11 Ways I Use My Teacher Instagram Account

A few years ago I sucked it up and created an Instagram account for my kids who had graduated, after declining follow requests from students on my personal private account daily. It ended up a great way to keep in touch and it was always sort of a fun way to tease my current students, telling them that I wouldn't associate with them on social media until they were graduates. I have my students for two years, so I end up being super close to many of them- it's a good way to ease my sadness about them graduating. 

Then March 2020 came and my seniors were ripped away from me in one day, without getting a chance to say our proper goodbyes. Within a week I changed my mind and allowed my students at the time to become Instagram followers, which made me officially change my policy and allow all students past, present, and future to jump on board. 

A few things to remember before the fun parts:

1. What is your district's social media policy when it comes to teachers and students? Mine is super relaxed, for better or worse, but always be mindful so you don't get a wrist slap (or worse) later!

2. Pretend that your administrators and the students' parents all have access to see every tiny little thing posted. 

3. Recruit a few colleagues to follow you, just in case anything comes up later.

4. Keep your account private and have some way of verifying students (I ask them about their schedule). If you feel like you might need to keep a spreadsheet with user names and actual names go for it! I don't, but I can see how that might be helpful with some groups.

5. Have clear cut parameters; I won't discuss grades on social media, and encourage kids to email me with anything that can't be resolved with a word or two (checking due dates is great, giving feedback on a thesis needs to move over to email). You might also have a standard message about decorum that you DM a kid once you accept their request.  

6. You are doing this to build relationships and communicate- if any student gets in the way don't hesitate to block them (tell them why, they need to know). Following you is a privilege, not a right.

7. DO NOT follow the kids back. I feel very, very, very strongly about this and tell my students this more than once. Once you follow them back you are opening yourself up to seeing parts of their lives that might require you to call their parents, CPS, or even the police. DON'T DO IT. 

How I Use the Platform:

1. Post reminders- This practical reason comes in so handy during this time of distance learning! A few weeks ago I posted constant stories so that the kids would know when to pick up text books.

2. Get (appropriately) personal- I find it a lot easier to work for people who I know and can connect to, so I try to share about my life here. There are lots of pictures of Sawyer, vacations, hobbies, the puppy, and other weird little tidbits about my life. I put subtle posts up so that they know I am an ally, as well, since I want kids to feel comfortable telling me more about themselves! I try to post a few stories a day, too, since I know a lot of them watch there based on the stats.

3. Polls and questions- People love to easily contribute and feel compelled to weigh in, so I find the polls and question boxes to be a great feature. I post literary-based "would you rather" sort of questions, but also a lot of ones for fun, too. For example, I did a whole series of ones based on reading preferences last spring, but then lots on cereal a few days later. Right now I have a simple question box up about the long weekend. I could technically do this for feedback on content, but I really try to not push my classroom content super hard on this platform.

4. Personal  validation- Last spring I did a few "star students" each day, recording video for stories. Despite the fact my students at the time were eighteen-years-old, they sent me so many sweet messages thanking me for the appreciation. I have been thanking kids who come to our office hours lately and plan to expand this soon.  

5. Group shout outs- I like to the thank specific periods or the group as a whole, as well. My kids have been doing an amazing job with attendance and submitting work, so I made sure to pop a note on stories and tell them this last night. 

6. Fun extra credit Easter Eggs- Sometime I'll do a quick little competition with a question and tell them the first ten kids who answer get a few extra credit points. I've also hid quiz questions or hints in stories before, as well. 

7. Track down hard-to-reach kids- This came in handy several times last year when some of my seniors disappeared when schools closed. You can see when they check their DMs, which is super helpful.

8. Keep in touch with alumni- One of the hardest parts of being a teacher who loops with her kids in 11th and 12th grade is when the baby birds leave the nest. Instagram is a great way to connect- I'll put up polls for the older kid about college or even DM them personally to say hi. 

9. IGTV book recommendations- I never thought I'd use IGTV, but here I am, looking like a fool while talking about books. You can see the views and I'm always pleasantly surprised the kids are actually watching me yammer on and on about reading for fun. 

10. Scavenger Hunts, Pictures Submissions, etc...  I have had students send me pictures of the nearest book close to them to re-post, pictures of them in their masks ("maskies"), shots of their pets, etc... 

11. Day-in-the-lives: I haven't done this yet, but eventually I want to recruit my past students to do some Instagram Stories takeovers so my present students can see what it's like to be a UCLA, Cal, CSUF, RCC, etc... student. I might do one myself, too! 

A few other helpful hints:

1. Always ask before you tag a student or post something they've written or given you. Common courtesies!

2. There are a lot of fun word/text app out there that let you make cute, custom test boxes (I love Word Swag)

3. If you're comfortable, ask your family members or pets to say hi. The kids love meeting people! I did an AMA once with my son and the best was when my students asked him about the symbolism in The Cat in the Hat

4. Repurpose the pictures you put on your personal account and just change the caption if necessary. 

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