I had the opportunity to visit a high performing school in New York. I went there to learn best practices on driving student achievement. This school was earning tremendous academic results with students who come from similar backgrounds as the scholars I serve. Many of these students receive free and reduce lunch and have previously experienced school as not a place of learning. There were many lessons that I learned from that school. I saw great teaching. I saw strong systems centered on academics, school culture, student culture, and adult culture. I heard from the principal about how she coaches and develops teachers. I spoke with the Operations Director on how the business of the school runs. I learned a lot that I can take back to my school to ultimately make my school high performing.
I could write a great post about that; however, this post is not about that. This post is about what I saw as I walked the building, how something that is often overlooked in schools can have a lasting impact – the walls. The walls of a school tell you a lot about it. It is almost like the walls can talk. The words that are on the walls tell the story or provide you a glimpse of the future for the students that the walls surround.
The walls of a school should display the faces of children smiling. Smiling children on the walls say that these kids are happy to be at this school and that the kids love the school they attend. It should say, if you bring your child, they will be happy as well. Schools that display their children are sending the message this is a school children love to attend.
The walls of the school should also display words of encouragement. They should remind the children as they walk past that they are exceptional. The walls of the school should tell them things like: be respectful and respect others. It should tell them that hard work pays off. Those that work hard will get the most out of life. It should encourage students to take responsibility, not just responsibility for their actions but responsibility for their learning and their future.
The walls of the schools should display those that have paved the way. Famous people who have accomplished great feats. The walls should display individuals who the students can look up at and believe that one day they can accomplish the same if not better than that person.
Next time you are in a school or even if you work in a school, look at the walls and see what they say to you. What message does it send to the children, parents, and others that visit? If these walls could talk… what would they say?