This post will be the beginning of a 4-part series on:
Starting an Education Social Media Account Mindfully
Pt 1: How and why I began an online teaching Instagram but hid my face
Pt 2: To lurk, share, both, or neither? Setting personal social media boundaries and finding your ‘why’ or ‘why not’
Pt 3: Making connections with and learning from other online teachers on Instagram
Pt. 4: Tips and resources for your teaching Instagram in 2020
(titles and/or topics may change slightly!)
To help those of you (teachers or otherwise) who want to share their work experiences, talents, products, and/or day-to-day experiences as an educator to a wide audience, as well as make connections with other people in your field, in a way that works for you and adds value to your life, rather than something that potentially harms your mental well-being.
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My future posts in this series will include resources and experiences from other online teachers, but before I could do that, I had to first share my story.
Please note that these are my personal experiences and feelings. I am not speaking on behalf of any other online teacher, introvert, or person that chooses to hide their identity online, etc. – just myself. 🙂
The takeaway: “As educators, Instagram (and other social media platforms) offers opportunities to make connections, get support from other like-minded teachers, share your story, teaching moments, talents, etc., and even possibly build a business. However, given the potential risks of social media usage on mental health and personal privacy, it’s up to you to decide whether to share yourself as a teacher online and if so, how much or how little to share.”
This post is broken up into 3 parts: the idea, the start, and now.
Around this time last year, I wanted to start sharing and eventually blogging about my online teaching experiences to a wider audience. Before then, I taught middle school Spanish for 2 years before leaving the classroom to pursue alternative education jobs, including Home and Hospital Teaching and online ESL teaching. At that point, I had been teaching online for about 2 years and felt extremely grateful to be able to work from home teaching students and mentoring prospective teachers – it worked very well for me as an introvert who craves deep connections but at the same time gets exhausted easily.
Teachers of all personalities and levels of extroversion/introversion can thrive in this field, but I personally am better-suited for tutoring/teaching online one-to-one than I was as a classroom Spanish teacher as it expended a huge amount of my energy.
So the name came to mind….
“The Introverted Online Teacher”
Those qualifiers are two integral parts of my identity and help encapsulate my point of view in terms of my posts, art, and choice of work.
I chose Instagram as the ideal platform to start connecting with other teachers and eventually building an audience for my blog. Instagram seemed like an ideal choice because of its emphasis on images and meaningful captions. I’ve always enjoyed making art and taking pictures, so it seemed like it would be a good fit as it could also be a creative outlet (and it certainly has been!).
I had all these ideas, but something held me back for a few months –
I don’t want to show my face.
To try to get around that fact, I started sketching an avatar that would be personal but still hide my identity. I was struggling a lot with coming up with an idea until I saw a friend from college post avatars she had made on her page – it was EXACTLY what I was looking for. She kindly designed one for me based on my sketches, and I finally felt like I could start the page. After starting my page with the left-hand image, I added some text a few months later with Canva, and then Aubree Teaches added text to get it to where it is now.
Even with the avatar ready to go, I still had a lot of anxiety about starting to post. People choose to create accounts or brands separate from their identity for a variety of reasons:
- Concerns about privacy
- Wanting to speak on controversial issues
- They just don’t feel like sharing their face and that’s that
For me, a big part of it was fear of the unknown and of being vulnerable.
Another disclaimer: I mentioned in one of my first Instagram posts that being an introvert does not automatically equate to shyness (or anxiety), but they can overlap. I’m a relatively private person and get a lot of anxiety from unknown and unpredictable situations, as well as fear of being judged by others. By anxiety, I don’t mean a diagnosed, clinical anxiety disorder, but enough to have an impact on some of my day-to-day choices and how much I talk to or share with other people.
Lots of questions came to mind (and still do), such as:
What if I made this account, put myself out there, and realized I hated it?
What if it added more stress than value to my life?
What if people thought my posts were stupid?
Eventually, I decided to push past the doubt and just start, using Canva (my lifeline for making graphics) and my iPhone to take pictures of props, etc. – it was exciting to start connecting with other online teachers and seeing their selfies, classrooms, and other meaningful teacher tips and ideas. Many teacher’s pictures and/or captions were detailed, interesting, and useful for getting ideas and strategies on how to be a better (online) teacher.
Eventually, I started putting up artwork and upgraded to a DSLR camera. I’ve wanted a nicer camera for 15 years but didn’t have the drive to get one until I made this account. I took a picture of Dino at the beach and tagged VIPKid’s Instagram page, and they asked if they could share it! Seeing my image along with other teachers’ pictures was exciting, and my page became a creative outlet for me in addition to a way to connect with other teachers.
Please keep in mind that these are the ways I personally chose to express myself but are definitely not required to make connections on Instagram – many times just sharing a selfie in your classroom is enough to get the ball rolling! However, since I personally did not feel comfortable showing myself at first, reassessing that boundary led to…
Over time, I started to appreciate more and more how supportive the Instagram educator communities are (especially for online teachers), which was a big motivation to continue posting. One area I will talk about in my next post is assessing the culture of different social media platforms and groups, and I’ve found Instagram’s online teacher community to be extremely supportive and creative, but also with spaces to discuss both the positive and not-so-positive aspects of our work in a respectful manner.
I also saw that there were a lot of ways that teachers chose to express themselves – some also didn’t show their face, others do sometimes, and some incorporate their identity regularly – and ALL of those options are okay.
There can be beauty in vulnerability online, and it’s up to each specific individual on how much or little of themselves they want to share. I’m a huge advocate for creating boundaries that work for you in all areas of life, including social media use and personal disclosure.
I did post my eye(s) a few times to show makeup posts, which made me think – if I can show my eye, and then later my torso to show a shirt, why can’t I show my face (yet)?
I realized that I felt like a nervous kid going from learning how to swim to jumping off the diving board for the first time – I needed to start very slowly and in gradual increments:
First, just looking at the pool…
Then, dipping a foot in…
Then, taking a step down the stairs…
One step at a time, and at my pace, or else I would freak out and run away completely.
At first, hiding my face was very comforting and gave me the courage to begin. I could try out different types of posts, get a sense of which direction(s) I wanted to take this “brand”, and get used to being vulnerable online and figure out my boundaries for what I did and didn’t want to share.
Over time, though, not sharing that part of myself went from something pushing me forward to holding me back, like a once-comfortable jacket starting to become too tight. Having a small, supportive audience, as well as getting a sense of what I enjoy sharing (art, meaningful quotes, random classroom moments, etc.), has helped guide me from the shallow end of the pool towards the deep end.
I also realized that if someone really wanted to see what I looked like, they could already by clicking my VIPKid referral link (or probably other ways if someone was really determined).
So now, about a year, about 70 Instagram posts and 2 blog posts later, I’m ready to jump off the diving board and show my face on my blog and Instagram account.
Thank you to those who have supported me and my account so far – I truly appreciate the kindness and support. Seeing the passion and enthusiasm of other teachers, whether classroom or virtual, has helped reinvigorate my drive to keep growing as an educator and not become complacent in my teaching.
Next time, I’ll go over ways to determine social media boundaries for yourself, followed by ways to build community, and finally tips for your account in 2020 – subscribe to stay updated!
The Introverted Online Teacher