What would school life be like, without bells? by MFL teacher @LancsLassRach, Rachel Smith.

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This post answers the 13th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other top-Thunks here.

Thunk 13: What would school life be like without bells?, by MFL teacher, @LancsLassRach, Rachel Smith.

Answer below:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember, what peace there may be in silence.”  So begins the well-known poem Desiderata.  To be honest, I would like to remember what peace there may be in silence, but since I began teaching 16 years ago, noise and haste have become more the norm and going placidly amongst the corridors, is something of a dream!

Schools are noisy places and so they should be; learning is not about silence, it is about collaboration and discussion; it’s about fun and enjoyment; none of which are particularly silent activities. Moreover, have you ever come across a truly quiet teenager?  NO, me neither – they all have their loud moments.

Having said all that, do schools have to be that noisy?  What could we do to make our days that little bit more peaceful?  In short, do we have to have those bloody bells?  I’m no bell expert, but I’m guessing that they hark back to a time when the factory bell rang to signify the beginning and end of work.

I’m no bell expert, but I’m guessing that they hark back to a time when the factory bell rang to signify the beginning and end of work.

In industrial Britain, factory workers couldn’t afford timepieces and so the bell was a necessary evil. In this day and age, though we all have some method of telling the time, be it a watch, a computer, or even a mobile phone, in the modern era, a school bell is a total anachronism.

“But schools would be in chaos without them!”, I hear you cry…

“Kids would be wandering randomly in the corridors, as each lesson would finish at varying times; mayhem would reign!”

Yet imagine… just for a minute, a corridor that runs freely because there isn’t a mass exodus onto each thoroughfare after each school hour; or a gentle hubbub that rumbles throughout school in stark contrast to the football crowd brawl that happens at the top every stairwell at lesson changeover.  Certainly there would be minute differences between classrooms as to when a lesson ends but to me, that’s a positive thing.

More than anything else, it’s just simply the noise of that blasted bell; it’s that ear piercing, shrieking, shrill-sound that quite frankly, goes right through me! It upsets my mojo and I can’t stand it… Until a few years ago, at my current school, we had 5 bells that rang before 9.10am; one bell at 8:30am instructing staff that they had to be on site (factory bell!); one at 8:35am warning staff that they had 5 minutes before morning duty began; another one at 8:40am telling students that they should be on site and that morning duty should begin; one more at 8:50am informing everyone that registration had begun and duty had ended;  Yes!… believe it or not, one more at 9:05am to say the registration had finished and then one more at 9:10am  to say that lesson one had begun!

I’ve had enough already!

We are now down to 3 bells before 9:10am (sigh), three too many in my book, but it’s progress I suppose…  However, my joy was short lived! It was a few short months later, that a bell was installed in our staffroom and now my daily 15 minutes of relative peace and silence, is shattered by the mother of all claxon noises… the school bell.

‘Oh, for f**k’s sake!’

So, if the powers that be are reading this thunk. Please, please, please can we lose the bells and restore some peace, quiet and indeed sanity to all of our lives!  The sky will not fall in and school will continue to run smoothly, if not more smoothly – I promise you!

Written by MFL teacher, Rachel Smith, @LancsLassRach and edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

MFL teacher, Rachel Smith – @LancsLassRach

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