When the bells stop ringing

Jon Acton
4 min readSep 6, 2022

When the bells stop ringing…

New school year. It’s the start of another school year. For some school has been in session since July (no, I’m not kidding) while for others, Labor Day represents the last breath of summer. Regardless of when school starts, what unites students and educators across the country are the ringing of bells. Ringing bells to start a day, create multiple class periods, breaks for lunch, even dismissal bells. The ringing of daily bells begins the circle of school life and brings Hope for countless unknown and amazing opportunities to be discovered.

3o years. For 30 years my world revolved around some version of those bells. Whether as a classroom teacher, a high school principal or as a school superintendent, bells ranged, dinged and donged the symphony of a school day. Come, go, stop, leave, hurry up, slow down, good morning, good afternoon, good to see you, see you tomorrow were the cyclical conversations created by those bells. A safe cocoon of certainty of place, procedures and routine, vastly different than the unpredictable outside “real” world. The school bells created equal levels of excitement and anxiousness depending on the day or happenings.

Year 31. So here I am in year 31 as a professional educator with no bells. No bells to start or end a day, no tardy or recess bells, no class meeting or school convocation bells disrupting meticulously planned schedules. No fire or tornado drill bells incessantly ringing, and rightfully demanding safety procedures and protocols be practiced. No laughing, screaming, crying, shoe shuffling, sneaker squeaking sounds of adolescents and adults maneuvering the life of a school between bells. Instead, there is silence.

Retired. I am medically retired. This was not the plan. My carefully designed and constructed plan had at minimum ten more years of full speed ahead as a public-school superintendent. Ten more years minimum of being a servant leader to create positive “Butterfly Effects” lasting long after the “planned” retirement bell rang. I have to wonder if “my plan” created a belly laugh or a sarcastic snicker with the man above. “My plan” was cast aside with a red alert ringing bell called cancer.

Silence. How many times did I wish for silence at school. Screaming students, screaming teachers, teachers screaming at students, students screaming at teachers. On more occasions than I want to admit I internally begged, “Please, can’t I just have five minutes of peace and…

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Jon Acton

Husband, Father, Former School Superintendent, National Blue Ribbon School Principal, Teacher, Coach, Author in progress