At 5am, the options at my gym are limited, so I am locked in on 90s sitcoms. 

In the most recent installment of Family Matters, Eddie (the eldest Winslow sibling) and a buddy get themselves mired in the seedy underbelly of local, pool hall gambling. Though it was clear to Erkel that the pool shark was conning his friend, it wasn’t until Eddie was on the hook for five hundred dollars that the gravity of the situation crystallized. 

But have no fear! In a shocking twist, Erkel steps in to bail out his neighbor by using math to determine the angle and speed at which he had to strike the cue ball to run game and win Eddie his money back. 

Plot twist! One of the pool sharks takes Erkel’s glasses and smashes them to nerdy bits just as he was about to win Eddie his money back!

<Commercial break>

Another plot twist! Somehow Carl and Estelle Winslow find out about the hustle and show up! Yay! Carl, in full police uniform, which has to break some sort of protocol, offers not to break up the game and arrest the con men but to step in for Erkel and finish the game. Predictably, he runs the table and is about to sink the eight ball but a horrendous leave makes that shot a statistical improbability, much to the delight of the sleeveless villain. 

Another (another) plot twist! For reasons we can’t fathom, Estelle, a stout octogenarian, offers to step in for her son and Erkel and attempt the impossible shot. After a poorly edited slo-mo and some spotty interpretation of billiards rules, Estelle sinks the eight ball, all gambled monies are returned, and order is restored. 

All in a tight 30 minutes.  

The irony, of course, is that sitcoms have taught us not that the world’s problems can be solved in half hour increments but how ridiculous it is to expect them to be. 

In our school, the schedule runs on the half hour, which means that, theoretically, teachers have 30/60 minutes to teach a mini lesson, allow for guided and independent practice, offer centers, collect data, combine groups, include brain breaks, expect and adjust to struggle, answer questions, and transition to the next subject. 

Secondary teachers have it even worse with the specter of the bell looming over each lesson. Picture a deep discussion on a novel or a group presentation on social justice being cut short because, well, time’s up. The prospect of returning to that flow the next day with the same level of depth or passion is as flimsy as any sitcom’s premise.

So we do the best we can, we support teachers’ autonomy when lessons do run long, we praise the process not the destination, and we try again.

And we stay the hell out of pool halls when Estelle Winslow is shooting stick.

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