Cartoon: The Secret Private Lives of Teachers

Another collaboration with Becky Hawkins, who really went all-out with drawing classroom environments!

When you support the Patreon, you not only get the warm feeling of supporting the making of more swellish policartoons, you also get the warm feeling of an extra arm growing out between your shoulderblades, and admittedly I can’t think of a single situation in which that would be pragmatically useful but what a conversation piece!

If I hadn’t argued online with a few people who are claiming that “back when we were kids” we didn’t know anything about our teachers’ home lives, I wouldn’t have believed there was anyone like that out there. It’s simply such a ridiculous thing to say. Just calling a teacher “Miss” or “Mrs” told us something about their home lives!

I think Becky may have been the one to suggest doing a cartoon about this. The neat idea of having the teacher in panel 4, be there as Billy’s classmate in panels 1-3, was definitely Becky’s idea.

Becky writes:

This comic was personal to me because as a former kid, WOW I hate being admonished to “let kids be kids” when that translates to “Stay in the closet around kids, and encourage all kids to act like they’re cis and straight til they’re no longer kids!”

I like drawing historical *cough* haircuts and clothing. I thought of Billy and his classmate Susie as my peers when I read the script, so I sketched early-90s outfits and hair in panels 1-3 without thinking. Then I read the caption for panel 4, which originally read “Fifty years later.” I did the math and realized that panels 1-3 would take place in the early 70s. It’s true that a lot of the people freaking out about “teachers bringing their personal lives into the classroom” are too old to have elementary-school-aged children. (I encountered one on Facebook shortly before drawing this comic!) So that would be realistic. But I also assumed that Billy was in the classroom in panel 4 as a parent. After checking with Barry, purely for my drawing preferences, I changed it to “forty years later.”

I looked at a lot of bowl cuts and feathered hair last week. The feathered hair gave me grief, actually. I haven’t drawn it much before, so I had to figure out how to try and capture the shapes with simple lines. A lot of the men’s haircuts that popped up on Google Image search were for boldly-coiffed musicians or actors. For the teacher in panel 2, I looked up “NASA engineer” because I figured that an old NASA photo would be an accurate “desk-dweller who doesn’t have time for fashion.”

Last month, a group of parents in Orlando, Florida, demanded “consequences” against sixth grade science teacher Robert Thollander. His crime? Thollander acknowledged his marriage at school.
“He married a man. This alone is not an issue. Sharing the details … with all his 6th grade students is the issue,” the parents wrote in a letter sent to their children’s school board, which was shared with NBC News. “It was not appropriate. Many of these students felt very uncomfortable with the conversations and shared this with their families.” […]
Thollander denied having discussed his marriage since he and his husband tied the knot in March of last year, aside from acknowledging it when he was asked. […]
But legal experts have said the broad language of the law could open districts and teachers to lawsuits from parents who believe any conversation about LGBTQ people or issues is “inappropriate.”


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a schoolroom, although not always the same schoolroom. There’s also a tiny “kicker” panel under the bottom of the strip.


A schoolroom (I know, I know, I just said that). In the background, A freckled, red-headed little girl wearing a red shirt is peering into a fishtank. There are big windows, and outside the windows we can see the tops of green trees.

In the foreground, BILLY, a reddish-blonde-haired little boy, is smiling as he talks to the teacher, Billy’s wearing a black v-neck tee shirt and green shorts. The teacher, MRS ABEL, is also smiling, leaning down to talk to Billy.

All three of them have feathered early-80s hair.

BILLY: Do you remember me from last year, Miss Thompson?

MRS ABEL: Of course, Billy! But I got married this summer, so now you should call me Mrs. Abel.


A different classroom and a different teacher – but we’re still looking at Billy and his freckled classmate. They’re both leaning on the teacher’s desk; Billy is pointing to a framed family photo on the teacher’s desk. Freckles is wearing a red vest over a collared shirt, and Billy is wearing a green shirt.

The teacher is smiling and gesturing with an open hand as he replies to Billy. In the background, there are large classroom windows, and out the windows we can see the trees are yellow and orange – it’s now Fall.

BILLY: Mr. Smith? Who are the people in this picture?

MR SMITH: They’re my family, Billy!


We’re back in Mrs Abel’s classroom, looking at the same people as panel 1 – Billy, his freckled classmate, and Mrs Abel. But time has passed; the trees out the window are green again. Also, Mrs Abel is now very obviously pregnant, and has a hand on her belly as she talks to Billy. It looks like Freckles was playing with a toy school bus, but she’s paused to listen to Billy and Mrs Able.

The girl in the background is wearing a red shirt under jeans overalls, and Billy is wearing the same green shirt, but with different pants.

BILLY: But why won’t you be teaching us next month, Mrs Abel?

MRS ABEL: Because I’m having a baby, Billy!


A caption box at the top of the panel says “BILLY, FORTY YEARS LATER.”

An adult Billy, with a tidy beard and mustache and his hair going white at the temples, is in a classroom, yelling at a teacher, waving his arms. Billy has green pants.

The teacher, who has short red hair, freckles, and is wearing a button-up red shirt, is leaning back against her desk, away from Billy. She looks unhappy and surprised. On her desk, there’s a photo of her with a woman, presumably her wife, and two children.

BILLY (yelling): When we were kids, we never knew anything about teachers’ private lives!


Adult Billy is talking to the panel 4 teacher, looking a bit histrionic.

TEACHER: But we always knew about–

BILLY: We didn’t! That would have destroyed our childhood innocence!

This cartoon on Patreon

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

2 Responses to Cartoon: The Secret Private Lives of Teachers

  1. 1
    Kate says:

    Many people pushing the ‘don’t say gay’ agenda would very much like to go back to the days when women who got married and/or become pregnant were fired fron teaching (eg. Elizabeth Warren) and the appropriateness pregnant bodies in public was so controversial that they could not be shown on television.

  2. 2
    Kate says:

    When I Love Lucy was on the air, it was still extremely rare for a pregnant character to appear on screen. In fact, Ball was only the second actor to do it.

    Broadcasters prohibited anything sexually suggestive on air, and being pregnant confirmed that a couple had had sex.,life%20pregnancy%20into%20the%20plot.