Life by Bells

I live my life to the rhythm of bells. Well, not bells anymore, I suppose. What I call bells have actually morphed into tones. I wake to a disgusting blaring honking sound from my alarm. The tones on my phone are varied to suit the personalities that might call me. I keep an awful submarine pinging sound for anyone whose number is not programmed into my phone, and know to ignore those pings.

At work, the class bells have been replaced by four loud tones that mean that the school day has begun or ended, and also signal the times during the day that students orderly transition from one class to another. Maybe not so orderly.


While at work one day this week, I had my fill of “bells.” At this time of year, I am scrambling to complete all the evaluations that are on my lengthy list. The rapid count-down to the last day of school sets off a near complete panic in me. I have a limited number of days to see everyone on my list. That I can accomplish the tasks is part scheduling magic, part luck and part ingenuity. What should be wide open opportunities to pull a kid out of class is stymied because of weeks worth of standardized testing time that is deemed absolutely and undeniably SACRED!

I waited patiently on this particular day for the students to complete a portion of one of those dreaded tests so that I could pounce on an unsuspecting victim and administer yet ANOTHER test. Once the students had been tested and fed, I was armed and ready. And then I heard a bell.

Well, not really a bell. I was a loud and obnoxious pulsing siren accompanied by Mr. Roboto stating “Evacuate the building. Evacuate. Evacuate.” I immediately thought that some eighth grader was going to be very very sorry that they had tripped that alarm. I automatically assumed a prankster. I obeyed the repeated command, and made sure to turn off my light on the way out of my office. I don’t know why. If the place burned down, would it matter if my office light was on?

Credit: Keep Calm-O-Matic

Moving 2,000 twelve to fourteen-year-olds out of a building has been practiced to perfection at that school and within a few minutes, they were all outside and standing at a safe distance from the building. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and after ten minutes or so, I sat down on a curb and stretched out my legs to get a little sun. By thirty minutes in the sunshine, I was feeling a little warm, and after forty-five minutes or so, Mr. Roboto proclaimed the “All Clear.”

That delay propelled me to a scheduled meeting, which we conducted. Through the meeting, though, I was keeping a keen watch on my watch – hoping that we would conclude in just enough time to squeak a WISC out of the student I still needed to see.


Sure enough, I rescued my student from science class during the final two periods of the day. Because of the pressure of time, I had not taken a moment to engage in any small talk with this young man. We set straight away into the test, and had closed the last page of the protocol just as Mr. Roboto and his back-up squealing revived the earlier refrain. “Evacuate.” Surely this is a mistake, I thought. My student asked if we really had to go outside. Indeed, we did – so we headed toward the door, and just as I was turning off the light, old Roboto droned out the “All Clear.” Wonderful! Young man and I might have a chance to converse! We hadn’t but seated ourselves, when Mr. Roboto replayed his earlier tune and implored us to evacuate. This time we had made it to the hall before the all clear was sounded. That poor child and I were caught in a drill dance for the next several turn-arounds of all clears and evacuates.

Eventually, I gave up. The time was only a few minutes from dismissal for the day. On the final Evacuate, I packed up my computer, gathered my testing materials and purse and told the child to get his book bag and follow me. Outside, we were easily able to find his class, standing at a safe distance from the building in the parking lot. Luckily, they were not standing in the path down which I would drive my car to escape.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, old Roboto sounded the All Clear, just one more time. At least that I heard.


I live my life to the rhythm of bells.

Growing up on the prairies of southern Manitoba, the school bell at Lorne School, the one-room schoolhouse I attended with my brother and three of my sisters, was the type that is seen only in nostalgic pictures representing “Back to School” sales and was rung by the one teacher assigned to teach all sixteen of the students from grades one to eight.



Back then, we had one telephone in the home that all eight of us shared. Our phone number was 313 R 22. The 313 notated the “party line” that we were on, and the R 22 stood for Ring: 2 long, 2 short. Truly. If the telephone rang, we would have to wait to be sure that it rang our particular pattern before all we children could run over each other in an attempt to be the first to grab the receiver! Our calls were always short and to the point, since any one of two or three neighbors might need to use our shared line of communication.


The Necessary Evil Credit:

The necessary evil rings me awake in the morning. At work, chimes ping every 50 minutes or so, marking the beginning of the day, times for students to move from one classroom to another, and time to go home.

My cell phone jingles and jangles in a diversity of tones that are designated to an assortment of means of communication. The friendly whistle alerts me to the receipt of a text message. A strumming guitar lets me know that one of the boys are calling. When I hear “Bad to the Bone“, I know that Rod is calling.  My phone made some random noise a few days ago while Ian was here. He asked what that tone was for and I told him that I had no earthly idea! The racket that sounds like a submarine ping is reserved for callers that I don’t know. I usually allow those to remain submerged.

When Rod or the boys call, I try my best to answer. However, it just seems to work out that if I’m upstairs and my phone rings, the phone is downstairs. When I’m downstairs and my phone rings, the phone is in the car. When I’m in the car and my phone rings, I can’t find the phone while I drive. On March 2nd of this year, Andrew tweeted: “@loried2 WORST phone answerer 5 years and running. #cancelyourservice.” I offer no apology.

Our phone looked a lot like this! Credit:

Our phone looked a lot like this!

I used to be much more enthusiastic about receiving a telephone call. It meant that someone was thinking about me. It meant that I could engage in a conversation. These days, I get most all of the social interaction that I need in the course of a day at work. When I really think about it, I get annoyed that someone out there – anywhere out there – can make a bell ring inside the privacy and confines of my home, which causes me to stop what I was doing and take a particular action! I feel a little like one of Pavlov’s dog.

There are a few bells that I really enjoy – like the one that I am hearing right that tells me that my dinner is ready to eat! Gotta go! 🙂