Bennett Atkins '18 dressed as the "Ghost of the Bell System" for Halloween. 

Bennett Atkins '18 dressed as the "Ghost of the Bell System" for Halloween. 

To Bell or not to Bell 

The bells (or at least a digital representation of them) rang between classes at Indian Springs for decades, alerting students to run to their next class. They’re even the school’s logo. But in the fall of 2017, the bells stopped ringing. Head of School Dr. Sharon Howell decided to eliminate the bells, one of many other changes taking place this year, including a new schedule.

Many students and faculty are frustrated and don’t see the purpose behind this change, so a meeting with Dr. Howell clarified the reasons behind her decision. “There are no bells in life,” she says. “The only institutions that have bells are prisons and schools.” In fact, according to Dr. Howell, “You’d be hard-pressed to find bells at most [private] schools” these days. She acknowledges that initially people really missed the bells, as evidenced by a student-made petition that was brought to her attention earlier this year. Most never found out the conclusion of the petition, but, according to her, by the time the students met with her, the reaction was, “We’re kind of accustomed to this; we’re sort of learning to deal with it.”

Many students are indeed learning to deal with it. And yet a large number still express concern. Senior Bennett Atkins is on the vanguard of these protesters. “Tardies are hanging over our heads,” he says. “We are rushing to get to class.” But no matter how flawed he thinks the policy is, his main concern is just that there was not enough communication between faculty and students before this was put into practice. “It’s very frustrating for me as a student not knowing what’s going on,” he explains. “I don’t really know at this point what is necessarily the main reason for it, ’cause I’ve heard so many things . . . most of that has been through secondhand knowledge.

Eighth grader Shadie Shrestha is also struggling without bells. She claims her teachers sometimes go over the time allotted and she does not have time to get to her next class. Eleventh grader Chandni Modi, however, has a different theory about why this seemingly small issue is causing so much angst. “We’re all intellectual people; we can figure out the schedule for a week,” she explains, “[but] what people are actually complaining about is that we have less time to go from one class to another. Not necessarily about bells.”

Admittedly, it is hard to distinguish the main cause of student concerns when so many changes happened at once. Physics teacher Mr. Obrodovic claims the whole system may be at fault. The lack of bells, strict tardies, and less time between classes can “create stress in both teachers and students . . . and for what reason?”  

In hindsight, a fuller explanation from Dr Howell might have helped reduce some of the pushback from students and faculty. When I first approached this story, I was skeptical of the new system, too, but after talking to Dr. Howell directly, I definitely understand where she is coming from. It seems perfectly reasonable to me now that creating an army of mindless drones taught only to obey is a bad idea, but I wouldn’t have considered that previously.

Even with all this in mind, Dr Howell shared that she is considering reinstating a bell at the beginning of the day and after lunch for those of us who can’t face the day without our bells. (You heard it here first!). The fate of our logo’s relevance rests on this decision.

- Abigail Shepherd '19


Honorable mention quotes:

  • “A lot of schooling is about teaching you to obey. And I feel like that’s really not what Springs is about. . . . It’s a model that’s being shown increasingly to not actually produce minds and characters that are creative and that are willing to take initiative and that have learned to problem-solve and critically think” --Dr. Howell

  • “If you’re late all the time, people notice that. If you’re punctual, people notice that, too. It’s more about giving you credit for being good at those things that are going to give you credit in life.” --Dr. Howell