At the height of the pandemic, people began to realize how essential teachers really were. Parents got a taste of what it was like to teach their kids while districts organized the procedures necessary for online classes. When the opportunity for in-person learning returned, parents were more than happy to turn their children back to their teachers for schooling. Unfortunately, the mandated time away from classrooms has affected young students more than people realize, and teachers are left to pay the price. Unless you are a teacher yourself, you won’t understand the difficult day-to-day realities they face.
The problem is that these kids don’t know how to be students. Kindergarteners who were sent home after the shutdown are currently in second grade and they have little to no experience being in a classroom. They’re more disinterested, distracted and disruptive than ever before. After a year and a half of learning behind a screen, the social skills of young students are lacking. They don’t know how to raise their hands when they have something to say in class.
Because the bulk of their assignments were turned in digitally, students are out of practice with their penmanship, and paper-and-pencil tasks don’t hold their attention for long. Their homework — if turned in at all — is sloppy and rushed. Many teachers are noticing that their students are often fidgety and off-task, and redirecting their attention is no walk in the park.
The love that passionate, young teachers once had for teaching is fading fast. The burnt-out educators have less prep time and work in their classrooms for much longer hours without getting paid overtime. And their job doesn’t end when they leave school for the day. Along with the emotional and mental baggage, most teachers bring piles of work home to grade each night. They can’t even make use of their sick days due to nationwide substitute shortages. It’s all becoming too much to handle, and teachers are quitting their professions in droves.
In order to cope, some teachers are turning to social media to bond with other teachers and poke fun at their students. For example, teachers on TikTok rushed to compile images of student work for the “accent challenge” sound. The original video comes from the user @couchtable, who claims to do a southwest Missouri accent but instead blurts out random, incoherent sounds. Many use the sound to showcase a series of funny and unexpected photos.
The account @art_teacher_brooke does just that, using the accent challenge to show the silly drawings of cows and ducks by her first-grade art students. Like the other teachers who use this sound, this teacher is not criticizing the artwork. The students are not bothered by their work being shown on her page — they enjoy it.
Leigh McClendon, known as @leigh_mcnasty on TikTok, has gone viral. He has gained 2 million followers since starting his account, and his videos earn up to 3 million views. In his teacher-themed videos, McClendon plays the role of both teacher and student to share hilarious things he has heard in his classroom and his followers have heard in theirs.
“My kids are really good kids,” McClendon said in an interview with HITC. “It would be boring to make videos on good students, so I just make my videos on really wild characters.” No one can resist laughing hysterically at the videos on his account, but those who work in education enjoy how realistic his content is to their own experiences.
His account took off after the over-caring teacher series in which McClendon plays a teacher who tries a little too hard to connect with his students emotionally. His most recent series highlights the random and disruptive things that students say in class.
Each video follows a formula nearly to a tee. While instructing a class, a student interrupts with an odd interjection such as “Tomorrow’s probably my aunt’s birthday I think” or “My mom said that she’s dying inside.” After a beat of uncomfortable, shocked silence, the student gets out of their seat to show the class a poorly executed cartwheel. Like a bull in a China shop, McClendon throws himself around his classroom, knocking over chairs and desks haphazardly.
The account @honestteachervibes takes a similar angle to McClendon. Ms. Richardson, the owner of the TikTok and Facebook account, lives up to the “honest teacher” name. She frequently expresses what many teachers wish they could say. Richardson’s videos poke fun at students, parents and other teachers who make her job more challenging. In her ongoing series “If teachers acted like students,” Richardson responds to administrative questions with excessive “bruhs,” lip smacks and a dismissive attitude. Teachers are flocking to the comment section to share similar stories and laugh with each other.
Even principals, those you’d never expect to stray from their usual professional appearance, are joining in the fun. Gerry Brooks, an elementary school principal from Lexington, Kentucky, dedicates his Facebook account to creating humorous content. For instance, Brooks shows his audience what principals do on a snow day such as shooting hoops and running through the halls.
Many of his videos are aimed at the ridiculous things that parents say to teachers and how he cleverly bites back at them. Principal Brooks had so much to share about teaching that he wrote a book titled “Go See the Principal: True Tales from the School Trenches.” Teachers around the world are sporting his merchandise with quotes such as “Suriously” and “I have a surjestion.”
Teachers are superheroes for dealing with students’ poor behavior and parents’ high expectations, all at a salary that is way less than they deserve. Thankfully, they’re not alone in their struggles. Outside of their classrooms, social media groups provide teachers with an escape from their exhaustion and frustration. Finally, teachers have a safe community to laugh, unload and celebrate with other educators who dedicate their lives to shaping the next generation of leaders.