A room full of past, present and future educators at the University of Maryland gathered Wednesday for a delightfully meta experience of watching a show they all could relate to: Abbott Elementary.
More than 20 people attended a watch party organized by this university’s education college for the “supersized” season 3 premiere of Abbott Elementary. Greyson Cox, a higher education master’s student, had never seen Abbott before, but showed up to support the college.
After watching the premiere, Cox felt the need to get educated on the first two seasons.
“It’s nice to see what’s happening in the K-12 system [through the show] because I know that is what feeds into the universities,” Cox said. “I thought it’d be a nice chance to get to hang out with some of the undergrads and watch a TV show that’s at least somewhat related.”
The event’s atmosphere was effortlessly welcoming, with students and faculty chatting about everything from their nail colors to lesson plans, all while snacking on popcorn and pizza. The event aimed to bring staff and students in this university’s education programs together as a community, Kimberly Griffin, the dean of this university’s education college, said.
At 9 p.m., the room went silent as Abbott’s familiar cast members returned to the screen.
Five months passed in the show’s timeline between seasons 2 and 3 — 10 months in real life — but the fan-favorite humor and character quirks remained intact in the season premiere.
First-grade teacher Gregory, played by Tyler James Williams, still has his awkward looks to the camera. Janelle James’ principal Ava continued to broadcast quippy one-liners over the intercom speaker. Kindergarten teacher Barbara, played by Sheryl Lee Ralph, dropped many wise truth bombs and not-quite-right pop-culture references with the same Emmy-winning delivery.
With the five month time jump, Janine, played by show creator Quinta Brunson, is now working for the school district and Ava is finally taking her role as a principal seriously — to the annoyance of the rest of the staff. In a gasp-worthy turn of events, tension continued to grow between Gregory and Janine in the season’s opening episode.
In addition to the show’s lovable characters and hilarious moments, Kimberly Griffin, the dean of this university’s education college, said she respects Brunson’s knack for weaving meaningful, realistic commentary into each episode.
“One of the things I appreciate about this show is that it always gives you a glimpse into real issues that we’re still struggling with and thinking through as educators,” Griffin said.
The season’s first episode also begins to touch on a new topic: the role the school district plays in elementary education. It also confronts the skepticism some educators hold toward school system policies and ideas.
“I think Abbott Elementary is a good show to highlight a lot of what’s happening in our school districts,” Jahaira Dixon, the Terrapin Teachers Program’s management specialist, said. “Although it is for comedy purposes, there’s still some relevancy in terms of what’s going on in our systems and things that our students can be looking out for, which will lead to different discussions on how to improve the overall environment and systems for students.”
Gregory is Griffin’s favorite character because of his dead pans and unintentional humor. It seemed the crowd agreed with the dean during the episode viewing, as there were huge bursts of laughter any time Gregory looked directly at the camera with his signature move.
Griffin also shared that she sees herself in Janine, and enjoyed watching her character evolve to set boundaries and realize her worth as a teacher across the show’s first two seasons.
Collective gasps, groans and hearty chuckles filled the Benjamin Building for a full hour. The show’s premiere promised a season full of heart, humor and the slowest burn to ever slow burn — and perhaps “the first of many” education college watch parties to come, Griffin said.
“I think moving forward, it would be so fun to watch an episode and have a talkback or have faculty members who study whatever it is that’s being discussed in the show talk about it,” Griffin said.
Correction: A previous version of this story’s photo caption misstated that the watch party was for Abbott Elementary’s Season 2 premiere. This story’s photo caption has been updated.