What Goes on the Wall Matters

Here's my annotated Friday philosophy: we have a culture of laziness on Fridays in the U.S. Students think Friday is a day to take it easy. I view Fridays as an opportunity. The standard work week is Monday - Friday (five days). If we work hard on Friday, we will outwork people with which we are competing 20% of the time.

What you post on the walls of your classroom matters. The stuff on the wall indicates to your students the things you think are valuable. What you post should suggest to your students that success in mathematics is possible for everyone through a malleable view of intelligence, a passion for hard work, and the notion that good mathematics is about knowing how to behave when you don't know how to start.

Below are some examples of things posted on the walls of my classroom.

IMG_3716Exhibit A: The "I CAN'T" poster. I don't even remember where or how I stole this acronym. My wife made the poster file in Microsoft Publisher. Then, we took it to Staples to print it on poster paper. This poster is one of my favorite things to reference, particularly when I call on a kid that I know doesn't have an immediate answer. Philosophically speaking, many of the motivation issues we see in high school math students are symptoms of a lack of effort or a lack of efficacy (feeling good about one's performance in mathematics).


Exhibit B: The only Quantum Learning key I like - THIS IS IT - and my movie theatre style, "Please Turn Off Cell Phones" sign. The key suggests to students every day matters. Every day is a chance to add another brick to a student's pyramid of understanding. Every day is another chance to instill in students skills that will make them confident waiting in a waiting room for a job interview while up against other strongly qualified candidates. The cell phone sign demonstrates we live in modern times. Kids have cell phones. Let's acknowledge the fact kids have them. I have all my students turn off their cell phone and place it in plain sight at the front of their table. We acknowledge cell phones are distracting to adults, especially in meetings. We don't want cell phones to distract us from the important learning we need to do.


Exhibit C: My Math Club display. Something I need to work on as a teacher is to update my Math Club display with more photos of students doing club activities. While the Escher drawings are nice, this is something I can do to demonstrate to students I value their hard work and dedication to our program.


Exhibit D: The "Working Hard" clock. Our school has analog clocks hard wired into the walls. The last thing I want at the front of the room, above my Promethean board, is a constant reminder of what time it is. Instead, I cover the clock with a "Working Hard" sign and put up a clock at the top of the back wall in my classroom for my instructional reference. This way, it becomes really obvious when kids are checking what time it is. They have to turn all the way around in their chair. That's a signal to me to step up my game - make an adjustment to an activity, get the students moving, to do something to make the class more engaging.


Exhibit E: Color photocopies of my college degrees. (The real copies are at home, of course). If we want more students to prepare for college and take that preparation seriously, we need to be very vocal about the pride we have in our collegiate accomplishments. Education changes life trajectories and can transform life outcomes for our students. It certainly did for me and my family.

Have a great Friday at school. Don't get outworked!!


2 thoughts on “What Goes on the Wall Matters

  1. unkmathprof

    Cool ideas. I particularly like the "I Can't" poster. I was just telling someone that I should put together traveling wall decorations since I move rooms.

    1. aaberg

      Post author

      Pari, thanks for the comment. When I taught at Omaha Westside, I did have to travel between classrooms. When I went and observed there two weeks ago, many teachers that share the same rooms collaborate when decorating their walls. It is interesting to see what people value by what they post for all the world to see. 🙂

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