They had good intentions. They wanted each room to be uniform so that students could walk into a class and quickly understand the goals, standards, and expectations for the day. But the problem is that one of the required bulletin boards was a spot for "Reading Street," and guess what... I don't teach Reading Street. The whole time I was sitting there thinking of this quote from Tina Fey's book called Bossypants:
When people say, "You really, really must" do something, it means you don't really have to. No one ever says, "You really, really must deliver the baby during labor." When it's true, it doesn't need to be said.”
- Tina Fey in Bossypants
It's hard to give sweeping "requirements" for any teacher. It's hard to even say "all music teachers must..." because we all have such diverse curricular requirements. What you put on your classroom walls should reflect what you teach. I taught two guitar classes and two beginning orchestra classes last year and so a portion of my room was devoted to chord charts, string names, and different clefs. I wouldn't expect to see those same materials on someone else's walls unless they had a similar curriculum. In the same way, we music teachers might put up slightly different things on the wall depending on if we're Orff trained, Kodaly inspired, Gordon leaning, or maybe even Dalcroze bound.
With that in mind, let me offer some suggestions and ideas about how to set up your classroom so that students succeed, administrators are appeased, and you don't lose your mind.
Make Sure it's Accessible For Kids!
Head or higher - Waist or lower
If the space is above my head then it should be used for upper elementary content or anchor charts/posters that I don't use very often. I say this because older students are more used to looking up and can easily see and read posters that are high. I also suggest you put anchor charts or content you don't use every day (like recorder fingering charts or instruments of the orchestra) up high so that students can still access the material, but it's not taking up "prime real estate."
If the space is my waist or lower then it should be used for instrument storage, handouts, manipulatives, or other things that students grab and use regularly. I would also say that this lower space is best for primary grade content and should be the posters that they might need if you're sitting "criss cross" and looking at the wall. This could be posters of "the four voices," song visuals, or something similar.
That leaves the middle space. This space inbetween waist and head should be where all your important "I use this with all my classes" stuff should go. Whiteboards, solfege hand signs, musical form posters, word wall (if you have that), and other day-to-day materials all go here in that middle space.
Hallway vs. Classroom
Make Sure It's Worth Your Time!
Then came the conundrum of where the timeline would go. What would have to come down for it to go up? I also had to think about how all those things would stick to the wall. Would I connect them with string? How far back in time do I go and how do I fit all the things that I want to include? So many questions and never enough time. The project was never completed...
Pinterest - Friend or Enemy?
I would also caution you to choose wisely and don't be blinded by your momentary inspiration when you find pre-made content online (Teachers Pay Teachers or other sites). You can find a lot of amazing resources on TPT and all it takes is a "click" to download, but not all of the files on TPT are worth your time and effort to actually create and hang if they don't directly serve your teaching goals. Don't print out something that is NOT worthy of all the time it will take to ask your secretary to print in color, fight with the laminator, cut with the dull scissors that you still have in your teacher desk, and use "the right kind" of sticky tack to put up on your wall. When time is of the essence, it's important to choose wisely. Don't buy and print out that word wall kit if you won't actually use it. Don't feel pressure to fill empty space just because it's empty. Be intentional about what you put on the wall and make sure it's worth your time.
Make Sure It Enhances Learning!
Why do we hang pictures of Old white dudes on our wall?
Think about all the classes that come through your door and see old white dudes on the wall but don't know who they are or why they are significant. Those men might be presidents for all they know. They must be important if they get a permanent space on the classroom wall...
Maybe you reference the composers all the time or at least take the time to point out who they are and why they are important. If so, that's great! But don't feel like you have to put their pictures on the wall because 1) you have the posters already sitting in the closet, 2) you have the blank space on your wall and 3) you have a vague feeling of obligation to put their pictures up because they contributed to the history of music.
If you don't reference who the composers are and why they're important enough to go on the wall students just see the image. In this instance you are unintentionally teaching the students that white men are important. So, either you should talk about them more often (do a composer of the week where you spend 1 minute saying his/her name and play a tiny snippet of their music), add in some women and/or people of color (HERE is an example of how to teach kids about female music makers- easy to do! and HERE is an example of how to include people of color), or just take down the composer pictures and put something else up.
The Curse of Cute
I always try and remember the mantra: "Cute is cute, but content is king." We all love to create colorful and catchy bulletin boards with adorable images of kids and music notes. Just make sure that what you display in your classroom is also teaching content. There is absolutely no shame in getting on Teachers Pay Teachers and finding some cute things to print out, but don't buy those adorable posters on TPT just because they are adorable. Buy them because they are a graphically engaging way to display the content that you want to teach. Again, be intentional about what you put on the wall and make sure it's worth your time.
Also, when you decorate your classroom you should think about all age ranges and all students who walk through your door. As a man, I am constantly reminded to think of how I can keep my classroom gender neutral. I don't want to fill the room with fluffy poof balls, pinks/purples/teals, stuffed animals, and cutesy clip art. While none of those things are inherently gendered, it may appeal to one segment of a class over another. I don't want anything I put up in my classroom to turn off any group of kids be it boys or girls. That doesn't mean putting up "football themed" stuff to balance out the "fairy themed" posters. It doesn't mean getting rid of all cute pictures or poof balls or streamers either. It just means that we need balance.
If you look at your classroom and think, "OMG, I am living in a pink, poof ball, Precious Moments classroom," don't go and pull everything down. Just think about what's appropriate for all students at all ages and remember: "Cute is Cute, but Content is King."