By Ryan D’Souza
The Tower (Princeton, New Jersey)
The first time it didn’t happen, the sea of people crowding the hallways ceased to a steady stream trickling through. The main intersection on the second floor—a common ground for pushing and shoving where the real winners hid behind their tall friends and let them do the work—was clear to the point that the posters on the walls were visible. But what happened to cause the heavy traffic to ease up to the point at which everyone had their own personal space? The bells didn’t ring.
In order to respect those taking the PARCC and AP exams, the school administration stopped the bells from ringing at the beginning and end of every period. During this time, students still had to attend class and teachers still had to dismiss students, but they were allowed to do so approximately when they were supposed to. This discrepancy meant that not every class was dismissed at the same time. The staggered release of students—with their being released in the five minute span around when the bell would have normally rung—resulted in traffic-jam-free hallways because not all 1,500 students flooded them at once.
Not only does the lack of bells relieve some of the problems caused by the school’s overpopulation, but it also enforces the axiom all teachers love preaching: “The bell doesn’t dismiss you; I do.” And that’s true. Students’ speaking or—more importantly—teachers’ teaching is no longer cut off mid-sentence by a loud, almost obnoxious five-second bell. Teachers also don’t have the problem of yelling over the immediately following loud chatter in the hallway that hundreds of students stampede through in order to get to their next classes. Instead, they get to finish their sentence and point, and the noise in the hallway will gradually grow louder, but never reach above a roar as the concentration of students in any particular hallway is never completely overrun.
The absence of bells also relieves some of the stress of finishing a test. The slowly growing buzz in the hallway signifies the period coming to an end and causes a small rush of adrenaline as you scramble to finish the exam. However, it’s a lot better than the alternative shell shock caused by the loud bell interrupting the train of thoughts flowing through your mind. Then there’s the ensuing thunder as half the school simultaneously erupts into that exact hallway you’re taking the test in, making it impossible to concentrate on finishing the last question that can salvage your grade.
So then, what good does ringing bells do? To the millisecond, it makes it obvious to the entire school that the period is either just beginning or just ending. But are crowded hallways where students are closer together than cows in a bullpen on a Tyson farm worth dismissing every student at that exact same millisecond? Or, can we settle for students’ being released within minutes of each other, causing us to develop a sense of responsibility by forcing us to keep track of time? Maybe bells only belong on cows.
Photo Credit: The Tower