Help! My Students Say They Don’t Need School Because They’re Going to Be Influencers

Is it my place to tell them that dream isn’t realistic?

Illustration of teacher whose students want to be influencers


Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach high school juniors, and like a lot of schools, we’re dealing with tons of student apathy and burnout. My students insist they don’t need my class (Algebra II) because they’re going to be social media influencers. Is it my place to tell them that dream isn’t realistic? —Bubble-Burster

Dear B.B.,

I taught a lot of students who were convinced they were going to be future NBA stars. Once, I typed up two different contracts for two fake teams and asked students which team they’d sign with. They all chose one of the contracts. Then I showed them how both contracts were garbage when you read closely.

I knew my students weren’t going to the NBA. But I also knew I never wanted to be remembered as the teacher who said they’d never make it. Instead, I wanted to show them how my dream for them fit into their dream for themselves.


I don’t think you need to tell them their dream isn’t realistic. It is part of your role, however, to show them exactly how they would need and benefit from Algebra II concepts in being an influencer.

  • Craft word problems having students compare which sponsorship contracts are better (and which will leave them high and dry)
  • Show students statistics on the average influencer income and have them calculate rent, cost of living, etc. Budgeting and variable costs is often a big eye-opener.
  • Use linear equations to determine how much of something you can afford (e.g. WiFi costs, influencer coaching, marketing, etc.) when a service involves both a rate and a flat fee
  • Use exponential equations to represent and solve savings or loan situations—which type of account will accrue more money over time for an NBA salary?

Be careful not to show them these things to squash their dreams, but rather to help them frame their version of success. What will I need to do to live the life I want as an influencer? That way, they can decide if the influencer life is the one for them.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
We’re getting new flooring in our school over the summer. Our principal said he expected each teacher to provide some kind of protective covering over the feet of all classroom desks, chairs, and furniture. “I recommend tennis balls,” he said. As someone without access to hundreds of tennis balls (?), how would you recommend I do this? —Notably Ball-Less

Dear N.B.L.,

The snarky part of me wants you to email your principal that last line: “As someone without access to hundreds of tennis balls, how would you recommend I do this?”

But the professional part of me would not recommend saying it in that way.

Instead, invite your principal to come to this realization themselves. You can do this a number of ways.

First, wait a week or two. Your principal might email out an update with more information.

If you don’t hear any updates after a week, I would recommend laying low. Don’t make any moves until you go back to school. At that point, you can talk to other teachers and check out their rooms. (I’m guessing very few have shelled out the money to comply.)

If your principal still demands teachers fund these protections themselves, it’s time for facts. According to my very short Amazon search and a conservative estimate of classroom furniture, it would cost between $100-250 to provide protective covering yourself (depending on whether you used tennis balls or felt stickers). If your principal still expects you to fund this yourself, tell him it’ll have to come out of your gas budget to get to school.

(Last line brought to you by the snarky part of me, so wield with caution.)

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I just found out that next year I’m expected to lead our high school’s Model U.N. course. I have literally no experience with it, and I’m kind of mad that the second half of my summer will now be worrying, prepping, and panicking over it. Where do I start? —Ambassador of Underprepared

Dear A.O.U.,

Once upon a time, I was voluntold to be a middle school robotics coach. I had no idea what I was doing before or during the competition season. I still can’t tell you much about what I did (I think I went into a fugue state for much of it). But the good news is this: the students had fun and nobody got electrocuted!

Might I suggest a reframe? What if instead of trying to position yourself to know everything you can about Model U.N. so that you come in as an expert in the fall (which is what many caring, conscientious educators would do), you spend this school year in observation mode? What if you and your students learn together?

First, ask your principal for support. I assume you’ve told your principal you know nothing about it—ask them where you should start (including contact info of the last coach). Also ask your principal what the expectations are for this school year. My guess is that your principal will reassure you that they are not expecting you to sweep nationals in your first year.

Then, reserve exactly one full day this summer to learn what you can about Model U.N. Watch videos of them online. Join Reddit groups. Read information on coaching. Consider it your one day of P.D. to learn enough to have a week planned out.

Once you’re back in school and actually paid for your labor, plan out a rough version of your first semester. Don’t get too detailed in your planning because what you learn along the way is likely to change.

And remember: Belize in yourself. Be Hungary to win. Make your Denmark.

OK, I’m done.

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Dear WeAreTeachers,
This was my first year teaching high school biology. We are supposed to be a “cell phones out of sight during class” school, but I struggled a lot this past year not knowing what to do when students were texting their parents. The one time that I put my foot down and said for everyone to put their phones away no matter who they were talking to, I got an email from a parent saying I had no right to interfere with communication with her daughter. What should I do differently next year? —E.T., You Cannot Phone Home

This week on Ask WeAreTeachers, we cover students who want to be influencers, protective floor coverings, and a new volunteering position.