Blaming bulletin boards

If teachers didn’t have to spend so much time creating artistic bulletin boards to please their principals, would they have more time for teaching academic skills? Forrest Hinton asks the question on The Quick and the Ed.


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  1. When we were kids, my mom always did the bulletin boards for our classes…she really liked making them (go figure) and sometimes continued to do a few each year for teachers who had become friends of hers. They were usually set up so that they mostly displayed kids work – for spring, papers turned diagonally to make kites might hold stories, for instance.

  2. Didn’t realize that teachers were forced to spend that much time updating their bulletin boards. It’s a shame that we are at a point when we are cutting budgets, cutting programs, reducing teaching staff, and still trying to get the best education for our kids as possible, all the while schools are putting extra burden on the teachers to make their bulletin boards pretty. Doesn’t sound like a good education plan.

  3. It’s a legitimate gripe. There’s a lot of drive-by “measurement by checklist” in schools–especially low-performing schools–by administrators. Since they don’t have the time to get to know teachers, spend time on observations, and offer meaningful feedback, they look for “visible signs of teaching and learning.” Things like “Is the aim and standard of the lesson visible and in child-friendly language?” and “Do bulletin boards have current student work to standard?” “Is the classroom a ‘print-rich’ environment” etc.

  4. I posted this at the first site –
    Admin may push for pretty BBs, but my experience has been that most ES teachers really like the artsy-crafty stuff and would do it anyway. That means that not only do they like creating pretty BBs, door decorations etc. but they like their students to do the same – dioramas etc. instead of written book reports, arty projects instead of written history or science work etc. No wonder boys (and a lot of girls) aren’t liking school.

    In my older kids’ (now in their 30s) era, that pretty much ended when they hit JHS (7-8), and lots of girls who never had less than an A had a rude awakening, since nice handwriting, coloring and decorating no longer counted for much. The whole grade pattern changed, with boys doing much better, at least until the girls got the content focus. Unfortunately, by the time my next kids arrived, that JHS had become a (6-7-8) MS (over strong parent protests) and the artsy focus continued until HS.

    No, I wouldn’t blame only admin; I’m with Forrest and Obi.

  5. Some teachers/parents love to fiddle with bulletin boards. A co-worker who was an ex-gradeschool teacher used to spruce up the company bulletin boards because she liked to. (The results sometimes made me feel like I was in second grade, but hey.)

    That said, kids like to see their work up. Easy-peasy bulletin boards can still look good. Spending awesome amounts of time on awesome bulletin boards instead of putting the time into awesome teaching seems misdirected.

  6. It’s not just elementary school. I read somewhere about a Harvard professor (pretty sure it was Harvard Law) who was into making posters to demonstrate key concepts.

  7. Of course, one could say that the over-fancy PowerPoint presentation, especially when intended strictly for internal use, is the corporate equivalent of the arty bulletin board.

  8. Math Teacher says:

    I agree with David Foster. However, I also think Forrest Hinton writes an exaggerated puff piece. What he refers to isn’t happening at my school. People here don’t have the time to waste on creating flashy bulletin boards. His are just more simplistic (and trivial) opinions finding fault with public schools.

  9. SuperSub says:

    While we don’t have the problem with bulletin boards… the spirit of the piece – that non-instructional duties are often a waste of teacher time and limit student learning – is alive and well at my school. The number of mandatory committee and faculty meetings that are held easily tie up 1/3 to 1/2 of my time after school depending
    on the week.
    All because administrators are unwilling to make (and be held accountable) for policies that haven’t already gone through the drawn out committee process.

  10. “my experience has been that most ES teachers really like the artsy-crafty stuff and would do it anyway”

    I agree. My MIL is a retired and my SIL a current teacher. They both are totally into home decorating, scrapbooking, and crafts (sewing for my MIL, mosaics for SIL). SIL was this way as a teen, long before she ever went to ed school.

  11. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    My sister-in-law, a music teacher, was written up for not decorating her room. Actually, it wasn’t even her part of the room. She shared a room with another teacher and they each agreed to decorate half. My sister-in-law did her half but the other teacher didn’t do her part. When the SIL got criticized she mentioned the arrangement but he AP told her that she should have made the other teacher decorate her part.

    There’s probably a course out there on classroom management techniques to use on other teachers.

  12. I agree that this is a pretty petty issue. I was extremely happy when I was assigned a classroom with no bulletin board. Yippee!

  13. Mike Curtis says:

    I teach high school math to a mixed bag of kids ranging from “gifted, but neglected” to “learning disabled, but enabled.” When my boss asked me why my classroom was so Spartan (no posters, no bulletin boards, window shades constantly drawn closed, I told him, “When I conduct my lessons, I want the students focused on me, not the walls.” It’s been ten years since he asked the question…no follow up needed.


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