Managing Abbott Elementary

By Larry Jacobs

Abbott Elementary is that delightful and insightful new sitcom on TV about an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia and its caring and hardworking new and veteran teachers. Thank you, Quinta Brunson, for creating it and getting the word out. It’s important.

But every review I have read describes the principal as (to put them all together in a paraphrase) a ‘caring, but ineffective, self-involved, kinda stupid, semi-bumbling roadblock’ to what the teachers and kids really need.

Okay, every sitcom needs a foil

I get it, but since everyone in media is touting how important this show is to understand what’s happening in a lot of schools today, nothing could be further from the truth about the picture they are creating of an elementary school principal.

Elementary school principals (PreK through many times grades 6-7) are caring, well-trained educators, all former teachers who went into education for the same reasons their faculty did, and work as managers in bureaucracies. It’s a hard job, but somebody has to run the school… and it goes way beyond managing learning these days. It’s managing everything from learning, to faculty, to mental health, to staff to community to parents…….want me to keep going…. to bus routes, to feeding kids who need it, to social-emotional management of faculty, staff and kids, to curriculum management, to evaluations, etc., etc.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals just did research on the subject with the immense help of WestEd (especially Dr. Matt Clifford, WestEd’s lead researcher) about the stress of the job, how the priorities of the job have changed and how principals are trying their very, very best to herd all the cats… as people keep dropping off more and more cats.

It’s hard to herd cats. We just did a podcast with Dr. Clifford and NAESP all about it. Listen to it here and then go enjoy Abbott Elementary. And then go thank an educator.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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