A few years ago, we decided to turn the bells off in our middle school. The periodic shrill sound of “warning bells” and “starting bells” was not just an assault on the senses – a control mechanism from another time – it also contributed to a needless atmosphere of urgency, stress and compliance. Students were initially critical of the change. Many resented having the accountability for transitions shifted to them. Today, the bells are long-forgotten and students transition to learning activities with autonomy.
Change can be hard. Gleason reminds us that “we must challenge ourselves to do things differently.” Change initiatives require a conviction to do the right thing for learners, even when this takes us into unfamiliar territory. Doing the right thing for learners in the long-term is not a popularity contest. Doing what we’ve always done is the path of least resistance.
Sometimes you just have to turn off the bells.