You thought I was done talking about walls?

You thought I was done talking about walls?

Not at all! Now I’m going to rant about what to put on them. Here’s a tip: Pictures of all the school Principals, going back to the dawn of time is mildly interesting at best, and that’s a stretch. Slightly better if they’re built into cheap frames full of metal shavings, which you can magnetically drag around to create funny mustaches. I haven’t seen anybody do that, but I bet it would be a big hit. (Great idea for a fundraiser!)


Pictures of current staff are slightly more relevant, especially if there are clues about them as human beings. More likely the caption says, “Mrs. Smith teaches English.” That’s pretty one dimensional. Help me connect. Tell me you’ve got a cocker spaniel, that you grew up in Harlem, that you lived in Spain for a year. Start a conversation.  If I’m a newly visiting parent or student, this might grab my interest, especially if I found a teacher who got excited about something that turned me on as well. But even better, what about pictures of students, with similar biographical captions?

Check out this video of a writer’s wall, which was combined with an ongoing writers’ workshop. If your school is all about the students, why not celebrate and appreciate them?

Let me switch gears a little. Let’s say you do all of the above. (Please send me a picture of it!) Even when walls are well used and designed, and even when I do see staff and student bios, accomplishments, art work or awards on display, and even when occasionally they are reasonably balanced, honoring all kinds of skills and interests, they still have a tendency to get – boring. There, I said it. I’m not too excited about seeing the trophies from last year, or ten years ago, or Grandpa’s day. They have their place, certainly, and they might help build a sense of history, and suck money out of alumni, but do they have to Bogart the entire hallway? Give me something new and different to look at, not just year to year, but month to month, or even day to day. Make it a little more exciting to walk the halls, wondering what I’ll encounter next – in a good way. As opposed to fight or flight.

What would be stimulating, inspiring or entertaining? These may stray from the walls and out into the hallway, for three-dimensional materials, but what about exhibits that move from school to school, throughout the district, state, country or planet? There are groups out there, like the” title=”Smithsonian” target=”_blank”>Smithsonian, who provide traveling exhibits, (check out this sampling) but they’re expensive.

Nice if you’re rolling in dough, or can find a sponsor, but what other options are out there? What about exchange exhibits with schools in foreign lands on agreed upon topics? Like “where our food comes from,” or “what we like to eat,” “how we build houses, or villages.” “My favorite places to play in our community.” “What I did over the summer.” And how about all those libraries, museums and other institutions that have art work gathering dust in the basement? I think quite a few would be thrilled to be invited to bring their exhibits to their children’s schools. How about programs that promote healthy living, or environmental awareness, or wilderness safety, good hygiene or public health? What about the local log mill or software company? What about rotating exhibits on careers: a day in the life of a dentist, stock broker, or police officer? A wall is a terrible thing to waste!

(Photo at top: Alabama Folklife Exhibit, Smithsonian)


Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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