Fresh off of three Emmy wins, one with Sheryl Lee Ralph leading as best supporting actress in a comedy, Abbott Elementary season two has officially hit our screens. We get to see Janine, Barbara, Jacob, Gregory, Melissa, and our favorite principal Ava take on a new group of kids.
The subject of the episode is professional development week! This is usually the week before students come in when teachers create lesson plans, learn about their students, and decorate. This also includes useless professional development, mundane rules and expectation chats, and a bunch of awkward ice-breakers.
This episode also focuses on Janine. At the end of the last season, she and her longtime boyfriend Tyriq called it quits, and she is not taking it well. In springing herself into her work, she puts herself in a precarious position at the start of the season. The one thing we all know about the teaching profession is that teachers are not paid what they’re worth. The salary for most is not worth the constant lesson planning, poor resources, or parent-teacher conferences.
While funding has been a staple discussion in the series, we have not had an opportunity to see how the profession affects the home life of teaching. Many teachers live paycheck to paycheck with barely enough funds to get by. Knowing this, it is easy for many teachers to become Janine. They ignore the dire circumstances and thrust themselves into lesson planning.
On the backdrop of Janine’s looming financial issues, the rest of the teachers seem to be doing fine. Jacob spent his summer in Peru teaching, where he was called El diablo Blanco the entire time; he also has taken up ASL. Barbra went on an all-inclusive cruise to Jamaica and helped Ava appropriate the funds they secured in the season finale. Gregory spent his summer lesson planning, as he is a full-time teacher this season. Melissa spent the summer with the vending machine, Gary, down on the Jersey shore. Also Ava now has a hooka flavor named after her.
Outside of Janine’s financial troubles, she has bossed up this season. As Jacob said last season, the second year of teaching is always Hell. Because you survived last year, you think that this year will be a breeze, and it’s nothing of the sort. As a teacher in his third year, I am, in many ways, Janine. After the hell that is your second year, you feel invincible. You feel like you can conquer the world! Bring on the students! Bring on the parents! Even the district!
That feeling is important! Teachers who feel confident in their ability teach better. However, as we have been repeating for years, self-care is important. Abbott Elementary does a great job of showcasing the martyrdom of teaching. Teaching should not be a job that kills you. It should be a fulfilling, well-paying job that keeps you happy because of your great work. Gregory’s monologue rings true. As teachers, we can not do it all; there is no way we can. However, we do what we can. And we do it damn good.
Janine’s character development in this season will be the most interesting, to say the least. Outside of the plot itself, the premiere is satisfying. Furthermore, they touch on tough topics we will see played out in the season. From ableism in schools to unmanageable class sizes, Abbot will do what it does best: expose the truth about what the teaching profession truly is.
Seeing the characters again is an exciting feeling, and the premier has that season two magic that all the great series have. Along with Janine’s character development, all the characters seemed refreshed and happy. Which, again, mirrors the real world of teaching. However, in no time, we will see those familiar tired faces and comedic cynicism that we all love to see.
For more from Deareyes, check out his review of Idris Elba’s Beast!