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It was their absence that made the loudest statement

It was my first in-class support day at Emmanuel College on the Gold Coast. I was there as a Facilitator, demonstrating restorative circles.

I had finished a fabulous day with wonderful teachers and enthusiastic students. I had spent the day doing some demonstration circles, faculty meetings and even a video discussion about Restorative Practice. I left the office to meet the Deputy for a debriefing meeting. Students calmly left the school as I stepped into the soft dappled sunshine. There were a few pleasantries, “Bye miss” and “afternoon”. Something, however, felt uncommonly placid. On reflection, the whole day felt like this, was it the students, lovely weather, and welcoming staff? While all were warm, nope, it was something else.

I could not quite figure out what was different. I have been in schools for 28 years, and I knew in my bones how they feel and ebb and flow. What was the point of difference? I searched through my memories of schools, and something in my gut sought a reason for the calm and peaceful ethos.

I saw the Head of School, Karen, waiting for me, and it hit me with novelty, curiosity, and a blossom of joy, “I’ve figured it out…”

Karen smiles, “What did you figure?”

There is an unusual calm about your school, and rather than a lightbulb, a loud ‘ding dong’ resounded… There are no BELLS, and I have not heard one all day!!  She laughed and wondered if I would notice. It only took me 7 hours!

Karen told me there was one bell at the end of lunch, but after learning from home, they decided students functioned well to get to Zoom calls without a bell. Could they continue this on campus? And they have, what a profound, sound point of peaceful difference.

The absence of bells made a loud statement. Could no bells create the ambient calm we need in schools right now?


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