Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Lauran Woolley‘s TikTok career began with a bet.
As a middle school teacher, she’s used to dealing with young students who are having a tough time. Back in 2020, she came up with an idea to keep one of those students on track. He liked TikTok, so to better connect with him, she made him a bet: She would create her own TikTok account from scratch, and see if she could beat his follower count by the end of the year.
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Then two things happened. First, COVID. Woolley and her students ended up at home for the rest of that semester–but even then, her student would log in every day for distance learning and ask what her follower count had risen to.
And that’s the second thing.
Her follower count started rising a lot.
Woolley, who’s 28 and from Youngstown, Ohio, didn’t really expect she’d be able to beat her student’s follower count. She just wanted to keep him interested in her class.
It turned out, though, that people on TikTok were also interested in her class–and her perspective as a teacher. Her first viral videos were a series where she asked fellow teachers random questions and recorded their often-sarcastic answers.
If you’ve been paying attention to TikTok and YouTube Shorts, you know that the response to Woolley’s content isn’t totally unexpected. Since the start of COVID, we’ve seen a rise in people simply recording and posting videos about their jobs–everyone from healthcare workers to lobster fishermen, sealcoaters, and woodworkers are reaching millions of people who are keen to learn about what they get up to doing their daily work.
For Woolley, the response, while unexpected, has been “crazy” and fulfilling, and has “opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” she says.
One of those opportunities is a podcast called Teachers Off Duty, where she and other educators “get to tell funny stories and related to each other,” she says.
You can check out the first episode of that podcast here, and see our chat with Mrs. Woolley below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Let’s just start with some background. For anybody who’s reading this and hasn’t seen your videos, tell me a little bit about you and where you’re from and how you ended up becoming a teacher.
Mrs. Woolley: I am from Northeast Ohio. I’ve lived here my whole life. Basically, I never really wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t decide to go into education until senior year of high school, at the very end of the year when they were like, “You need to pick something.” I went and I actually observed my kindergarten teacher from my elementary school, and I just fell in love with it. I was there for one day and it just seemed like a career where I would be doing something different every single day. It would be fun. It wouldn’t just be an office job or I’d just be sitting there at a computer all day. I like the variety of work that I get to do. I just took off from there and I went straight through college. I never changed my mind, and then I just got started right away right after I graduated.
Tubefilter: Where in Ohio are you from?
Mrs. Woolley: I’m from an area called Youngstown.
Tubefilter: That’s very cool. How did you end up on YouTube and TikTok?
Mrs. Woolley: Yes, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. I actually got started back in 2020 right before COVID hit and everyone got quarantined in their home. I had a student that I made a bet with, and he was having some behavior issues with a colleague of mine in her class. I found out that he liked TikTok and he made them with his sister at home. I bet him that I could get more followers that he could by the end of the year. Literally, a week after I got started, we all got quarantined and we never came back to school the rest of the year. We just did virtual school.
Every week I would have a Zoom call for a class and every week he would show up and ask me how many followers I had, and we’d keep in touch that way. It was cool that he was invested in it, and then it just took off from there. I think by the end of the school year I had 16,000 followers, which at that point I was like, “That’s a big deal because I’m just a teacher from Ohio.” I thought it was a big deal to me and it blew up over time, and now I’m almost at five and a half million. Crazy.
Tubefilter: Do you remember what the first video was that really took off?
Mrs. Woolley: It was a series that I was doing where I would bring up different questions that people–I would ask people questions and they would give funny comments, answers, and then I would put the comments together into a compilation video and reenact some of them, or I would say them and like funny voices or something like that, and it just blew up. The very first one I asked was, “What do teachers do over summer break?” People gave me all kinds of sarcastic answers, like, “Oh, they use their amazing salaries to go to five-star hotels,” or they were like, “Oh, they get on their yachts and sail the Mediterranean,” or just funny things. That was just a fun, little creative outlet.
Tubefilter: Obviously you’re busy, every teacher is busy. What does your video production process look like in among the rest of your life?
Mrs. Woolley: I think it’s evolved over time. When I first got started, I was filming a minimum of three videos a day. I would post all three of those videos that day. I was constantly in my office– Just keep in mind it was during quarantine. Nobody could go anywhere or do anything. I had a lot of free time. I would be in my office at my house for hours just filming content. Over time as my channel, all my pages got bigger and bigger I was able to do batch filming. I would film on certain days and film a bunch of videos for the week, and then I wouldn’t have to film the rest of the week. Other times it’s just by inspiration. At this point now, at any given time, I probably have 30 or 40 draft videos on TikTok just backed up. One of the biggest series that I do on TikTok is the things my students do that I just don’t get.
Anytime something happens in class I’m like, “That would be funny to do as a skit,” or, “That fits the series,” or whatever. I’ll make a note in my phone and then I’ll film it later on that day. I don’t forget the scenario of what happens. Sometimes when I feel inspired, I film, and sometimes I go days without filming because I’ve already had a bunch of videos backed up. I try to fit it in, if it’s on a day where I’m teaching, I fit it in either on my prep or on my lunch, or after school. I’ll stay for maybe 1/2 an hour or so and film. I think I’ve got gotten better with the time management aspect of that over the last couple of years. At first, it took over my whole life. I was filming constantly.
Tubefilter: What has been the number one thing in your life that’s changed since you started all of this?
Mrs. Woolley: I think if I’m being honest, the amount of work that I do on TikTok and YouTube has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I’ve always been interested in entertainment, and I used to do speech and debate in high school, so I did acting, and things like that. I guess, TikTok is that outlet for me. It’s opened up opportunities, like the podcast. Now I have a podcast with other teachers, and we get to tell funny stories and relate to each other. I have an agent where I get to work with different brands and partner with them for videos, and I’m able to give back to my school.
That’s a big thing for me. Let’s be honest, teacher salaries, this is including other careers that are underpaid, but teacher salaries are not what they should be. I have a secondary full-time job that allows me to buy books for my classroom for my students or get party supplies for different class rewards or donate things to my actual school. That is something I never thought in a million years that I would be able to do and to be able to help out my family and financially, it is a blessing. I try to give back as much as I can with the opportunities that I’ve been given. I think that’s the thing that has changed the most. I’m able to help more people with the things in the work that I do.
Tubefilter: Do you feel you’ve found a community of viewers on your platforms as well?
Mrs. Woolley: Oh, absolutely. I like to say I have 7 million friends because I never thought in a million years that anybody would want to follow me. Like I said, I’m just a teacher from Ohio. To me, it’s like that number is just baffling and it’s really cool to see in the comments, I’ll check out my comments every now and then and there’ll be people asking questions about me and the comments. Then other people who follow me will answer the questions before I even get the chance to, so it’s cool to have people that know you as much as a close friend would. It’s really cool little community that we built.
Tubefilter: When it comes to videos cross-platform, do you produce the same video for all three of your platforms, or do you film different things for different platforms?
Mrs. Woolley: Yes and no to both, so for short form videos, yes, I mainly film on TikTok and then I will cross post on Instagram reels and YouTube shorts. Then on YouTube I will actually make long format videos that are just exclusive to YouTube. But then there’s also the video here and there that might only get posted to TikTok and not make it to other platforms, so yes and no.
Tubefilter: Have you noticed a difference in viewership? Do you get more views on TikTok, more views on YouTube, or is it about even?
Mrs. Woolley: Honestly, I would say that I get more views on YouTube shorts, and I feel like any creator can relate that the algorithm has changed a lot on TikTok, whereas when I started, I feel like it’s really hard for anyone who’s starting out now because when I started TikTok was still fresh, and the algorithm, it was so easy to go viral. It was like anything you posted could have potential to blow up. I think over time TikTok has tweaked it and now it’s a little bit more challenging and your videos don’t always reach mass audiences like you would hope, so TikTok viewership used to be the highest and now it’s a little bit lower and YouTube shorts is actually like where my videos really take off. The only reason I film on TikTok is because that’s just the platform I’m used to filming on and their editing software has gotten a lot better. They’ve added different characteristics to their editing software, now it’s a lot easier to put text overlays on things and it’s a lot easier to slice clips together and things like that. I mean I mainly film on TikTok but view are better on YouTube shorts if I’m being honest.
Tubefilter: Interesting, I think you’re the first person I’ve spoken to who’ve said that, it’s usually TikTok but I do feel like lately it seems to really be tipping in favor of YouTube shorts.
Mrs. Woolley: Yes, because I’ll look at the same video that I put that’s why I think it’s interesting to post the same video on different platforms and see how they do. Like the most view for me are on YouTube shorts. I’ll have videos that will hit in the million consistently and I’ll post that same video on TikTok and it might only get two or 300,000 views and then I’ll post that same video on Instagram reels and it might only get 30,000 views. It’s like, it’s really strange how different they are.
Tubefilter: Very interesting. Are you, so I noticed you said you’re getting it a little bit into long form on YouTube as well, why is it important for you to do a mix of both short and long form?
Mrs. Woolley: I think the variety of content and I like to think of my YouTube as not as closely related to my TikTok because on my TikTok it’s mainly like I do lifestyle content stuff that’s not teacher related but I do a lot of teacher related content and comedy sketches on there and my long form YouTube videos are my outlet from being a teacher, because I don’t like the idea that just because I’m a teacher that’s my only personality trait and that’s all I am, so I think it’s cool to show different parts of myself and that’s how that comes out in my long form content.
Like I’ll make videos with my husband Jordan, and we’ll do challenges and fun things like that. Those are videos that you can show in a short video but I think having variety and making those long form content videos is also good for monetization purposes I mean, if your income is your viewership and you’re trying to be a full time creator, long form content is the content that will pay out the most, honestly. Now, for me it’s not that case because my shorts are more popular, but I know a lot of creators that don’t even make shorts or don’t even have a TikTok and their YouTube channels are their income.
For me it’s more like a exclusivity, like a variety type thing, if you want to see this video and you want to see more of it or whatever you have to go to YouTube and subscribe there and you have to watch it there. It’s a multi-purpose thing as to why I would have long format content and short format content.
Tubefilter: Do all of your students know that you’re on TikTok and on YouTube? Do they all watch your videos or how engaged are they?
Mrs. Woolley: Yes, it’s funny because at my school, these are not my words, this is what I’ve been told, at my school I’m like a mini celebrity, even little kids in the elementary building that I’ve never seen or heard of in my entire life know who I am, and they want to be in my class. They think it’s so cool that I’m on TikTok.
I mean that’s great, I’m glad they think it’s cool, but that’s part of the reason why my content is the way that it is, I make sure that everything I post on there is family friendly and kid friendly, because I know my students are watching my content. My kids are in fifth grade, they’re 10, 11 years old and I know they have cell phones, they have smart phones, they go on social media, so it’s unavoidable for me to say, “Well my kids won’t watch my content,” no they will. They definitely watch it and I’m glad they do because it breaks down that barrier of seeing me as just like a teacher authority figure type thing and they get to know me more as a person and I really like that.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans for the upcoming semester? Any plans or goals with your content, anything cool?
Mrs. Woolley: We have a lot of goals, upcoming goals for our podcast, but my podcast teacher’s off duty, I co-host with another teacher currently, his name is Tel Williams, and he goes by @MrWilliamsPreK on TikTok. We just got some different things in the work that we’re trying to make happen, we want to start doing some live shows, going to see some people that watch our podcast or listen to our podcast. As for my specific content, I just want to try and get better at posting for our long form YouTube videos weekly.
We’ve been doing a pretty good job and then every now and then life gets crazy, and I have to remind myself that I’m still working two full-time jobs, so but yes, we just want to keep getting better and better at that. I’m hoping that in the future– my husband literally does this for a living. He’s a photographer, videographer, editor, everything.
Tubefilter: Oh, nice.
Mrs. Woolley: My long-term goal is to have him do all of our YouTube stuff long term and so that’s in the works but yes, actually, those are the biggest goals coming up.
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