Saturday, August 20, 2022

Following the Muse

It's been a busy couple of weeks with finishing up summer school and various and sundry projects. I haven't made nearly the progress I wanted to make on Army Ants, but that was okay. I was fine with letting it be ready when it was ready.

But in the last few days, I've been thinking again about my strip Teaching Ted. This was, far and away, the most successful thing I've ever done in terms of cartooning. There were a few dozen regular readers, and I had one strip that went viral on a national teacher blog, and that had a few thousand eyeballs on it. It was a pleasant experience.

But then something happened: I decided to become an administrator. I decided to pursue a doctorate in educational leadership, and to move into running a school. I wanted to take the issues I saw and skewered in Teaching Ted and be more productive - fix the problems rather than just complaining about them and making fun of them. I also didn't think it was a good idea to be poking fun at teachers and administrators while I was trying to move into school leadership; if you are a principal and make fun of teachers, it's now bullying. So, I stopped Teaching Ted.

A few months later, my computer had the crash of all crashes, and I lost everything, including all of my Teaching Ted strips, which numbered over 150. Oh well. Onward and upward.

I eventually got my doctorate. I interviewed for jobs. And interviewed. And interviewed. And interviewed some more. Fifty-four interviews and four-and-a-half years later, I believe it might be time to reconsider. Nobody in a position of authority wants me to lead a school. I get the sense that people don't think I have 'what it takes' to be a school leader. Or maybe it's because I have a hole in my forehead from cancer and it makes people uncomfortable. I have no way of knowing.

It's funny, because I will talk to someone (usually a teacher) about a deeply-rooted problem in education, and I'll be able to explain what is wrong, why it's broken, and outline some steps we could take that might help to address the root problems. I often end these conversations with people telling me that I should be in charge of a school. They are probably right. I do know what I'm talking about. That's why you get a doctorate; you become less likely to talk out of your butt.

But I'm not in charge of a school, and it doesn't look like anyone is going to hire me to do it. And I have to be okay with that. This week, I realized that my administrative certificate will expire in a few months unless I have a job as an administrator. I don't, and I don't think I'm going to try and get one anymore.

Two years ago, I needed a mental break from working, and hammered out a few Teaching Ted scripts and did a few doodles just to see how it felt. I realized that I was getting a bitterness and anger about education, and these things were spilling into the strip. I was reminded of something Lorne Michaels said about cast members and the Trump Administration; if you are trying to make comedy out of genuine anger, you won't make good comedy. I figured that Ted was dead.

But I've had a few good weeks, and I've got a new perspective on education. I went back into the high school I left last year (done in a bit of a desperate gamble to find hope again) - I had found some peace and was refreshed at the middle school, teaching 8th grade. It was a pretty good year (except for cancer 2.0)...

But this summer I spent two weeks teaching a high school review class, back in the building where I'd worked for twenty years. To my surprise, all of my resentment about the place and how its leaders had treated me was gone (as were most of those leaders); I had a new appreciation for what it was, and for how it was no longer my school. 

I was no longer angry.

So I did some Ted doodles. And I wrote a dozen scripts. And I've put together two comics. I've posted them below, along with a pair of scans I was able to find online of the original Teaching Ted strips to see how far the art has come. I feel like I'm a much better artist now, but I still have a lot to say, and maybe Teaching Ted is the place to say it. 

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