Do we really need a school bell?
We’ve all seen the cliché-filled school scene that features in most American dramas or sitcoms. You know the one. It’s where children are sitting at individual desks scrolling through their phones and throwing scrunched up notes in front of a teacher who apparently has no control over their students. The bell rings, prompting the children to surge towards the exit.
Despite their best effort, with screeches of “The bell is for me, not for you!” the teacher gives up and the students run out of school jubilantly, throwing their notes in the air.
The school bell is a nuisance
Reality paints a very different picture. For one, the bell should never prompt a mass exodus from the classroom. Furthermore, I’m beginning to believe that the bell should be confined to the schools of the past. The school bell is loud, obtrusive and for some children, downright scary.
The modern state school has to cater for all children. Some youngsters, particularly autistic children, hate – and fear – loud unexpected noises. I have seen children go into crisis because they have been standing near to the bell when it rings. And boy does it ring. It has startled me on a number of occasions.
As a teacher, I have lost count of the number of times a crucial part of my plenary has been interrupted by the bell and subsequent distraction of the pupils in my class. Granted, some schools programme their bells to ring only at the beginning and end of the day, but most have it ringing at the beginning and end of every period.
The case for bell-free schools
I am sure I am not just speaking for myself when I say that telling the time is one of the most complicated concepts to teach. This can be partly explained by the varying levels of clock-related tuition children receive from home, rendering traditional ability groupings completely futile. Some children are never taught how to read time by their parents.
Imagine if every school day embedded children’s understanding of time. Currently, the children don’t have to read the time at all during the day, because the timetable is punctuated by the bell. Children would have to start reading their watches (if they have one) to tell when to go back to class after breaks and to remind their teacher how long it is until school finishes.
Moreover, it would help to build a more inclusive and peaceful environment for those who find the school bell terrifying. If the bell really is for teachers, there is an even more compelling case to get rid of it.
Does our profession really have such low intelligence that we cannot read a clock?
What do you think? Is your school bell a nuisance? Do you agree that it robs children of an important opportunity to embed their knowledge of time?