Teachers across Canada are using the social media platform TikTok to share everything from their daily experiences to study tips and their classroom outfits. As part of the larger online community, TeacherTok, some of them have built a following that extends beyond the classroom.
The Canadian Press spoke to three Canadian teachers whose TikTok videos have collectively reached millions of views about how they balance professionalism, privacy and dealing with misunderstandings about their job.
Julia Adams, a Windsor, Ontario, part-time teacher who is qualified to work in both elementary and secondary schools, said TeacherTok allows educators to showcase their day-to-day lives, connect with other teachers, and help people to better understand what they are doing.
“I think a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about what it's actually like to be a teacher,” said Adams, who has more than 51,000 TikTok followers under the username @juliaadams.
Adams, an artist aspiring to become a full-time art teacher, said posting it online gives teachers with similar life experiences a chance to share advice and help navigate different situations.
@juliaa_adams #Teacher #teacherootw #teacheroutfits #teacher outfit check #artteacher #artteacherlife #myristorantecreation ♬ Cola – Sunsetzaudios
“From here you can find out where to go and realize that you are not so alone because teaching can be a very lonely profession.”
The 29-year-old describes teachers as “perpetual revolving doors”.
“We carry out several tasks every day. One second you're a social worker and now you're a problem solver. Now I just want to be a teacher. But sometimes I also have to be a therapist and a nurse.” She said. “It just happens so fast that a lot of things happen in five minutes.”
For Thanksgiving, Adams released a “Gratitude Tree” she created at her school, which received more than 600,000 views on TikTok and became one of her most viral videos. The activity included hanging up sheets of paper and asking students to write down something they are grateful for. A tree was put up in front of the school.
“I got comments like, ‘Oh I'll show that to my principal,' ‘That's a great idea,'” she said.
Adams also posts videos of her reacting to other teachers' fashion choices, discussing pranks on her students, and how she decorates her classroom. Adams takes a “very general approach” and doesn't record her students, nor mention their names and pronouns when speaking about them.
“I always make sure I'm professional because it's a public forum. You never know who might come across your videos.”
Margaret Fong, 36, said her approach to TikTok is to be “very open and almost open to sharing what it's like to be a teacher.”
“It's about sharing our experiences: our successes, our challenges, and the next steps we can take to become better in the classroom and also as people,” said Fong, who has taught elementary schools in Toronto for 12 years.
Fong said teaching is her calling, which inspired her online name @mycalltoteach. She has more than 13,000 TikTok followers.
In 2020, when Ontario's new math curriculum came out, Fong said resources weren't available to implement the work, so she created her own digital slides, editable worksheets, and assessments to conform with educational standards, and shared both the resources as well as the way she uses them online.
@mycalltoteach First Day of School Activity – And It's Free! I show this “quiz” on day one to set expectations in an engaging way. Read questions together and have students raise their hands for their answers. Follow us for more tips and inspiration for teachers! #first day of school lessons #firstdayofschoolactivities #teachersoftiktok #teachertips #teacherresources #freeteacherresources #Class Tour #ontarioteacher #ontarioteachers ♬ Original sound – Margaret | Teacher tips, inspiration
“I know what it's like to be a first or even a 12th year teacher. We're always looking for new ideas,” said Fong. “I put time, passion and experience into every resource I create.”
In addition to hopping on TikTok trends, Fong has a website where she offers Ontario curriculum and teaching materials for a fee or for free, depending on the type of slides or worksheets.
“I'm amazed at how observing other people has taught me how to become a better teacher and even a mother.”
Toronto middle school teacher Zahra Hassan is known on TikTok for her '90s-style classroom fashion. Known as @misswondrousoul, she has more than 83,000 followers on the platform.
Hassan said her students encouraged her to post her fashion choices online and the style she showcases makes them more accessible.
“They think it's the coolest thing ever. The kids together have about 1.7 million views and you're famous, you know?”
The 29-year-old, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Somalia, said the need for representation is why she became a teacher and wanted to explore social media.
@misswondroussoul If I tell you that I really love what I do, it's really because of the students 💙🍎 #Teacher #teachersoftiktok #Inspiration #teachersontiktok #teacherlife #Students #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Original sound – Ms. Hassan
“People who don't look like me don't understand the lived experience of being a first-generation black Canadian Muslim student in the school system. My journey to school made me silence and conform to my identity rather than celebrate it. “Hasan said.
She said she's trying to “create a space where we can also be celebrated for who we are.”
Hassan has also worked with brands like eBay, Indigo, and Walmart, and also has a podcast with another black New York teacher called Them 90s Teachers, which delves deeply into educational issues across borders and school districts.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 29, 2023.