I showed a few of my strip drafts for Teaching Ted to some of my colleagues yesterday, and they were... concerned. They are good colleagues, and I trust that they are looking out for me. They said that I should maybe re-consider publishing Teaching Ted. I am a public school employee, and I could easily get myself into trouble with an administrator, parent, or student who sees themself reflected in some negative way in the strip.
This is a fair concern. I'm in the middle of completing my beginning-of-year video trainings, and the advice in all things hews towards, 'when in doubt, err on the side of caution'.
I am a public employee who is held to a higher standard. I have accepted that a long time ago. It might not be fair, but I am judged, and my behavior is scrutinized, even after the school day ends. I go to the local supermarket to get milk and eggs, but I'm not Mike - I'm still Dr. Desing, and (the community presumes) a representative of my school. I attempt to comport myself appropriately as a result. I accept that as part of my life as a teacher.
So, is Teaching Ted in some way a violation of that?
It's a fair question. I want to make sure I don't inadvertantly violate confidentiality or compromise my professionalism. However, I'm also a citizen of the United States with the legal right (and I'd even argue a responsibility) to criticize what I see as inequities or hypocrisy in our political, cultural, and social systems. I think I can move forward with a clear conscience. I know what my intentions are, and I think that petty people are going to be petty if they want to be; trying to get ahead of the pettiness of others is a fool's errand. If I say something that gets someone mad, then it's possible I've simply called them out on their behaviors, and they're not happy about it.
That said, here are the decisions I've made regarding Teaching Ted that should buffer me pretty well:
The Superintendent is the Charlie's Angels voice box; it is a disconnected voice. 'The Superintendent' speaks in cliches and eduspeak. The Superintendent is a hybrid of all medioce superintendents everywhere (and there are many of them).
The principal is going to be Napoleon Bonaparte. In earlier variations, he was a man with a Napoleon complex. Going with a parody of the actual historical Napoleon is going to solve my problem.
I'm never going to mention parent or student names (except for generic first names like 'Joe' or 'Sue'). Parent and student faces will never appear in the strip.
I lean towards only wanting to fully reveal characters who are sympathetic and likeable. Mr. Victor, while probably an effective teacher, has also given in to some of the worst impulses that teachers can be pulled towards. He's lazy and selfish, and doesn't really put his students first. As a result, his face is always hidden behind a newspaper.
So, I figure I go forward... and I have this blog entry for when I get into trouble later on :)