Keeping the Teacher Perspective: Focusing on Sound Pedagogy in and Instagram World

Keeping the Teacher Perspective: Focusing on Sound Pedagogy in and Instagram World
When I stepped into my very own classroom for the first time as a brand new teacher, Instagram didn’t exist. I didn’t even know about the online wealth of information available to me, a struggling first-year teacher. When I eventually created my own personal Instagram account in the middle of 2012, I didn’t even really know how to use the platform. I posted ten pictures of my infant son on the profile all within 5 minutes, but of course, not before applying filters to the photos. Then, I didn’t open up the app for almost a year later.

I didn’t understand Instagram, and to be completely honest, I didn’t think the platform would be a success. Why would people only want to see pictures? What about the text? (Remember, the captions used to be more limiting.) But then again, I also remember preferring MySpace to Facebook and thinking that Facebook was the inferior platform. However, that is an entirely different discussion.

I digress.

Unlike myself more than a decade ago, today’s new teachers know all about Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and online blogs, and they might even know that there are quite a few teacher Instagram accounts that are worth following for sound pedagogy, helpful ideas, education humor, teacher fashion, and classroom decor ideas. As helpful as the online teacher community can be, it can also be incredibly intimidating and overwhelming, especially for new teachers who are still trying to test the waters. Trust me, you should have seen my early bulletin boards. They were a hot mess.
Keeping the Teacher Perspective: Focusing on Sound Pedagogy in and Instagram World


To illustrate, here's a comparison: I am so thankful that Pinterest wasn’t around when I was planning my wedding. I looked through some magazines, read some messages online, and had the best backyard wedding a girl could ask for. -complete with homemade bouquets and string lights that my then fiance hung.

However, Pinterest was around when I planned my son’s first birthday party. In many ways, planning my son’s first birthday party was so much more stressful than planning my wedding because I would always compare the party I was planning to these perfectly styled and edited pictures on Pinterest. I kept finding new party favor ideas, party decor ideas, party game ideas, party invite ideas, party balloon ideas, party food ideas, and well, you get the point. I was overwhelmed and bombarded with too much.

I purchased more than 200 latex balloons, and I rented two large helium tanks from a local party rental company. Yes, I know exactly how superfluous this sounds. Hours before party guests arrived, I was frantically inflating balloons and tying them to string. When the party started, I still had one full helium tank left that I hadn't even touched, about 75 balloons I didn’t get to inflate to make that ‘perfect’ balloon arch, blood blisters on my fingers, and a matching pair of bruises on my shins from leaning up against the ladder to hang the homemade Happy Birthday Banner that I spent countless hours making. Despite all of the stress and extra hoopla, I didn't even get to, the party was a success. My son turned one, he slightly smashed his cake, and I was able to enjoy an afternoon visiting with family and friends.

I am thankful Pinterest wasn't around as I planned my wedding. Comparison would have stolen my joy. And similarly, I am thankful that Pinterest and Instagram weren’t around when I was a first-year teacher.

While having access to a plethora of classroom-tested ideas and activities might have been helpful, I know that I would have compared myself to established teachers and felt overwhelmed, unworthy, and underprepared for life in the classroom. I would have felt like I wasn't doing enough.

It is human nature to compare and judge, and I know that first-year-teacher me (heck, even second-year, third-year, and fourth-year teacher me) would have come out on the losing side of that competition. I would have felt deflated and inadequate. I might have even questioned my (second) career choice. (Side note: teaching is my second career).

While I do recognize that I am a contributing member to many online platforms, it is so very important for every teacher -the contributors, the consumers, the veterans, the newbies, the influencers- to be mindful that we see just a glimpse of classroom life through these social media platforms.

As difficult as it is, we should try not to compare ourselves to someone else. We don't need to have a perfectly decorated classroom, nor do we need to facilitate elaborate escape room challenges and classroom transformations every single unit to be a good teacher.
Keeping the Teacher Perspective: Focusing on Sound Pedagogy in and Instagram World
We need to care about our students, and we need to use sound pedagogy -research-based pedagogy that will help our students.

Because at the end of the day, week, month, unit, semester, or year, there will always be that full helium tank we didn’t get to, and yet, we still make an impact and create a memorable learning experience for our students if we truly care about our students and stick to sound pedagogical practices.