With over 16,000 school districts and a decentralized decision-making structure, the United States was bound to have a mess on its hands when real crises happen. While some federal policymakers have collaborated on some common-sense solutions, we’re still further away from making the teaching profession an attractive option for real recruitment and retention.

Plus, with so many educators turning their hobbies into side hustles, the phrase “do what you love and love what you do” has never been so poignant.

Yet, for 22 minutes or so at a time, Abbott gives educators the gift of mirrors. We’re offered the proper level of critique and dignity we deserve, especially for those who teach in less-resourced contexts. How can you not relate to Mr. Hill’s idealism or Ms. Schemmenti’s brusque yet warm attitude? How many of us haven’t had a Ms. Howard down the hall still going about her business even as she can’t stand the newfangled approaches to our work? And maybe Mr. Eddie’s cool and stalwart demeanor comes not just from a strict upbringing but understanding that he prefers being taken seriously by everyone around him (yes, that’s my mirror). Even Janelle James’ portrayal of Principal Coleman gives off a loveable quirkiness that had held together many a staff (don’t ask me how I know).

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