“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” – Les Emmerson
Over the course of the last year, I took pictures of signs posted throughout school buildings I visited. I was struck by how many of these signs communicated a double standard between student and teachers, sent the message that students cannot be trusted, or implied that students aren’t mature or responsible enough to make decisions for themselves. The vast majority of these signs provided direction on the use of technology in the school building, which I find laughable given my experience with both students and teachers and their respective proficiencies with technology. Other signs provided such important directives as which tables and chairs to use in common areas and the most appropriate doorways for entry/exit. Lastly, an epidemic of inappropriate consumption of food and drink plagued schools in 2016-17 requiring an abundance of signage. Check out some of the exemplars below.
Ah, the dreaded “no phone zone.” Some of the noncompliance may originate from confusion over to whom the signs actually apply. Just a heads up…they apply 100% to students. Certainly they don’t apply to the teacher who checks their phone during every classroom transition or steps into the hallway to take/receive personal calls during the day. Perhaps the confusion could be resolved by including “unless you’re a teacher” on each of the posted signs. And what can kids do with a bunch of archaic desktops in the library? They certainly can’t print a presentation or review packet but the teachers in the building can go through twenty pallets of paper in a year. What message are we sending? It reminds me of…
I’m going to wager that at least one of these kids not named Forrest grew up to be a librarian. Or one of those supremely tanned kids working chair and umbrella rentals in front of a gulf coast timeshare. I’m certainly an order, structure, and process guy, but not an anarchist either. A little choice, high expectations, responsibility, and accountability go a long way. If students sitting at a particular table is such a problem, maybe moving the table is a better solution, but that’s just me.
Food and drink…different strokes for different folks. That’s all I’ve got.
The following sign gets an entry all its own:
This picture was taken in a public high school cafeteria in the southeastern United States, the most unhealthy region of a country that leads the world in rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. A country that throws away 40% of its food unused. And a country in which citizens choose surgery to reduce the size of their stomachs to lose weight.
Let’s consider the message. These signs aren’t about saving paper or money, keeping the building clean, or whether your Mama works here. They are about one thing: Compliance. Compliance with a double standard that reflects a lack of trust and relationship resonating throughout the entire building.
Signs have their place. Let’s make just a few more of them relevant, inclusive, and uplifting.
P.S. Kids, if you’re reading and want more than two servings of fruits and vegetables, by all means, come find me.