We do not use bells to indicate the start / end of classes at my school in Seattle. Generally, classes start and end at the same time and the students quickly move to their next class. I like not using bells; I think it reflects the culture of my school, and it puts more responsibility into the hands of the students.
Every school in Singapore I have visited uses bells, including the school directly behind my apartment building (I hear the bells and the Singapore National Anthem every morning). The sounds of the bells here are much different than the school bells I have been exposed to in the United States. In Singapore, the school bells are very pleasant (the ones I have heard anyway); they are more like chimes.
Beautiful, lovely chimes.
In fact, most of the schools I have visited use a chime quite familiar to me – it was the same one used on my grandparents’ cuckoo clock. For about a month, every time I would hear the bell I found myself anticipating the cuckoo.
The bell inspires a nice memory of my grandparents who were both educators and wonderful people.
As I was visiting a secondary school the other day, the song “Chim Chim Chiminee” starting playing on the intercom. The students seemed non-plussed by this and continued with their work. I asked one of the students what it meant. “Oh,” he said, “that means our recess is finished. And we have to gather in the hall.”
That’s pretty awesome.