Thursday, October 13, 2022

REVIEW: 'Abbott Elementary' - Gregory Learns How to Discipline While Melissa Invites Janine to Her Home in 'Principal's Office'

ABC's Abbott Elementary - Episode 2.04 "Principal's Office"

After Gregory sends a disruptive student to the principal's office, he's dismayed to find out the kids actually enjoy spending the supposed disciplinary time with Ava. Melissa invites Janine over to her house to teach her how to cook, but Janine becomes determined to reunite Melissa with her estranged sister.

"Principal's Office" was written by Brittani Nichols and directed by Shahrzad Davani

Complicated family dynamics have essentially left Janine and Gregory without the tools to function in life. They require the veteran teachers at Abbott to teach them in areas outside of the classroom. Janine and Gregory both have ambitions. They have their sights set on wonderful careers where they can make a difference in so many lives. And yet, they struggle with the practical realities. Gregory knows what the expectations are as a principal. That was the job he wanted. He accepted a permanent teaching job at Abbott because he saw something special in this place. He could have had Ava's job if he wanted it. He certainly doesn't like her style of leadership. He expects more from her. He still holds her to that high standard despite knowing her for a year. It doesn't line up with the reality of the situation. Ava believes the walk of shame to the principal's office is punishment enough for anyone disrupting class. She doesn't want to add to their burden. She believes it's necessary for the teachers to find creative ways to handle the disruptions without relying on her. She can't provide those resources to them. Gregory believes she should. That's what a good administrator would do. He still aspires for the job. He beams with pride when he gets to sit in her chair for a second. And yet, he doesn't know how to discipline. He requires others to teach him. He believes he knows the proper way to do so. However, he's realizing how his father's condemnation of childish behavior turned him into the man he is today. It's not acceptable for Gregory to refer to his father as "pops." That's crossing a line. It indicates a disrespect. Gregory is already going against family expectations by pursuing this career as an educator. He wants to do things differently. He's struggling because it's so easy for him to fall back into line. He caves to what his father demands of him. He is still treated as an authority figure in the classroom. It's not about how deep he can make his voice sound. It's his responsibility to understand what's going on in the lives of his students. He needs to make learning matter to each of them. That can be an impossible task given how many students he has to look after. One disruptor is enough to throw him even further behind schedule. Gregory putting more effort and attention onto one student could come at the expense of the rest of the class too. He has to carefully balance all of these concerns. And so, learning becomes fun. Gregory recognizes how one student is obsessed with Bluey. Him incorporating images from the show is enough to get that student to pay attention. He still may not know the answer. However, the effort is made. That showcases a willingness to learn and an appreciation for connecting with him on his level. That allows Gregory to move more confidently elsewhere even if it doesn't produce lasting strength within him.

Similarly, Janine laments how her mother never taught her and her sister how to cook. Melissa takes pity on her. To her, food is an expression of life and all its emotions. It's the proper way to convey how she is feeling in any given moment. It matters to her. She doesn't want someone to suffer simply because they don't know how to prosper in this way. It opens up the connection between them as well. Sure, Jacob comes along too. That's unnecessary. However, Janine and Melissa bond. They have similar problems. They are distant from their sisters. For Janine, it's all about distance. Her sister no longer lives in Philadelphia. She left because she could no longer deal with their mother. Janine doesn't have a great relationship with her mother either. That's why she projects so much meaning onto the Abbott staff being a family. She is getting closer to Melissa. She is invited to her home. The cameras even get to document this moment. It's weird. Janine's heart is always in the right place. However, Melissa's relationship with her sister is very different than what Janine has with hers. It's all focused on the way people communicate. Everyone shows their affection in a different way. Janine convinces Kristin Marie to visit Melissa for the first time since their grandmother's death. It's a hostile conversation. It's also centered around food. That's not the root of what's going on. Instead, it's all focused on how important family should be. Kristin Marie left the family behind because it was too emotionally difficult for her. It was hard on Melissa too. She stuck it out because it was important to be there with her grandmother in the end. Fighting with her sister was always the norm between them. And so, this argument feels good. Melissa likes that. She's mad at how Janine made it happen. She knew it was a bad idea to invite Janine over to her house. She still saw the value in doing so. That's especially noteworthy. This isn't the first time Janine's plans haven't worked out how she expected. She persists though. It doesn't matter how often things don't work out for her. She's a good teacher and wants to bond with the people at her job. That means something to her. It's a significant expression of her love. She doesn't mind being embarrassed. It's all a powerful perspective. One that remains enduring no matter what happens. It showcases how these people are fundamentally human. Even Barbara enjoys the excesses of performing "Happy Birthday" to her students. The classroom is about the teachers as much as it is the students. It's a careful balance. One that always requires respect. However, it's home to so much comedy as well. These adults aren't always sure what they should be doing to handle the situations that arise on a daily basis. Everyone has an opinion. They clash. They work together. Peaceful resolutions are found. Nothing really changes but the inspiration for the nobility of this work persists. That now extends outside the workplace too.