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Bells and Whistles

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A Pavlovian-sounding experiment is being conducted in Massachusetts, where several high schools have done away with bells. That’s right: When a class starts or ends, there’s no more beeping, buzzing, or clanging—just a teacher, saying something like, “You guys can go.” In at least two schools, recorded music is played instead, but school officials argue that, overall, the new practice helps students better manage their time and prepare for the real (bell-less) world. Reactions among students and staff have been mixed. A janitor at Dedham High, where “silence” now reigns, says the boxing-ring-like bell used to startle him—and signal that the hall would soon be flooded with students. Even a freshman at Dedham complained, “It [was] loud for no reason.” But some of his classmates claim they’ve now become clock-watchers, focusing more on the minute hand than their lessons. Not all educators are enthused, either. Jane Lombardi, who teaches math at Dedham, says that, to avoid not releasing students on time, she leads a New Year’s Eve-style countdown at period’s end. Of the old bell routine, she says: “After 10 years, it’s so ingrained. What can I tell you? I’m programmed.”

1 Comment

There is nothing wrong with a bell or other item to signal a common point in time that requires all to take action, like change a class. And in a repetitve environment like a traditional school it makes sense, like the young man says, now he is a clock watcher. What should be eliminated according to several studies are the PA systems and other classroom interruptions that disrupt the productive parts of education - no need to worry about the bell.

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