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Teacher Burn Out: Should I stay or should I go?

Whether you've been at a school a year or a decade, moving onto new pastures can be a tough decision to make. There is often guilt attached to leaving students and fellow teaching staff- but there shouldn't be! More than ever, teachers are leaving the profession they once loved. Before making the leap to a new life outside of teaching, you might want to think about moving on to another year group or even another school. It could reignite that passion and energy for this most rewarding of all vocations.  Just like clouds, every school is different! From one-form entry schools , to inner-city schools to mixed-group village schools, there are so many variables - not be mention different ethos' and leadership styles. Maybe you're ready for a change?  Should I Stay or Should I Go? When answering the below questions, consider what is most important to you and your well-being. Think about how sustainable your current work routine is long-term - you don't want to be burned

How important are classroom displays?

All the display boards have been stripped, staples removed and laminated resources put into piles to possibly be reused in September. The classroom looks like a bare hollow shell compared to the vibrant lively atmosphere I'm used to walking into every morning.

Looking forward to the new school year, I've been thinking about the effectiveness of displays. Yes, they can be colourful and inviting and yes children should be in an interesting, stimulating environment. But considering how much time teachers spend creating displays over the summer, I'm asking, how important are they?

classroom display advice primary school teacher

What is their purpose?

I don't think all displays have the same purpose. Part of it may depend on what your SLT expects from displays. When I was at school and up until recently, I thought the primary aim of displays was celebrating pupils' work. There is a great sense of achievement in getting something you've worked hard at on the wall for all to see. I remember parent's evenings and showing my family my work on the wall and feeling so proud. It can give pupils ownership and a sense of place and belonging in the school.

However, in more recent years, the use of displays as teaching aids to support learning has vastly developed. Working walls are a great way to keep displays up to date with relevant information and concepts for children to independently access during lessons.

Some displays in my classroom I've found to be an exercise created to tick boxes in case Ofsted come in. They have ended up being like wallpaper in my class with no benefit to the children. This is probably my own fault for not effectively using them even if the purpose seems unclear. How useful is my British Values display?
how important are classroom displays

How can displays be more effective?

Depending on their purpose, displays need to be effective. Otherwise, it is just wallpaper that took a lot of effort to put up, laminate and then tear down. For support in learning, resources need to be accessible for the children. I like the idea of having things the children can reach themselves to take off and put back on when needed such as common exception words, grammar rules, etc.

My math working wall has been a child-led resource this year. When learning a  new concept, children can write explanations or label diagrams explaining the process, misconceptions, and reasoning about different challenges on the working wall. This gives the pupils control of their working wall and helps the more confident and capable children support those who may need a bit longer to fully grasp it.

Displays can also be celebrations of amazing work and they should be spaces that children want to see their work on.  When it comes to some pieces of work, I like to put them out anonymously around the class and get pupils to vote for which ones they want to see on the wall.

classroom displays fit for purpose effective use of space

If you have enough space, you could think about using an early years approach to displays. You could have child-led displays where pupils have their own areas to put what they want up. This could include work they are proud of, spellings they are learning or writing targets to keep them on track.

Children's Perspective

I asked my Year 2 class about displays and what they want them to do and include:
"They need to be fun and colourful"
"I love seeing my big write up there"
"It's useful having spellings and contractions up there to check for my writing"
"The math wall helps me remember what we are learning"
"I like adding my answers to the math challenge wall"

Reflecting on all of this, I realised they can be important as long as they are suitable for the purpose you are using them for. The bare uninspiring vision of my classroom as I left it before the holidays is evidence enough for me that those displays were important. They gave the class ownership of the room they spend every weekday in for the school year! I'll admit not all my displays were as effective as they should be for their purpose this year and that's a lesson that'll help me in my pursuit to create a better working environment for my class.


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