When you come to class a minute too late, it feels like a dreaded walk of shame. When your teacher keeps your class even when the period is over, the communal irritation is palpable. These problems could be resolved easily. In previous years, we used to have bells: a simple auditory reminder for when classes and breaks begin and end. They would help us avoid these uncomfortable situations and help solidify punctuality in the High School. However, for some reason, we do not have them.
One morning before Shacharit, I was in the Beit Midrash, and I heard something unusual — a belI. I was confused; at the time, I didn’t think that we would have bells this year. Other than the bell that signifies the beginning of the school day, no other period is marked by this sound. Perplexed, I sought to discover the truth behind the absence of bells in our school.
I recently conducted a non-official interview with Judiac Instructional Team Leader Rabbi Allan Houben on the lack of bells. He said the lack of bells would train us for our adult lives, as “in the real world, they don’t have bells.” However, in the “real world,” people can check their phones for the time. Understandably, students cannot use their phones during instructional time, so bells could serve as a replacement for this tool that they will have outside of school.
Rather than use bells in place of phones, some might say to simply turn to the clocks to check the time. However, students and teachers cannot trust the clocks at AJA. In fact, protocol actually informs teachers to use their phones for keeping track of time, not the clocks. For instance, some rooms do not have clocks, some have clocks that either do not have batteries, and some are broken altogether.
Yet, even the functioning clocks fail to show the accurate time. According to Biology teacher Mrs. Catherine Brand, the time on the school clocks “drifts” — meaning they do not run at the correct rate, causing them to fall significantly behind over time. This results from the school using radio clocks, which receive AM radio waves from the United States atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. Ideally, Mrs. Brand explained, “As long as the clock can receive the AM radio signal, it will have perfectly accurate time.” However, the school building contains large metal beams, which interferes with the AM radio signal. In addition, the school is located in a valley, which further disrupts the signal reception. “Since the clock only has intermittent access to the signal, the time it displays becomes less and less accurate over time,” Mrs. Brand said. These school clocks will never be able to continuously display the correct time. Without accurate clocks, both teachers and students are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping track of the time.
For example, throughout my high school career, I have noticed that English teacher Mr. Dave Byron will always trust the time on his iPhone rather than the clock in his classroom. Without fail, on his whiteboard, he always writes the time that his class ends, which serves as a visual reminder for when his class ends. Mr. Byron’s solution is not only beneficial to the students, but to himself. However, bells provide a simpler solution.
Without phones or accurate clocks, bells serve a purpose beyond reminding students of when periods begin and end; namely, they serve as an accurate measure of time as the digital clocks around the High School do not do a sufficient job.
If we can’t trust the clocks and can’t check our phones for the time, how can we ensure that we are all following RPRT? Right place, maybe, but right time? That doesn’t seem realistic, unless… Maybe a sound that everyone can hear that signals the beginning and ending of each period? A sound that will allow students to follow Right Place Right Time to the best of their abilities? Bells!