School bells are often considered to be a staple of most high schools, but AJA has not used them since two years ago. At first glance, this is an odd policy; after all, if most other schools use them, surely there must be a good reason, right? Granted, it may be true that school bells are ubiquitous elsewhere, but a closer examination reveals many arguments against the use of bells at AJA.
The administration opted to remove bells last year because the third grade had classes in the same area as the High School, and the High School schedule differs from the third grade schedule. If school bells had been used, this would have caused confusion for third graders, who would hear bells ringing during random points of their day. However, over the course of the school year, many teachers realized that school bells were unnecessary — and possibly even detrimental. According to Rabbi Allan Houben, Judaic Studies Instructional Leader, despite the removal of bells, there was no significant increase in tardiness last year when compared to the previous year. In other words, even if bells had helped students get to class on time in the past, this job turned out to be entirely redundant.
Rabbi Houben also mentioned that bells had created somewhat of a Pavlovian response — as soon as a bell went off, students would immediately stand up from their desks and gather their belongings, even if a teacher was in the middle of a sentence or an important concept. Without bells in place, teachers could end lessons as needed, without worrying that students would rely on a bell to end the class, rather than their own teacher.
Additionally, the faculty noticed that the use of bells was beginning to create an overreliance on them for timekeeping. Independent timekeeping is an incredibly useful skill for life. Outside of school, there is no bell to tell people when to move on to another piece of work. High school should prepare students for life, so it would be counterproductive to train students to rely on bells for something so essential as timekeeping. Requiring students to keep track of time by themselves trains them to be proactive instead of reactive — one of the main values and skills that AJA attempts to instill in their students.
Furthermore, this school year serves as the perfect training ground for personal time management. The simple schedule, with all classes beginning and ending on 5-minute intervals, creates an environment where students will not be overwhelmed by seemingly random transition times. Meanwhile, the shorter time between classes — only five minutes — still requires all students to develop time management skills in order to avoid being late. This is complemented perfectly by the school’s tardy and absent policies, which allow for 16 absences throughout the year, with three tardies being equivalent to an absence. Students can learn to manage their time without incurring penalties along the way, while still knowing that consistently failing to arrive at class on time will eventually lead to academic consequences.
To put it simply, bells were not — and are not — helpful at AJA. Even if the bells were initially removed due to external factors, the faculty realized that the removal of school bells was a policy that should be continued. Because bells interrupted academics, were unnecessary for getting students to class on time, and did not help students develop time management skills, they were rightfully removed from AJA. So here’s to a bell-free today — and, hopefully, a bell-free tomorrow.