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#teachersoftiktok: How to effectively use TikTok in your classroom

Griffin Jaeger
July 13, 2020

In a post-COVID world, it feels as if using tech is the only way to really communicate with your students. But, let’s be real, it didn't take a national pandemic for students to be lost in their phone screens… not much has changed.

@thatnewteacherWhat are you guys using for distance learning? ##wishmeluck ##onlineclass ##onlineclasses ##teacherlife ##middleschool ##remotework ##socialdistancing♬ original sound - gabesco

You’ve probably seen some pretty sweet dance moves in your classroom over the past year. From “Say So” to “the Renegade”, the list goes on. Why, you ask? This is due to none other than social media’s current fad, TikTok: a short-form video-sharing application allowing users to post 15, or 60-second videos in any style they desire. While many users of the platform are Gen Z students, creating dubs of funny audio, showing off their best moves, or telling relatable stories, COVID-19 has switched up the mix.

With the transition to remote learning, it has become more difficult to foster an authentic relationship with students. Have no fear, #teachersoftiktok is here to save the day. Throughout the pandemic, teachers around the globe have been using the platform to create comedy, show off their bubbly personalities, and liven up their lessons.

We spoke with Ty Cook (@cooking_in_the_classroom) and Brooke Rogers (@thatnewteacher), two amazing TikTok teachers changing the teaching game. They shared how they got started, how to effectively use TikTok in your classroom, and some pieces of advice for teachers who may be on the fence about creating a profile.

We’ll be diving into the top two reasons why you should become a TikTok teacher and 3 ways to get started.

Why TikTok for Education?

Use TikTok to connect with your students

Depending on the grade you teach, creating a personal connection with your students can be a daunting task. Remember when you were little and you thought teachers literally lived at school? That belief still exists but to a lesser extent.

Students often forget that teachers are real people too.

When Ty Cook, Grade 7 science teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was bet by a student that he couldn't get more followers than her on TikTok, he accepted the challenge. Although he may not have won the bet, his eyes were opened up to an incredible opportunity.

“Middle schoolers are fun and weird,” he said, “and we should celebrate that.”

He began to experiment with the platform and found that TikTok was a great place to be funny and exercise his creativity. Now, at 34.1K followers and counting and a rising 674.9K TikTok views, Cook’s @cook_in_the_classroom is inspiring teachers all over the world.

“Our students get extra layers and dimensions of us when they see us on TikTok. My students get to see that I have a life outside of school,” said Cook.

Cook had always shared various teaching tips and tricks via Instagram (@cook_in_the_classroom), but he felt his followers lacked that sense of self that he wasn't able to show.

“The reality is, teachers need to laugh. I think that’s where the teachers of TikTok trend comes from. It’s important to laugh about your profession, and the things you deal with. That’s what teachers need at the end of the year,” said Cook.

@cook_in_the_classroomCan I get an amen?! ##onlineclass ##homeschool ##teachers ##teacherapprection ##OwnTheCurve♬ use this sound...if you want...or not idc - frankietaco

Not only is it important to relate to others in your profession, but your students will benefit too.

“TikTok is really humanizing teachers for students. We have to be a certain way in the classroom, but that isn't necessarily who we are all the time. Teachers have a life, kids and of course, teachers can be funny,” said Grade 6-8 English teacher Brooke Rogers, creator of @thatnewteacher.

Rogers had originally been making TikToks with her family in Northern California, purely for fun. But when she began her teaching career, teaching was all she could think about. She converted her TikTok to a teacher TikTok and never looked back.

Now with 512.5K followers and 9.8 million TikTok likes and counting, she is actively creating school-related videos, and showcasing the life of a teacher through comedy.

“The first thing that stood out to me was when I made jokes, or the students made jokes from current trends, it was trending, and it became something we could connect on, “ said Rogers.

Whether you've nailed the dance that your students taught you at recess or you've made a reference to the classic “I like the view” TikTok sound, your students will appreciate your ability to relate to them. TikTok becomes something you can connect on and creates an environment that is comfortable and enjoyable for learning.

@thatnewteacherAnd that concludes my first year of teaching. ???? ##firstyearteacher ##tiktokteacher ##teacherlife ##teachersoftiktok♬ original sound - ada.d15

“Whether you’re connecting with them, or you’re teaching them. You’re still making a difference. It adds to that relationship with them,” added Cook.

TikTok teachers can foster connections with other educational professionals

Not only is Tiktok a great place to learn your students’ favorite trends, but it's also a great place to connect with other industry professionals.

“I’ve met a lot of new teachers. And I’ll follow them on Instagram. It’s very good for networking. I’ve met teachers from all around the globe,” said Cook.

In any career path, having trusted connections you can reach out to for advice, inspiration, and words of encouragement is extremely important. Bill Withers was right, we all need somebody to lean on.

Within TikTok's chat feature, groups like “SchoolhouseTok” are facilitated; a group of teachers who meet and discuss virtually, talking about professional development, sharing resources, and of course, talking about TikTok!

“It's not ‘the most popular creators’ or anything of that sort. Do you have clean and positive content? Are you a teacher? Come join us, it’s pretty cool,” said Rogers.

They call themselves a “Teacher Hype House”.

Although TikTok’s chat feature does not allow group text messages within the app as of yet, teacher Discord groups are collectively hosting group chats outside of the app.

If someone reaches out to one of the teacher group members and asks to be added, the group then expands and more teachers can communicate with educators alike about their wins, struggles, and pieces of advice.

TikTok teachers can also respond to comments on their posts with an associated video. If a student or teacher has a question about a TikToker’s content, that creator can then respond to this comment with a TikTok post, sharing it publicly for all that may have been asking a similar question.

This is a great way to facilitate conversation publicly with students, faculty, and educators.

Here, Brooke Rogers answers a teacher's question about learning the names of her students.

@thatnewteacherAdd your strategies for learning student names in the comments! Reply to @create_username020 ##teachertips ##firstyearteacher ##tiktokteacher ##teacher♬ original sound - thatnewteacher

“Along with sharing resources and talking about professional development, we create TikToks long-distance. We’ll splice things together, think of an idea, and post it collectively,” Brooke shared.

@thatnewteacherTeacher Hype House Vlog is posted! Editing: @thatnewteacherhusband ##teacherhypehouse ##summer2020 ##tiktokteacher ##teachersoftiktok♬ Moon (And It Went Like) - Kid Francescoli

With the introduction of online learning, being able to connect with teachers throughout distance learning, from any location allows TikTok teachers like Cook and Rogers to feel a sense of belonging and community.

“It was so relatable. We were all in this new frontier together,” said Cook.

If the teacher hype house isn't your cup of tea, there are still lots of #teachertips being shared by TikTok teachers that you can then view and bring back to your day-to-day classroom routine.

@cook_in_the_classroomAny teacher friends moving to a new school or new classroom this year? Share with me a tip that helps you setting up. ##learnontiktok ##tiktokpartner♬ original sound - cook_in_the_classroom

Getting started

Lacking Inspiration? Make creative lesson plans with TikTok

TikTok is all about finding your niche. If you’re not the comedy type, that’s totally okay! There is a space for you. Consider using the platform as a form of teaching.

“If I make a joke about not putting your name on your paper, I can use that as a key in the classroom and use that sound as a joke to remind students to do what I’ve asked,” said Rogers.

You can teach your students procedures, routines, share lesson refreshers, or even roleplay your English novel study.

“I used it to teach POV for a while, pretending you're talking to the person on the other side of the screen and interacting with them,” Rogers added.

Here, Rogers uses a popular song from the radio to briefly introduce characters from her class’ novel study, The Outsiders.

@thatnewteacherDo it for Johnny!! Challenge accepted @ms_cappuccino! ##theoutsiders ##middleschool ##greasers ##teachersontiktok ##ponyboy ##dally ##sodapop ##darry ##ela♬ original sound - asl_amanda

There is an extensive list of ways to creatively implement TikTok into your classroom aside from being the next big comedian.

Still struggling? Your students are likely experts at this point.

“Your students can show you how to make TikToks,” said Cook.

Can't create? Check out what other TikTok teachers are doing and get inspired!

“One of the most important things is you don’t have to create. You can go on and observe. You are going to learn so much about Gen Z culture. That’s the most important thing,” said Cook.

Learning about what excites your students and catches their interest will allow you to design lessons that grasp their attention and make them excited to learn.

“I know more about the culture now. When something happens in class, I know what they are referring to,” added Cook.

Struggling to teach a certain unit or lesson? There are thousands of teachers on the platform, sharing tips and tricks to get you motivated and inspired.

Here, Cook shares how he took his human body systems unit to the next level.

@cook_in_the_classroom##dayattheoffice ##notapro ##teacherlife ##escaperoom ##breakout ##breakouts ##edtech ##mydigitalescape ##teachers ##science ##scienceteacher ##middleschool♬ original sound - cook_in_the_classroom

Finding teachers to ask for and share advice with is as easy as searching for a hashtag. Tags like #teachertok, #teachersoftiktok, and #teachertips are easily accessible and are filled with millions of teachers who share content catered just for you.

Take advantage of it!

@cook_in_the_classroomOut of order because ##teachertired ???? ##teachertip ##teacherhack ##fyp ##teacherlife ##middleschool ##warmups♬ original sound - cook_in_the_classroom

Worried about safety on TikTok? Always ensure you maintain privacy and professionalism

The safety and privacy of your students is top priority. TikTok is a public platform, unlike some of the other edtech you’re using in your classroom.

By following a few simple guidelines, you can keep yourself and your students safe while creating freely.

“What [content] I put out there, I intend that my superintendent, principal, teachers, students, and their parents may see it. Yes, we have lives outside of school. We should be role models,” said Cook.

Becoming a TikTok teacher is exciting!

But you need to set boundaries. It is important to consult with your principal or administration, letting them know about your account while discussing any limitations or parameters they may deem necessary when creating on school property.

“Consider the staff you work for, you know your admin, your principal, and your parent group. You must consider these individuals in what you are doing,” suggested Rogers.

To maintain privacy, Rogers never says her school name, this prioritizes both herself and her school’s safety.

Some students may identify as your students in comments sections, but by not disclosing your location or school, this will allow them to maintain a level of confidentiality and safety.

FERPA and COPPA are two major federal student privacy laws implemented to protect students. In line with these regulations, your students should not appear in your videos.

Although you can use stickers in the platform to cover student faces, starting with transparency is best. Make sure they understand what you’re doing and why.

“Use clean audios or wait for clean versions, make clean jokes about situations and ensure your students are never the brunt of the joke,” recommended Rogers.

Left wanting more? It’s time to download TikTok

TikTok is a fun and creative way to vamp up your teaching career.

If you’re thinking of hopping onto tech’s latest trend remember to keep these few things in mind:

Remain authentic, stay true to who you are, and use the platform safely, for both you and your students.

You can follow Brooke Rogers and Ty Cook on TikTok and Instagram:

@thatnewteacherLook for the joy in every day! ##showerthoughts ##teachersoftiktok ##teacherlife ##teachersontiktok ##middleschoolteacher♬ original sound - bigboyjuicejuice

@cook_in_the_classroom##teachers ##hardwork ##teacherlife ##youmatter ##teachersrule♬ Nick's B. Danube - Spongebob Squarepants

Griffin Jaeger

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