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Teacher TikTok is the online classroom we all need
In 2019, fifth-grade teacher Josh Monroe’s students were coming into the classroom every day, dancing to “The Whoa” and making Fortnite references in between multiplication problems.
He shrugged off their goofy inside jokes and silly behaviors, but a year later, after COVID-19 relegated everyone to their computer screens, getting kids to participate in class became a challenge he had yet to encounter in his decade of teaching.
“So I broke down, and I joined them. I got on TikTok,” Monroe said. “And it worked. You know, if they could sit through the whole math lesson, they’d get to watch a 30-second video of their teacher being human.”
Monroe’s page started with one goal: to be a better teacher for his students. And two years later, with over 1.3 million followers, that goal remains the same.
Alongside his trusty sidekick (and school therapy dog) Nala, Monroe’s page (@mrmonroeandnala if you’d like a serotonin boost) rose to TeacherTok fame after he posted a “point-of-view” video (or POV, as the kids call it) telling a student it was OK to sleep in class.
The video got over 12 million views, and the comments came pouring in.
“I read stories about kids who never experienced that kind of love and wish that they had it growing up,” Monroe said. “From there, I saw it as an opportunity to share experiences that I’ve had in classrooms, asking questions like: How do we approach situations with love? How do we approach them with empathy? How do we approach them, still, with accountability?”
Monroe teaches in a high-poverty area, in the very elementary school he attended as a kid. He knows the often difficult path his students walk, and two classrooms down is Mr. Henry, his fourth-grade teacher who inspired him to become an educator, too.
“He changed my life,” Monroe said. “Outside of my parents, outside of my immediate family, he loved me. That’s the first adult I remember loving me.”
So, above social studies and long division, that’s what Monroe teaches: love.
His videos are often POVs, redirecting pretend students with accountability, welcoming them with compassion when they’re late to class, or even complimenting a male student’s nail polish color after getting picked on by others. He speaks gently and confidently — and looks a little like John Krasinski.
“These are real experiences I’ve had with kids,” he said. “I’ve learned to take these situations, or think of a situation that might be difficult for an elementary school teacher to be in, and I act out how I’d want to react. How can I approach this with love instead of being responsive? Above anything else, it’s important for me. It’s building muscle memory.”
So, while TikTok is all in good fun, and Monroe has built a much-needed camaraderie of teacher friends near and far through the app, at its core, he calls it “professional development.”
Getting responses from other teachers, parents, doctors, students, and professionals from all over the globe, having important conversations about how to best care for young people, is the best field training available.
“Sometimes I’ll get that negative feedback, but when it’s constructive, and I’m learning something new, as a teacher, that’s what I want to give my students,” he said. “How do you grow in your learning? How do you grow in your journey of being somebody that is ready to inherit society? TikTok helps me with that, so that I can help my kids, too.”
Monroe is only one of the hundreds of compassionate, authentic teachers on TikTok.
Whether it’s first-year teachers showing off their kindergarten projects, seasoned instructors who give pep talks to their students on camera, or educators who are downright exhausted and showing us a glimpse behind the curtain, TeacherTok takes education to an entirely new level — one many of us could have never imagined just a few years ago.
Meet a few of our favorite TikTok teachers using their platforms — and their classrooms — to bring more love, honesty, and empathy to the world.
Meet the top teachers to follow on TikTok:
Josh Monroe | @mrmonroeandnala
Monroe (@mrmonroeandnala) obviously gets a spot on this list, encircling an audience of over 1.3 million followers in love daily. His videos are thoughtful, inclusive, and encouraging — not just to teachers, but to the fifth grader inside of us all.
His POV clips feel safe and comforting, all while holding us all accountable to be kinder humans. And seeing his classroom therapy dog Nala is the cherry on top.
Maddie Richardson | @themissrproject
Maddie Richardson (or better known as @themissrproject) is part of a grassroots micro-learning movement that’s using TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to help teachers fall back in love with coming to school, help students reclaim the joy of entering the classroom, and better the education system.
She offers helpful (and fun) how-to videos on TikTok and YouTube around emergency classroom management strategies, social-emotional learning, and "e-breaks".
Arielle Fodor | @mrs.frazzled
Arielle Fodor, a kindergarten teacher in Southern California (her loyal TikTok followers know her as @mrs.frazzled) offers a goofy, lighthearted, but also very real glimpse into the life of a teacher. We love how she actively sets boundaries as an educator and offers practical advice to fellow teachers.
Phil Cook | @chemteacherphil
If you have a love and curiosity for science, Phil Cook (otherwise known as @chemteacherphil) is a beloved high school chemistry teacher from Culver, Indiana. He first joined TikTok after a student encouraged him to turn his in-class experiments into short-form videos.
He’s since amassed 3.8 chemistry-curious followers by uploading quick easy science experiments you can try at home and science survival hacks.
Claudine James | @iamtheenglishteacher
If the misuse of “there,” “their,” and “they’re” is triggering for you, Claudine James (or @iamtheenglishteacher) is a dream TikTok follow.
The eighth-grade educator patiently walks her students (and 3.8 million followers) through daily grammar lessons that are now being used by other teachers all around the world — some even use them to help English language learners.
Nibaldo Calvo Buides | @spanishforeveryday
Nibaldo Calvo Buides (AKA @spanishforeveryday) is a Kentucky Spanish teacher whose energy and passion for learning Spanish translated into millions of eager students around the world. His fun, silly daily videos make learning a new language easy, practical, and not so frustrating.
Donovan Taylor Hall | @donofriend
Donovan Taylor Hall, also known as “21st century Mister Rogers” (or @donofriend on TikTok) is well-known by his middle school students as someone who focuses on their strengths, instead of their perceived faults.
His wholesome lessons on how to cope with stress, practice gratitude, and how to love yourself went beyond his classroom walls when he began posting on TikTok. Today, students (and his followers) not only turn to him because of his infectious positivity but they’ve found bite-sized tools and skills to lean on when life gets a little tough.
Aditi | @thatfashionableteacher
For those looking for some teacher outfit inspo, Aditi (known by her TikTok followers as @thatfashionableteacher) brings so much style, humor, and joy into the classroom — and our phone screens.
Aditi shares her fun outfit of the day while also candidly talking about mental health and accessible resources educators can use in the classroom.
Phyllis Gaines | @signofdatimes
Phyllis Gaines, a high school American Sign Language teacher and dancer, is bridging the gap between the Deaf & performing arts community through her TikTok, @signofdatimes. Gaines leverages her background in dance as a way to educate her students and followers on the vast spectrum of communication.
Noye | @braillionofficial
Noye (also known as @braillionofficial) was born with albinism, a genetic condition that affects her vision. Noye taught herself Braille at just nine years old and has since made it her mission to educate others. She is currently a student teacher studying to be a teacher of the Visually Impaired.
She’s built a platform centered on supporting and inspiring other special education teachers, Braille-learners, and anyone interested in Braille.
Joshua King | @joshuarylesking
Joshua King (@joshuarylesking on TikTok) is a third-grade teacher that focuses on modeling kindness, respect, and acceptance in the classroom. He covers everything from classroom management tips to teacher mental health — all while keeping it fun and empowering!
A version of this article was originally published in The Education Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
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