On today’s episode, I invited Rebekah Poe to join me on the mic. She is yet another IGTRLF or Instagram-turned-real-life friend that I had the opportunity to get closer to through many DMs, voice texts, and eventually, some shared in-person conference experiences. Rebekah is an award-winning special education teacher with more than a decade of experience in all facets of special education and enjoys helping teachers discover the best practices for meeting the needs of students of all abilities in an inclusive environment.
Not only is she an amazing teacher, but she’s also an influencer in the best way. With her authenticity and knowledge about creating inclusive spaces for students at all levels, it’s no surprise to me that tens of thousands of people look to Rebekah for practical strategies, relevant humor, and openness. More than that though, Rebekah is also a wife, mom, and overall phenomenal human being.
In this conversation, Rebekah pulls back the curtain on her life as a teacher influencer or “Teacherpreneur.”
While she has this huge platform and opportunities to inspire countless students through empowering their teachers, it’s easy for some folks to forget the humanity of the person behind the posts. In this influencer era, high follower counts are a status symbol that comes with a lot of expectations and assumptions. In this conversation, Rebekah shares how she manages her online presence while also holding space for her own humanity, a job that isn’t always easy. I hope the insight from this episode encourages you to see through a more empathetic, compassionate lens & that you consider the people beyond the perceived external value they provide on social media.
“I believed that I HAD to live up to the expectations that I thought people placed on me.”
Rebekah never set out to be an influencer. She actually created her Instagram account just as a way to connect with other teachers and share her experience, but when a couple of her posts were shared by a couple of larger accounts, her following grew exponentially almost overnight. In this sudden expansion of her following, she found that she had to quickly figure out what direction she was going next. While, at the time, this was stressful, looking back Rebekah shares that this was the shift that made it clear to her that her real passion was helping other teachers and it was through this platform that she could expand her reach to the teachers she could support and inspire.
But with this excitement also came the stress of how figuring out what to do next. Rebekah shares that she felt this overwhelming weight to “produce”. She felt like she had this expectation of what she “needed” to be doing and suddenly creating content started to consume her. During this time, Rebekah recalls that she was constantly on her phone and living life through her phone in an effort to create content. Striving for those likes was almost addicting in the beginning, but as the chase for likes started to consume her, she realized that she needed to stop and find her way back to her core values and her reason for creating her account in the first place. She also had to reflect on why it was that her followers followed her in the first place.
Through this reflection, Rebekah remembered that people followed her because they appreciated her honesty and openness about her experiences. And, she realized that once she stopped being perfect, she was no longer bogged down by the stress of creating content and she became happier.
“Instagram can sometimes be that highlight reel where people only share the good things.”
The amount of likes and followers seems to be the first measure of whether or not an influencer on Instagram is “successful”. But these vanity metrics can easily sway influencers in how they show up on their account. Rebekah shared that she was - for a time - caught up in these same vanity metrics, but realized the power of showing up authentically to her audience. She shares that, on her account, she shares the good, the bad, the stressful, and the wins. We are not always happy and teaching isn’t always sunshine and rainbows - it’s hard - and being honest about that shows other teachers that they aren’t alone.
Unfortunately, one of the realities with social media is that sometimes only the good moments are shared and accounts are organized highlight reels. While these posts can be great to look at, they come with a warning - these images/posts can make other teachers (maybe a teacher who is burned out and struggling) feel like they aren’t enough when they are comparing their worst days to the best days that are posted all over social media.
Thankfully, the landscape of social media is starting to shift and there is a little glimmer of authenticity. The current trend on Instagram is to shift back to people being authentic and showing the “less glamorous” side of teaching. These accounts are becoming less about the aesthetics and the “perfect” page and more about being a resource for other teachers out there who need it. Rebekah reminds us that, it’s okay to be authentic. Show up as you!
“People l forget that I’m a person.”
There are some amazing parts of being an “influencer” on Instagram - both Rebekah and I both have had amazing opportunities and connections that were only possible because of our role as an “influencer” on Instagram. But it’s not all sunshine and roses.
When I asked Rebekah what was one thing she wish people understood, her answer was, People forget that I’m a person. It’s important to remember that, behind the images is a person, and people make mistakes - we miss typos and we don’t get back to DMs right away because life happens. When you are in the role of an influencer, it seems that people forget that the people on social media do in fact have feelings taht get hurt when you send hateful messages. Just because someone is an influencer, doesn’t mean they intended to be.
Rebekah Poe is an award-winning special education teacher and education conference presenter. She has over a decade of experience in all facets of special education and enjoys helping teachers discover the best practices for meeting the needs of students of all abilities in an inclusive environment.
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