- The TikTok video sharing application has become extremely popular among Generation Z users and millennial users.
- But there is also a home for an unexpected population: teachers.
- Teachers used the platform to share experiences with other teachers, families and students.
- TikTok also inspired teachers to create support groups for fellow educators who are expanding beyond the app.
- Insider spoke with seven teachers who say the app helped them connect with students and share the “real” side of teaching.
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Meghan Mayer remembers watching students in her high school classroom dance to “Renegade,” sing unfamiliar songs, and give references for which she couldn’t find a scroll on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
She told the Insider that it felt like an “inner joke I wasn’t a part of”.
But Mayer, an English teacher in Sarasota, Florida, realized she could be part of the joke – she just needed to take over TikTok.
Mayer has joined the video sharing app under the username @thecrazycreativeteacher. At first, she found herself learning how to make oat milk and laughing at silly videos. Then she discovered thousands of teachers who use TikTok.
During the lock, TikTok quickly became a place for teachers who could share everything from frustrations to hacking a virtual classroom. Currently, the hashtag #teachersoftiktok has more than 5.4 billion views and hundreds of videos.
Insider spoke with seven teachers who shared how TikTok strengthened their relationships with students and enabled them to deal with – and present – the trials and tribulations of education as in 2020.
TikTok has become a resource for some teachers
During the coronavirus pandemic, teachers had to adapt more than they would in a traditional school year.
For many teachers, spring was quickly switched to a virtual platform, and the fall school year similarly began online. The virtual environment meant that teachers could no longer walk across the hallway on the advice of another teacher. It also meant that the parents were in the classroom at all times of the day and that the students could be separated at any time.
So some teachers turned to TikTok for advice.
For example, TikTok videos showed Arielle Fodor, a kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles, how to set up her Google classroom to make it easier for kindergartens to learn online.
“There are times when I was very frustrated with the way we learn at a distance or I missed classrooms and normalcy, so I will go to the platform to see other teachers and how they deal with them,” said Fodor, who passes by @ms. frazzled on TikTok, for Insider.
Brooke Rogers, a teacher in Antioch, California, said she added TikTok videos to her virtual high school lessons. For example, she played characters from books and taught points of view using videos from her @thatrealteacher account.
Rogers told Insider that these strategies helped her students get involved during online lectures.
Outside the classroom, Rogers said TikTok “brought joy in a really dark time.” She explained that teachers can be looked at critically, especially now. Through TikTok she has built a community that supports and understands her.
Mayer found a similar group via TikTok and one she said she never expected.
“As far as mental health is concerned, that was crucial for me,” she said. “I can’t even tell you on TikTok how many videos I’ve seen of teachers crying, including me … It really helps you know you’re not alone in how you feel.”
Teachers shared that the app compared to other social media platforms is a place to show that they are human
Teachers told Insider that TikTok allows them to present a more authentic version of teachers.
“We’re not those robots who stay at school all day and sleep at their desks,” Meredith Scott, a professor of English and theater at Pontiac, Michigan, told Insider.
TikTok provides an opportunity for parents and students – as well as other teachers – that teachers are ambiguous people who, like everyone else, laugh, cry and experience failure.
Sofia, a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher in Las Vegas, embodies the concept. Her TikTok videos, under the @iamsofiabella account, show her both as a teacher and as a fan of Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny.
Sofia said she initially felt pressured to decide whether her brand TikTok would shoot videos related to Bad Rabbit or teaching. But a teacher in Las Vegas realized that people like her because she loves both, she told the Insider. Students often do not see teachers outside the classroom, and sharing passions – like rap music – has helped students understand that teachers are people too.
Fodor added that she sees TikTok as one of the few platforms on social networks where teachers can present a range of emotions and realities of their careers and lives.
“I remember going to Instagram so well and seeing the perfect teacher after the perfect teacher,” Fodor said. “I wanted to be like them because in my head it was a good teacher, but that’s not the whole picture.”
At TikTok, Fodor shows his days, which are often filled with exhaustion, frustration, joy and tears.
Simone Slater, a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher in Dallas, Texas, agreed.
She said the platform quickly became a place where she finds encouragement. Meanwhile, when he sees other teachers sharing challenges, he can reciprocate by supporting them through his TikTok account, @lovemsslater.
“It’s a really great way to see people going through the same thing as me,” she said. “If everything else fails, we’ll just laugh.”
The Renegade and Charlie D’Amelio references help teachers relate to their students
In January, Scott noticed that her students just wouldn’t sit still.
Whether they were sitting at their desks or standing at the teacher’s desk, her high school students were constantly fidgeting, she said.
She couldn’t understand what they were doing. It was then that she realized that the students were rehearsing the dances they had learned at TikTok.
In April, out of boredom, Scott downloaded the app and created her @mrsscott_teaches account. She is now familiar with all the dances and trends that have occupied her students.
Scott said she used the app as a way to connect with students.
“I know it really helped me in my relationship with my students,” she said. “I’m a big believer that students learn better if they trust you and if they agree with you.”
Mayer has also noted an improvement in relations with students and teachers now that TikTok can be invoked.
“When they know you have the same interests as them and when you can joke with them and still be professional and respectful, I think they really appreciate it,” she told Insider. “You’re just able to connect more with them.”
For example, Mayer said she has a group of girls in her class that she tried to connect with but they didn’t open up to her.
The teacher used TikTok to build that bridge. Mayer and students practiced “Renegade,” a dance that went viral on TikTok.
“They couldn’t wait to teach me to dance,” she said. “Now they’re so eager to talk to me and it really helped that I was able to teach them in the classroom.”
Dan Shutes, a fifth-grade teacher at Paw Paw, Michigan, said TikTok has become another tool he uses to connect with members of his class.
Shutes, who posts on the TikTok account @danshutes, said he usually relies on sports and country music to connect with his students, but can now also use dance trends and funny videos from TikTok to better understand his group of fifth-graders. class.
“I don’t think that’s changed in the way I do my job,” he said. “But it helped me reach out to the kids and connect with them.”
The 60-second videos turned into a permanent hacking of the classrooms
This year, Scott is teaching English at a new level, so she sought advice and lecture materials from her TikTok community of teachers.
She collected lesson plans, materials, technology ideas, and classroom ideas from the community she built on the app. For example, a teacher in Michigan learned how to renovate her classroom with alternate lighting so she and her students don’t have to sit under fluorescent lights all day.
“I know it seems like a really small thing, but it really calms them down,” Scott said of his students.
Thanks to TikTok, Fodor learned how to use a loom, which allows teachers to record how they read books. Kindergarten teachers in Los Angeles can watch her read a story at any time during the day, which she said is a virtual learning instrument.
When Mayer thinks about her classroom, she can point out the various tricks she uses from TikTok. She mentioned her setting up an online classroom and new teaching strategies that all came from TikTok videos.
“Everyone at TikTok jokes that they learned more at TikTok than in professional development courses, and that’s really, really true,” said a teacher from Florida.
Between hacking classrooms and filling communities, TikTok has become an unexpected platform for teachers to get through this challenging – and often isolating – academic year.
“It has really reduced the isolated world in many ways,” Fodor said.
If you are a teacher, student or parent who wants to share your story of what it looks like Get back to school now, call [email protected].