So You Want To Start a Teacher Instagram…
Many people in my personal life have started teacher Instagrams after seeing my journey. These are the exact tips I have told every single one of them. You’re in on the secrets!
My Instagram Journey
Let’s go back to June 2016. I had just finished my first year of teaching. I was living with two of my best friends (Kelli & Lisa) who had also just finished their first year of teaching. This was the beginning of the teacher Instagram take-off. We were following two teachers, Hannah West (@misswestbest) & Brittany Briggs (@miss5th). We loved everything they were doing in their classrooms. I have a vivid memory of Kelli, Lisa, & I sitting in our living room scrolling through their Instagrams & saying, “I think we can do this too!” We decided that we would all take the plunge together. If we failed, we would fail together! We made our Instagrams at that exact moment & the rest is history!
Actually the rest wasn’t history! It was a really SLOW start with a lot of bumps along the way. (This is what a lot of people leave out) It’s actually a funny story. I know some people will roll their eyes when I say this, but this whole Instagram thing is a lot of work!! I made my Instagram in June 2016. I was excited to post about decorating my classroom and the first couple months of school! Then I went SILENT. NOTHING. FOR 5 MONTHS. I was still just a second year teacher navigating my curriculum, coaching softball, and starting my Master’s degree. A lot was happening & Instagram was the last thing I cared about! I did not post a single thing from October 2016-March 2017. That’s just what I needed to do for my sanity during that time of my life. I started seriously posting in March 2017 & it grew from there.
I will say a couple things before I start with the tips:
- It’s way more work than you would ever expect. At this point it is honestly my second job!
- Nothing is going to happen over night. This has been a 4 year journey for me!
- Don’t make one during student teaching or your first year of teaching. This is just my personal opinion, but you have way more important things to worry about than the teacher Instagram world!
- I have made some of my very best friends through this app. It is crazy and I never expected it. So many opportunities, friendships, partnerships, ideas, collaborations, etc. Instagram has honestly brought me so much in my life. I have never regretted a second of it.
#1 Make Sure You’re Here for the Right Reasons
I don’t know about you but I immediately think of the Bachelor when I hear this phrase. *Insert Chris Harrison saying, “Is she here for the right reasons?” I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this, but listen. If you want to start a teacher Instagram to get “Instagram famous,” make a bunch of money, or any other crazy reason, this isn’t for you. First of all, no teacher is “famous.” We are all just normal teachers like you.
Second, the money is a joke! I honestly was naive in thinking that people made money on every picture they post. (Remember this was my thought 4 years ago! Don’t judge. I had no idea how Instagram worked.) You only make money on sponsored posts which are few & far between. These sponsored posts don’t come easy & the rate is laughable. I didn’t even get a sponsored post until I hit 50,000 followers which was last year. Unfortunately companies just look at you as the number by your name. (WHICH IS STUPID!!!)
My reason for starting my Instagram was pretty simple. I wanted to share my classroom with teachers around the country. When looking for teachers to follow I also noticed that there were hardly any middle school teachers and so few SCIENCE teachers. This was something that was missing in the teacher Instagram community & I had a drive to help fill it. I love collaborating & wanted to collaborate with people outside of my “circle,” I thought that making an Instagram would help me branch out of just teachers within my district.
#2 Choose a Name
Here comes the fun part! (But also one of the hardest) Choose a name that has to do with YOU, your niche, what you teach, what you love, etc. Easy, right? Here’s the catch: don’t choose something that will trap you! I have had so many friends choose a great Instagram handle with their last name, grade level, or even both! Then they are so conflicted when they get married or change grade levels! Do they change their name? Do they keep it? Do they do a complete rebrand? This is something you probably don’t care too much about right now, but trust me, your future self will thank you!
Check to make sure your chosen Instagram handle isn’t already taken. Go to Instagram and search your desired name! If it says, “no results found,” then the name is yours! I also did a quick Google search of the name to make sure there wasn’t a blog with my name as well since I knew that was something I wanted for the future. I created an email with the Instagram handle to link it to as well.
Where did Maniacs in the Middle come from?
When I was deciding on a name I knew I wanted something about middle school. I am passionate about this age group and it was generic enough to encompass multiple grade levels. I had the “in the middle” for a while & just needed an “m” word to put in front of it. Maniacs was the first thing that came to mind. I thought it was fitting since every time I told someone I taught middle school they would either call me a maniac or look at me like I was one. Maniacs in the Middle it was.
#3 Talk to your Principal
This part is coming from experience! I made my Instagram the summer before my second year of teaching. I was honestly very self conscious about it & didn’t really tell anyone because I was embarrassed! Would people think it was silly? I was all in my head about it! Out of nowhere it just kind of took off and that is where this bit me in the butt! I wish I would have just been open & up front about it. My principal at the time was not into social media, didn’t understand what I was doing, & really didn’t want me to continue to do it. This was at the end of my time at my old school & I was actually getting ready to interview at my current school!
My current school has every single social media platform you could think of. I knew this was going to be a perfect fit for me. The first question I asked in my interview was, “What are your thoughts on teachers having social media to share their classrooms with others?” My principal was all for what I was doing. Now he even has his own principal Instagram account.
The truth is every district, school, and principal is going to have a different view on this. Unfortunately, some people don’t see the benefits. I HIGHLY encourage you to talk to your principal before you decide to take this journey. Tell them what your reasons are, what you want from this, etc.
#4 Your Bio Matters
Your bio is the first thing people see on your profile besides your picture! By reading your bio, they should be able to tell what you teach & a little bit about you. When someone new looks at my profile they can see that I live in IL, teach 6th grade science, love music & middle schoolers, share #ootd photos, and links to all of my other sites.
To get my bio to look how it does, I typed it in the notes app on my phone & then copy & pasted it into my bio! This lets you hit “enter” to make a new row of info.
#5 Post 6 Pictures Before You Launch
When you are just starting out and trying to gain a few followers, you want someone who comes to your profile to know what they are in for! My suggestion is to post 6 photos right away that really show off who you are! I know when I go to someone’s account and they are new, I immediately go to the caption of their first photo to read about them! Captions do matter.
- Photo of you
- Your classroom
- Your favorite lesson
- Co-workers (with their permission!)
- Something that shows off your teaching style
- Your desk
- Teacher must haves
#6 Find Your Niche
What are you passionate about? What are your strengths as a teacher? What are your posts primarily going to be about? There are SO many possibilities! From classroom management, flexible seating, math resources, literacy, speech, engagement, and so on! The possibilities are endless.
I would say I have more than one niche, which is totally fine. I focus on science, engagement, music, and technology.
#7 Find Your Style
Do you like bright colors or do you like warm tones? Do you like black and white or do you like pink tones? Do people follow or unfollow you because of the way your feed looks? I doubt it! But in the end Instagram is a photo app that started by editing pictures. My style is bright colors. My classroom is bright colors with some black & white accents. My blog is bright. The resources I make are bright. It just made sense that my Instagram would be bright as well. I edit all of my photos in the Lightroom app. I always make sure that the exposure & vibrance are up. This makes all of my photos have the same “look and feel” on my Instagram. Do some exploring of some of your favorite Instagram pages to see what you like best.
#8 Use Hashtags
Hashtags are one of the main ways that people will find your account in the beginning! This is how you see people on your Explore page. Find hashtags that relate to you! The common hashtags for teachers are #teachersfollowteachers and #teachersofinstagram. I find so many teachers to follow by searching this hashtag. These hashtags are the big ones that thousands of teachers use. You also want to use hashtags that are more specific to you. I use #middleschool #iteachmiddles #iteachscience for more specific ones. You can also narrow it down even further by focusing on the picture you are posting! I have a list of my common hashtags saved in my notes app on my phone. I make sure to mix them up so they aren’t the same every time, but it’s nice to have a long list in one place! I always put the hashtags in the comments of my posts & I have had a lot of success with that.
#9 Focus on FRIENDS not FOLLOWERS
This is HUGE!! You CANNOT focus on numbers. It will drive you crazy. Your focus should be on making connections with teachers all over the country. My biggest advice is to communicate with other teachers. How can you expect someone to like your photo if you never like theirs? How can you expect someone to comment on your photo if you never comment on theirs? Message them! Reply to their story! Ask them questions! Like someone’s idea they posted? Share it on your story or feed and tag them! Get an awesome idea from someone that you used in your classroom? Take a picture and send it to them! Connections are KEY when it comes to Instagram. Remember when I said that I have made some of my best friends through this app? This never would have happened if we didn’t communicate with each other.
#10 Post on Stories
I saw a HUGE growth in my following when I started posting on stories. I remember when this was a new feature on Instagram. It can be so intimidating and uncomfortable to record videos of you talking to nobody! (It’s also weird to hear your own voice!!) You have to get over this! People want to know the person behind the phone. Stories help people get to know you on a personal level! I know I post WAY more on stories than I do on my feed (probably too much at some times). It is just so easy! It makes people feel connected to you on a personal level.
BONUS: You’re Not Going to be Everyone’s Cup of Tea…AND THAT’S OKAY
This one was honestly the hardest pill for me to swallow & I still struggle with it DAILY. I hate when people are mad at me, don’t like me, or are upset with me. I am the queen of saying yes to things just to make people happy. I will never forget the first time someone made a rude comment on one of my pictures about my eyebrows. It upset me so much! People forget that there are actual humans behind the screens with actual feelings. Unfortunately if you decide to do this, you are putting yourself out there for criticism. I am all for constructive criticism, but sadly there are teachers out there who are just plain mean.
This post is WAY longer than I expected and probably longer than you wanted! When I had the question box on my story, this was the most asked question. Have fun with it! Don’t take yourself seriously! Do it for the right reasons! Most importantly, find YOUR style. Do not try and be a copy of your favorite teacher Instagramer. This will come with time & lots of trial and error.
Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments!