A good friend and colleague of mine, would walk into a school building in the morning together, and I would count the number of times the words “no,” or “stop” or “don’t” would appear on the doors and the wall (about seven). This is before we would go to the room to “empower” learners. It felt like you were getting scolded continuously for things that you weren’t going to do anyway, and on some days, was deflating for no reason.
Just today, I saw a sign walking into a school that said to students, “No smoking on the premises.” Maybe I am naive here, but are kids lighting up a cigarette in the middle of a class, still a problem in our world today? I have heard of the teacher staff rooms where everyone would go smoke at recess “back in the day,” but have never seen that in my almost 20 years of educational experience.
The messages on the wall, that we become numb to and often no longer notice, matter. Dr. Martin Brokenleg said something a few years ago about the messaging on our walls, and what they convey to our students and staff. He mentioned the sign that is often at the entrance of schools that states something similar to the following:
For the safety of our students, please check in at the office upon your arrival.
He pointed out that the first thing this sign hints to people walking into your school is that this may not be a safe place.
He suggested the subtle shift:
Upon arrival, we love to welcome all guests, so please come say hi at the office.
The sign is going for the same outcome, but the messaging is in stark contrast in “feeling” from the original message.
Of course, we want schools to be safe, and they should not be absent of rules, but what do your messages say and what tone does it set for the day?
I love this example from this post on “Emotionally Intelligent Signage“:
Both make the same point, yet one makes you smile while the other is in CAPS LOCK!
Take a look at the signs around your school. Is there a more positive way to share the same message?