A few years ago my school remodeled the Teachers' Lounge, and the IT offices were moved inside. When my helpdesk guy and I were moving into the new space, I saw the barrenness of the freshly-remodeled walls as a decorative challenge – an opportunity to set thematic precedent over the staff's respite from students. The burden of this decision weighed down, I was a key player at a linchpin moment, all eyes were on me to make my move: I hung a theatrical poster for the 1996 family comedy "Dunston Checks In". To this day it is still the centerpiece of our Teachers' Lounge, and I do not understand why.
Today a teacher asked why this poster is hanging in the lounge? Surrounded by school notices, state-mandated employee rights signs, inspirational quotes, and other trophies of education, is this movie poster. And it's not a film that any of us are fans of, or have even seen. Yet, as our program Director says, "It ties the room together."
Truth be told, the original purchasing decision was made in irony. "Who even remembers this 20-year-old children's stupid flop comedy, let alone is a big enough fan to have a framed original theatrical poster honoring it?" Further down the road to absurdity, the movie has nothing to do with teachers, or education, or our school's particular mission – any direct connection to our school is too tenuous for the even the most desperate middle school essay. So how has none of the zealous redecorating efforts managed to knock Dunston from this throne?
We can create analogies; perhaps one will resonate? Could a diamond thief orangutan causing havoc in a five star hotel metaphorically describe our school? I have spent too long mulling this question, and I have never found a way to make it work. So we take a step back: is a professional film crew, who have dedicated their lives to mastering the arts of filmmaking, wasting their efforts on a garbage soul-sucking animal comedy a metaphor for our school's education programs? Oh boy, I hope not.
Perhaps the meaning of the Dunston Checks In poster is that there is no meaning. There is no connection, there is no metaphor, there is nothing to "get". That here in this Teachers' Lounge we meet with our colleagues, having serious discussions about the future of your children, not gathered around a shining symbol of our commitment, but rather centerpieced with something which deliberately means nothing.
Maybe the message is that while our decorations help remind us of our goals, drive our attitudes, push our agendas, they are ultimately just decorations, and are not capable of doing the actual work.
Or maybe it's just a stupid poster of a monkey.