The rise of the teacher influencer

The role of the teacher has always encompassed a form of influencing, but the rise of social media has put a new spin on the term ‘teacher influencer’. Journalist Mykeala Campanini explores this new phenomenon and some of the industrial implications.

A growing number of teachers are becoming ‘edu-famous’ by creating dedicated social media accounts for their classroom and attracting thousands of followers in the process.

The devoted accounts feature inspiration for classroom decorations, projects, stationery and tips for other teachers regarding planning and marking.

The social media accounts also promote communication and interaction between teaching professionals, who find one another online and use their education focused content as conversation starters to discuss similar experiences they may be going through, as well as share advice.

Teacher influencer Annie Farrugia, the Wollongong teacher behind the popular Instagram account @teaching_with_miss_annie, started her account just two years ago and already has over 10,000 followers.

Farrugia dedicates countless hours each week to creating an engaging classroom for her students and wanted to share her ideas with other teachers who may be looking for inspiration.

Her account features a mixture of posts from classroom set-up inspiration and her favourite learning resources, through to more personal posts that discuss the challenges she may be facing in her career that other teachers could relate to.

“The Instagram teaching community is very supportive, any question I put out there through my story always gets a lot of responses to help me trouble shoot little problems that I have or give me ideas for different ways to teach different concepts,” Farrugia said.

“It has led to relationships with teachers all over the world which I think is pretty incredible and exciting.”

Instagram inspiration

The inspiration behind starting her successful Instagram account was not related to followers, likes or becoming a “teacher influencer” for Farrugia, but more as a platform to share her experiences.

“I was inspired by many other teacher accounts on Instagram that Pinterest searches were taking me to, I was just wanting to share some of the work I was doing and some of the resources I was creating and using that I thought may be useful to others in the field,” said Farrugia.

“I’m not a fan of the term 'teacher influencer', I don’t in any way think I am an influencer in that sense, I just want to share what is working and of course what isn’t working in the classroom.

“I take a snap every few days and upload it, I don’t take the prettiest photos and I try and show the real.”

Although her account is in no way a quest for social media stardom, her significant following does come with some perks in the form of free products, which she has used to benefit her students.

“I have received products to use in my classroom in return for a post on my page, I try and share these resources out with the rest of my school so really we are creating a more effectively resourced classroom,” said Farrugia.

Risk and liability considerations

The increase in public social media accounts run by teaching professionals does pose questions relating to risk and privacy factors for teachers.

IEUA-QNT Industrial Officer Vaishi Rajanayagam says teachers who run public social media accounts with content focused on the classroom do need to understand the associated consequences.

“Although it may be a seemingly innocent activity, there needs to be a lot of thought put into the establishment of such an account, including privacy factors, intellectual

property matters and issues surrounding professional boundaries with students who may interact with the account,” Rajanayagam said.

“It is important to seek permission from your employer before posting any images of your workplace, ensure you have de-identified yourself by not using your full name or your school's name or location and that the account does not compromise the privacy and identity of your students.

“If you are considering creating a public social media account dedicated to your employment as a teaching professional, it would be essential that you discuss this with your employer and your union first, to minimise the risk factors associated with this kind of activity.”

Risks and implications to be aware of:

  • privacy of students
  • intellectual property matters
  • professional boundaries with students online
  • liability when reflecting on brands or providing personal opinion
  • financial gain may affect your employment contract, and
  • negative or inappropriate comments made by others on your content.