Looking for classroom ideas or a giggle to get your day going? Maybe you’re wondering what it’s like to be a school bus driver or an out-and-proud queer educator? (Answer: Often terrifying, frequently rewarding.) For real (and really funny) talk from these colleagues and hundreds of others, check out NEA members on TikTok and Instagram. Recently, NEA Today talked with a few of these educators who rock TikTok.
@sabocat on TikTok
Mandi Jung, Middle School Teacher, Minnesota
How Did You Get Started on TikTok?
Mandi Jung: I started as a way of sharing tech tools I’d learned during the pandemic—Schoology, Google Slides, etc. My content now is more union stuff. When my union was facing a strike vote, I started talking about it, and people wanted to know more.
You have been spotlighted by Fox News for “pro-LGBTQ” content. Tell us about that.
MJ: It’s scary when people call your home and threaten to kill you. I understand the goal is to frighten me into silence, and to sway people into thinking public schools are dens of sin, to delegitimize public schools. I absolutely cannot allow that. As an LGBTQ-ally and union educator in a state where that means something, I have a lot of privilege. I’m going to continue speaking my truth.
Three words about your TikTok?
MJ: 1. Solidarity. I am with my fellow workers 100 percent of the way! When my union wins, we win. When your union wins, we win. 2. Sharing. 3. Silliness!
@justflintisfine on TikTok
Flint, high school teacher, California
Who’s your audience?
Flint: The biggest chunk is teachers. I talk a lot about classroom strategies and the bizarre weirdness of teenagers. I love that stuff! If I’m dialing the microscope further in, I think it’s queer teachers. It’s really hard to be queer and a teacher right now. Everybody is struggling to figure out how to be there for queer students—because they exist and their identities aren’t something to be ashamed of.
What are your goals with TikTok?
Flint: I’m trying to throw other teachers, especially other queer teachers, a lifeline. The things they’re experiencing are real. The things they’re doing are important. And they’re not alone.
What three words describe you on TikTok?
Flint: 1. Tenacious. 2. Proud. Pride is a rejection of shame. I go into this with that as a primary goal. 3. Joy. It’s a lot about finding joy in what I love about being a teacher and being queer.
@mrbusdrivercj on TikTok Cor’ Darius Jones, bus driver, Florida
How did you get started with TikTok?
Cor’Darius Jones: I was practicing my route in 2019, and I pulled over in what’s known to be a troubled area of town. Some kids there were giving me the side-eye, giving me the middle finger, throwing their popsicle sticks. So, I took a selfie with my head in my hands and posted it to Facebook. The next week, people kept asking, “How’s the new route?” So, I posted a video—and it got 500,000 views!
Is it true you’ve recruited new bus drivers with your videos?
CJ: I’ve recruited at least five or so. They message me and say, “I’m interested. What do I need to do?” Here’s what I’m going to tell you: It’s rewarding and it’s great. But don’t assume it’s easy. The job is what you make it—and that’s what I try to show in the videos.
Three words to describe you on TikTok?
CJ: 1. Comical. People pay more attention when it’s comedy. 2. Important. I might be making jokes about parents running the stop bar, but the message is, I want my kids to be safe. 3. Real.
@teachwithzeepps on TikTok Zander Epps, middle school teacher, Colorado
Are you surprised at which videos get the most views?
Zander Epps: There’s no rhyme or reason to it! But I definitely feel the more relatable it is, the more it picks up. One of the desk videos [on how to arrange student desks] was one of my most popular—and it was just something I put together.
So which ones are your favorites?
ZE: I have a lot of fun pretending I’m a professional athlete, like pretending to get interviewed after teaching a lesson. There’s a message there—my two cents about the teaching profession.
Three words about your TikTok?
ZE: 1. Lighthearted. 2. Relatable. When I read the comments, I feel like all teachers are living the same life! 3. Sarcastic. My wife tells me I’m a middle schooler in an adult’s body—the things I say and my sense of humor.
@TopFloorTeachers on Instagram
Do you feel like you’re part of a teacher community on Instagram?
Joe McCormick: A lot of people reach out to us and say, “It’s so nice you have each other on your team! I don’t have somebody on my team. This is like I get to be on your team, too.”
Quyen Nicol: Every time we do a reel, it’s like talking to a co-worker.
What’s up with the paper-folding videos? People are insane for them!
JM: It’s mind-blowing. I think it’s because it’s a thing that people can take back to their classrooms right away.
QN: And they don’t have to spend money!
Three words about your Instagram?
QN: 1. Relatable. We had a day when we had to reset passwords, and it was awful. We turned it into something funny.
JM: 2. Real. We’re not looking to gloss over the tough parts of the job.
Both: 3. Fun.
(To watch NEA member reels and videos, visit Instagram.com/neatoday/reels)