What It’s Like to Be a Teacher Vlogger Star on YouTube

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What It’s Like to Be a Teacher Vlogger Star on YouTube

By Tina Nazerian     Aug 8, 2018

What It’s Like to Be a Teacher Vlogger Star on YouTube

This article is part of the guide: The World Is Watching: How YouTube Shapes Education.

Educator Charles Reynolds has gotten recognized at teacher conferences and restaurants.

That’s because he’s not just a ninth-grade literature teacher at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia High School. For approximately the past two years, he’s been vlogging on YouTube about his experience as an educator—and garnered hundreds of thousands of video views in the process.

Reynolds is just one of many teachers that have taken to vlogging over the past few years, creating a vibrant community along the way. Search “teacher vlog” on YouTube, and you’ll get videos on an array of classroom related topics, from hatching chicks in the classroom to end-of-year math activities.

Videos that rack up high page views tend to focus on three topics in particular—classroom tours, snapshots of a “day in the life” of a teacher and visual showcases of flexible furniture. Another teacher vlogger, Bridget Spackman, thinks the reason why these videos are so popular is because humans are nosy. Teachers want to see what other classrooms look like, and what their peers are doing in those spaces throughout the day.

“If you ask any teacher out there, they’re definitely going to say that one of the main things that they would love to do is be a fly on the wall in someone else’s classroom,” says Spackman, who teaches 4th-6th graders in central Pennsylvania and posts to her channel, The Lettered Classroom.

‘It’s Another Job’

Reynolds has doled out advice on a wide variety of topics, such as classroom management strategies, helping kids deal with loss and how to take students on a trip abroad to his more than 14,600 subscribers. He originally got into vlogging because his son wanted a YouTube channel. Although his son eventually decided to step away from vlogging, Reynolds had already learned how to film and edit. One thing he had noticed was the lack of “any kind of real advice” when he first began teaching.

“Everything was through a book, or you had to subscribe to something or you had to just read through blogs,” he says. “I just didn’t have time for that sort of thing.”

So, he decided to make videos about his own experience teaching. “It was really trying to put out content that I wish existed when I started teaching.” Teachers who watch his videos can see that they’re not alone, and have a safe outlet to ask questions they might not want to ask one of their supervisors or someone else at the building, he says.

Sharing those teaching experiences takes time. Reynolds tries to post two videos a week. On average, he spends about 15 to 20 hours a week filming and editing his videos. He notes that this time doesn’t include answering emails, direct messages, tweets and comments.

Spackman, who has been vlogging on YouTube for a few years and has more than 49,000 subscribers, also spends a lot of time putting together her videos. Planning, filming and editing takes her 25 to 30 hours a week. “It’s another job,” she says.

What About Student Privacy?

Maya Lee, a fifth-grade teacher based in California, usually posts one video a week to her channel. She says it takes about three hours a week to do so—an hour filming in her classroom and two hours editing.

Lee decided to be a teacher vlogger so she could highlight her first year of teaching, show the mistakes she’s made and advise preservice students on the necessary steps they need to take to become teachers.

She says vlogging about her teaching career is something that she “just started doing,” and as people at her school took notice and asked about it, she began to open up. They were OK with it, as long as she was being mindful about privacy. She says she tends not to talk about it with her coworkers, but if they see her with a camera, she’ll tell them about her channel. Her school’s administration hasn’t set formal rules around her vlogging.

She tried to keep her vlogging quiet for a while around her students. “But of course my students Googled my name and found me.” However, Lee confesses it was something of a comfort for her when they found out, because she can openly have her camera out now to record some of her lessons. Still, she’s careful about privacy and her students respect that she doesn’t want their faces shown. She also won’t show their names on any of their worksheets. If she shows their cubbies in a video, she’ll cover their names so their identities aren’t exposed.

“They were really excited to have a teacher who’s also on YouTube, because most kids nowadays spend hours on YouTube,” she adds.

Reynolds says he never uses students’ full names, and if they say anything too private on video, he doesn’t use it. Students that make the final cut in his videos must have written consent from their parents.

He didn’t have to get approval from his school when he was first starting out and had low views. But at the beginning of last year, when his channel started to grow, he sat down with the school’s administration to set some ground rules. He can’t record during class time—that “time is sacred”—and kids who appear in his videos must have parental permission.

Reynolds says in the early days of his vlog, students would tease him because of his low subscriber numbers. But as he started surpassing the number of subscribers they had, he gained some legitimacy in their eyes.

“Then all of a studden kids wanted to be in the videos, and they wanted to tell their story,” he says.

Spackman gets parental permission to show students and their work in her videos. If she does use their faces, she doesn’t use their full names.

“I’ve kind of gone back a little bit more from when I first started doing it, and I use a lot more hands,” she says. “So you’ll see their hands in a lot of the pictures, their first names, maybe, but that’s really about it.

Some teacher vloggers, like Spackman and Lee, don’t like to publicize their school’s name, even though that information can be easy to find online. Reynolds doesn’t mention his school’s name in videos, but he points out it’s one of the only all-boys schools in Philadelphia. At first, he said, his administration didn’t want him to talk about it. But now that his channel has grown, when he has speaking engagements, the administration asks him to say the name of the school.

“It’s free publicity for the school,” Reynolds says.


Lee currently has over 6,900 subscribers. She says she started to see that number increase last October when she posted a “day in the life” video showing viewers her daily routine as a 5th-grade teacher.

“That’s when I started getting more messages from people, and people just reaching out to me, asking questions and also thanking me for being open and honest about teaching,” she says.

Connecting with fellow educators is just one benefit from being a teacher vlogger on YouTube. Spackman thinks her channel helped her land her current job in Pennsylvania—she included a link to it in her email to the principal.

There can be money involved, too, provided that a vlogger hits certain numbers. Reynolds, for instance, makes about $100 a month, and Lee makes about $150 per month. Lee has received product sponsorships as well, and Reynolds also makes money from speaking engagements. The fee can range from a couple hundred bucks to a few thousand. Sometimes, the school is the one benefitting, such as when he spoke at ISTE. (The school was going to send him anyway, but as a speaker, he got a reduced rate.)

Reynolds says that through vlogging, he now gets to speak to teachers from around the United States and the world, such as South Africa and Russia. That has also impacted his students, a lot of whom have never left Philadelphia. Connecting with teachers and students abroad gives them an idea of what school is like somewhere else. He hopes to further leverage his platform to create opportunities for his students.

And just as important, his YouTube channel has also allowed him to look inward.

“It really gives me a chance to look back on, and reflect on, my year, my lesson, my month,” he says. “And I love that.”

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