Dress them up or cover them in post-its? What’s the bulletin board policy in your school?
As a NYC public school student I don’t remember bulletin boards plastered along the hallway walls. I don’t remember seeing my work on there, nor seeing them covered with my classmates’ work. Maybe they didn’t exist and they were installed after I graduated. In any case, they are here now and after teaching at over 20 schools, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are more of a snapshot of school’s culture, not classroom teaching.
I’ve been a traveling ATR on Staten Island the last two years. That’s the outcome of a brilliant plan by DOE directors and lawyers as well as my union’s leadership to keep me out of my original school, Berta Dreyfus IS 49. More about that here. In any case, keeping with my mantra and practice of “making lemons into lemonade,” I have become a traveling Yelp school reviewer. Entering schools as a dedicated educator, ed tech guru, union activist and public school parent, I look at each school under several lenses while wearing several hats.
Two weeks ago we, at UFT Solidarity, posted an article about how in many schools bulletin boards have become big paperwork issues and not canvases to showcase great student work. We encouraged members and their chapter leaders to grieve paperwork violations citywide and it appears many have taken to task. To say that post here connected with educators would be an understatement. It’s been shared over 700 times from the website alone and the link has been viewed over 8,000 times on Facebook.
What I realized is school administrators, that are sticklers for all these mandates on bulletin boards (Tasks, Rubrics, Feedback, Frequent Changes), are usually sticklers for many other things that lack support. I’ve noticed that those are not positive school cultures. They often use bulletin boards as a tool to harass rather than simply showcase student work. Those bulletin boards are usually dull and post-it littered like the picture below. “Make my bulletin board pretty? Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
This bulletin board was sent from a school that has a high staff turnover and administration that ignores the contract.
The one below can be seen at a school that has a high staff retention rate and where the staff feels supported. Why would anyone take the time to create this bulletin board, if they had to change it every two weeks?
I spoke to a principal about how great the school’s bulletin boards were and they responded with “Well, we trust our teachers and give them the freedom to showcase the student work as they please.”
The lack of trust is what chips away at the staff-administration relationship drastically. When you try to micromanage your staff, and dictate everything that goes on the bulletin board, you take away the teachers autonomy. A staff of robots usually does not make for a happy bunch and again tears at the learning environment atmosphere.
As I think back to all the schools I’ve visited, and use the bulletin boards as a common denominator, I definitely see a correlation . The staff that would always complains about their administration to me would have “just put something up and throw feedback on it” type of bulletin boards. The staff that really respected their administration didn’t have those mandates, had a lot more freedom, and therefore more work went into their actual teaching and bulletin boards. Those were often much more aesthetically pleasing.
Last spring I remember sitting in a large faculty conference. The principal made the statement “We are having visitors next week. I know you all do a great job and I am not concerned about this visit at all. You know I have not been busting your chops about bulletin boards, but please take the effort to make sure there’s nothing out there that says November.” I was floored but it’s true. Take the time to make great lessons
As a public school parent I do have an issue with my sons. work being put up on the hallway bulletin board with feedback on it in public view. Whether it’s a grade or comment, that area is public and anyone can walk in and see. I actually believe it’s a violation of state law to put graded school work up publicly. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits it.
UFT members have even shared that they are being disciplined for bulletin board work. That in itself is a violation of the contract.
Article 21 A 6 states: “The following issues shall not be the basis for discipline of pedagogues: a) the format of bulletin boards…
Bulletin boards have unfortunately become Bullyt-in Boards. Continue to file paperwork and article 21 grievances. See UFT Solidarity’s Toolbox on hee to file them. uftsolidarity.org/toolbox
Michael Mulgrew stated at the last UFT Executive Board:
Please leave comments below on your school’s situation and if you see the connection between atmosphere and bulletin board policies.