A video features a group of students surrounding Social Studies teacher Michael Curry at a Bison Football game, laughing as the team plays in the background. One student throws a handful of popcorn at him as the others hype him up. “BILLIE EILISH” by Armani White plays in the background.
In class, Curry jokes about becoming TikTok famous, but he says that he’s actually trying to build connections with students whose lives are increasingly lived online.
The students in Curry’s second-hour class – who have encouraged him to make videos – continually ask Curry if he is going to blow up and get “TikTok Famous”. Curry stays humble and casually laughs it off.
However, Curry says there’s a lot more meaning behind his TikTok than fame.
“It’s not necessarily about getting famous for me,” Curry said. “It’s more about building relationships with students in different ways, and in an environment other than the classroom.”
While Curry does this for his own fun and for the students, the newness of the platform raises questions about what he can and can’t do. A Wired Magazine article in 2022 outlined the fine line that teachers have to be aware of on TikTok. While some teachers in the article had thriving professional accounts, one teacher was reprimanded by their school board after posting a “semi-viral” TikTok video including her, a coworker, and a few students.
Currently, BHS Schools doesn’t have a rule on social media platforms or “befriending” students for teachers, but the BHM School Board discourages teachers from having Social Media interactions that have a basis in student-teacher relationships.
In person, Curry’s classes begin with the sounds of joyful connections and loud welcomes. His classes start with conversations instead of diving into the curriculum. It’s Curry’s way of interacting with the students outside of TikTok.
“I really do it to have that connection with some of the kids that you normally wouldn’t have a connection with,” Curry said. “If the kids weren’t into it, I probably wouldn’t do it.”
Curry says he aiming to make a change and use his TikTok platform to influence that change. He says he strives to bring the students to a closer-knit community through a series of TikToks that Curry has posted at school events like games or simply in the hallways before school.
With videos such as “Street chats with Curry”, where he interviews people about a “Question of the Day” that is also featured in the classroom, he wants kids to be comfortable talking to him. Curry has emphasized a safe place for every student and wants his students to know they can go to him.
“I think that the more comfortable you feel in an environment the better the space will be,” Curry said, “the safer you feel, the more you’ll feel okay to share your opinions.”
Curry says he wants to be respected as a teacher just as much as a creator. Curry highlights the importance of boundaries since the account was created.
“There’s a fine line between being a teacher and being a buddy,” Curry said. “You don’t want to push those boundaries.”
Curry has worked for a better student-teacher environment and relationship in hopes to make BHS a better place for everyone. The jokes about Curry being “famous” have been quite the conversation starter, but the real meaning behind his journey on #TeacherTikTok sparks a new one.