Display can have you up the wall

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole. A little item often slips on to meeting agendas at this time of year: "Can you tidy up your displays for open evening?" I'm sure a few years ago we had a list of 25 tasks that we were meant to be reducing, and I recall that display was one of them. I can't remember the others but they were mostly routine, thankless tasks such as collecting trip money and teaching RE.

I hate display. As I enter school and walk past the key stage 1 classrooms, where pupils are making scale models of the Eiffel tower out of sugar paper, I wonder if I've chosen the wrong job. I do try. I once spent nearly two hours tracing an overhead-projected map of Africa on to a board and fixing one of those fancy triple borders. Then a colleague looked in and said, "I didn't know we were doing Italy this term."

I'm told it's all in the preparation. I've got the last roll of non-fade paper left in the school. I've got my staple gun, which faithfully jams after three presses. And I've got three boxes of the wrong size staples.

Let's go!

Stapling backing paper to the top of a board is a task I've never mastered.

I find myself teetering on top of a stack of tiny chairs with the first few staples sunk when I realise I've left the scissors on the desk. After a few expletives that scare the late leavers from Judo club, I usually end up leaping back down, bringing half the display with me.

There is nothing worse than an idle senior management colleague who announces that he or she is going to do an audit of display. One un-favourite individual in my distant past (display-board responsibility zero) told me her pet hate was drawing pins such as those holding up the writing on my work-in-progress board. It may have been childish to spell out a highly offensive message in drawing pins and staple a piece of work across it, but it gave me a warm feeling every time she came to my room and stood by that board.

Even I would admit that nice displays brighten up the school. A friend worked at a school where the head's idea of display was to staple 20 Tesco bags to a wall with a label saying "Recycling". The school was in special measures within the year and was even re-named several times ("New Dawn Primary", "South Lambeth Primary Academy of Humanities and Car Crime") before eventually being shut down.

Please don't try to advise me. I've tried the "polar-bears-in-a-snowstorm"

display. I've attached eight coloured squares to a wall and called it a Mondrian tribute. My classrooms have been jammed with posters of the world and the title "Where Do We Live?" (Answer: in Mr Walpole's crappily decorated classroom.) I just can't wait for the end of term, when I'll be ripping the whole lot off the wall.

More from Henry in a fortnight

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