Inside the rise of #TeacherQuitTok, where educators are documenting the moment they pack up and leave the profession for good

·6-min read
Teachers packing up and leaving their classrooms.
Teachers told Insider TikTok provided a valuable community for them.TikTok: @ms.mccourt, Kayla McCourt, @k.a.t.2018
  • The hashtag #TeacherQuitTok has over 266 million views on TikTok.

  • Educators are sharing the realities of the role and their reasons for leaving the profession.

  • Teachers told Insider they've found a valuable community on the app.

On January 17, Kayla McCourt, a 33-year-old former teacher with over a decade of experience, filmed herself packing up her classroom and exiting the profession.

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In the video, which received 83,000 views on TikTok, McCourt could be seen handing a key to a woman behind a desk, before she left through a door and raised her arms triumphantly in the air. The caption of the upload read, "The scariest, but most freeing decision I've ever made," alongside the hashtags #TeacherQuitTok and #teachersoftiktok.

Hundreds of comments under the post offered commiserations — some from people who said they had similar experiences. McCourt responded to one viewer who said they were a trainee teacher that was "stressed the f out," saying it's not all this bad, and she has positive memories from her time of teaching. Another viewer said they had also recently quit their job, and McCourt sent encouragement and support.

In recent months, multiple people have filmed themselves appearing to leave their classroom as part of the same TikTok trend McCourt took part in, which often includes a popular sound on the app. The audio, which is played in the background of these clips, features a voice that said, "A wise woman once packed all her stuff and said, 'this fucked up shit will not be my story.' Then she left." The hashtag #TeacherQuitTok currently has over 266 million views on the app.

McCourt told Insider a community of like-minded teachers has formed on TikTok, and she is just one of many who are highlighting the challenges of their jobs, which range from long hours to low pay and insufficient training, in an effort to show others they're not alone.

TikTok helped one teacher who was unhappy in her role to find her voice

McCourt, who is based in California, first went viral in the summer of 2020 with a video that received 4.4 million views, showing her dressed in a wetsuit and goggles, as she tried to engage her students with educational games during the pandemic.

Back then, McCourt wanted to share the fun side of her role and continued to post similar TikToks where she went to extra lengths to dress up in costumes for her classes.

But over time the pressures of the job started to overwhelm her, she said, and she started posting videos that highlighted the issues she faced, which included large classroom sizes, additional admin, and stretched working schedules.

McCourt said the teachers she found on TikTok became friends and provided a "system of people that I could trust" and speak with as they responded to one another's videos to say they could relate to the same issues, such as low pay.

Despite having an Associate degree, a Bachelor's, and a Master's, McCourt said after 10 years of teaching her salary ranged from $60,000 to $65,000, and she had to pick up bar and restaurant work on the weekends for the majority of her tenure to make ends meet.

According to federal data taken from the 2020-2021 academic year, 17% of teachers in the US work second jobs, EducationWeek reported. The same report revealed teachers were already working an average of 52 hours a week.

McCourt said she was "very thankful" for the community of teachers she found on TikTok, and said the app helped her "find my voice a little bit more" and feel more comfortable sharing the reality of her experience as a teacher, and hopes her videos can help others.

The feedback from comments appears to be mostly supportive of the teachers too, with many responding to say they respect the work they are trying to do, and appreciate how much they are stretched by the expectations of the job. Others commented to say they were teachers in training, and the videos helped them gain a better understanding of what they may be getting themselves into.

'Younger generations are more outspoken and they don't blindly follow,' one TikTok teacher said

Isabel Brown, a 30-year-old former teacher who taught human geography for six years in South Carolina, has over 278,000 followers on TikTok. Her earlier uploads showed her creative teaching methods which included a TED talk, a dance-off, and turning learning into a survival-based game, but she told Insider six years of the job started to wear her down.

@isetheadvocate Reply to @krisminski this will be a new one for me! 🫢🍎 #greenscreenvideo #teachersoftiktok #survivor #fyp ♬ First Class - Jack Harlow

Brown felt teaching was her calling so she majored in education at college, but discovered four years of training had not properly equipped her for the reality of the role.

"I had gone to school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but when I stepped in the classroom, I felt unprepared," she told Insider. "Nothing really prepares you for actually having 30 students at a time."

Brown ultimately left her role as a teacher in May 2022, and posted a video outlining her reasons for leaving in a March TikTok which received over 1.4 million views, saying she realized she couldn't change the school system.

She has since launched Brown Crayon Advocacy which provides assistance to parents and students, through motivation and counseling, to help them thrive in the classroom.

She plans to continue posting TikToks, in the hopes she can shine a light on the positive things still going on in the classroom.

She told Insider she thinks TikTok has become a platform for teachers to be transparent about their work as it has a younger demographic that is more open to sharing details of their mental health and self-care, and she represents "thousands of young, fun teachers who are leaving."

According to data obtained by education non-profit Chalkbeat which looked at the teacher turnover rates from eight states in the US between 2021 and 2022, "in all cases, turnover was at its highest point in at least five years," USA Today reported.

Brown added she "hated all the paperwork" and felt that educators didn't receive the respect they deserved. Plus there was the problem with the lack of maternity leave. According to a 2022 report by EducationWeek, the United States "does not mandate paid parental leave."

"You see young teachers who are so excited to teach and now they're posting about the actual conditions, and they're not afraid to do so because I think the younger generations are more outspoken and they don't blindly follow like some of the older generations do," she said.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.

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