How to make the best of classroom displays without waking in a sweat!

Classroom displays can be the bane of a teacher’s life. Don’t let the worry of it spoil your holiday.
How to make the best of classroom displays
You’re on a well-deserved holiday from the classroom and students, but whatever you try to do, your mind keeps wandering back to your classroom and what it will look like come the first day of term. What will you do this school year? When will you get to sort it out? And will the kids even like it?
For some teachers, the long holiday can emphasise their feeling of being on a treadmill that never brings relief from the routine. Although they are on holiday and are not stood in front of children, there are pressures that they can’t get away from. There’s the planning for the new term to make sure you can hit the ground running. There is the interrogation of data to see what messages it can send you for next year and then there are the classroom displays.
Twitter has seen a fair bit of activity around this subject recently. It has gone from the joy for some of going into a new room to ‘make it your own’ to the despair of others who just can’t face to give up the time to meet what seem to be very exacting standards and expectations.
Let’s start with a basic question – what are classroom displays for? Possible answers:
1. Keeping Ofsted happy
2. Following school policy
3. Allowing a colleague to have their performance target met
4. To enrich the learning environment for the students in your class
5. To support the learning that will take place in your class
Leave your suggestions for the purpose of classroom displays in the comments below
For me, there are only two that should be considered – 4 and 5. Your classroom should be all about the students who will spend much of their time there. First, let’s look at those that should not be part of the consideration.
Keeping Ofsted happy:
I have not seen any documentation that specifies FROM OFSTED what they expect each classroom to look like. The expectation is that it is a learning environment.
Following school policy:
This can often be influenced by no.1 with senior leaders believing there is a mantra from Ofsted about what they expect to see. For some schools, this has been interpreted into long detailed policies of how paper should be put up, what colour to use and where to stick the pins! I was banned from putting up backing paper quite early in my primary teaching career. I just didn’t have an eye for it and could never get it straight! The colleague who led art in the school could not bear to see my efforts so she always backed my boards.
Performance management targets:
Some schools, one of mine included, have one person overseeing the display across the school. This can often be a TA with a penchant for creativity and art. Whilst I can see that this aspect of their work could be considered within their performance management, I do not believe that it should be a source of pressure for other colleagues.
Classroom displays are for students
Many of our pupils do not have the joy of living in environments that encourage curiosity and wonder. Their classroom can offer that, but as we all know, after a while the most exciting engaging poster can become wallpaper and just not be seen.
Displays take time. Whether it is your time as a teacher putting it all up or the students time contributing to a ‘working wall’ it is time away from something else so the purpose should be made clear.
Things to consider:
• What is the purpose?
• Balance between informative, motivational and on-going work
• Time – to put up (and take down)
• Ownership – should it always be the adults work?
I’m like the next person who appreciates a great display. As a head teacher I was lucky to have some very talented staff that could transform a blank board into a feast of wonder. When that happened, the display would be moved from the classroom and put into a corridor. After a while, it would be moved from that corridor to another. That way all the school community gets to see this presentation.
For my first Ofsted inspection as a headteacher – the one that had a year’s notice and lasted a full week – we put the team into a room that was not often used. To cheer it up we moved ‘The Shoes’ display from one of the classes. This was a design and technology project illustrating the making of shoes and consisted of drawings, texts, templates – all sorts. It was certainly much more that wallpaper!
I have read that some teachers favour blank walls at the beginning of the term that can gradually be filled with students work but I take you back to the prison. I have visited a couple of prisons as a tourist and they both felt the same. That blankness made it cold and dispiriting. I would hate students to start a new year feeling like that. I would also hate your holiday to be ruined by worrying about your classroom walls!

What is your view on classroom displays? Leave me a comment below!


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