Ban the war siren signals used at schools as part of the reculturing process.
This post is part of the series of making schools more welcoming. I want to talk about the school siren signals that schools must consider changing as part of their reculturing journey.Whenever I hear a school siren at the schools I serve, I am more convinced that schools must get rid of that war cry.
The reason for using the siren and its amplified sounds.
There is a huge difference in the function of an emergency siren sound and a school siren. Wailing Siren noises warn us about impending danger or of an emergency. When we hear these noises, we expect to see an emergency or security vehicle like an ambulance, the police or a fire engine. If we are driving, we will allow such vehicles to pass by, even if it means we have to stop at the green robots. Our response would be appropriate under these circumstances.
Now, let us zoom into one of these schools where we have these factory siren or emergency vehicle sounds. The children at these schools are already highly traumatized. They hear gunshots going off all the time and police sirens are par for the course. School sirens that duplicate similar sounds may, inadvertently, be helping to desensitize the children.
Of course, we need school bells and we must make use of siren technology to amplify these sounds. Sirens or school bells are used as announcement signals and timers at schools. When the school siren goes off, you know that it signals either the start or end of the day, the lunch breaks or the change of subject periods. These are not emergency situations. These are merely routine indicators that a school needs to help them regulate their day.
The use of the emergency siren wail for regular school business is entrenched in the culture of schools that they do not even think about its subliminal messages. Also, that siren sound is a replication of the factory siren as well. If you think about it, we are still clinging to old, industrial modes of regulating our children, ourselves and our schools. In effect, we are still trapped in the outdated mechanical, manufacturing mode in our modern world of school. What then, is a possible alternative?
Looking for alternatives
I know of schools where a variety of sounds is used for their various public announcements. For example, schools use bell chimes or the ringing of old-fashioned bells to indicate various breaks. The principal of a primary school I serve, taps on a kiddies xylophone when she makes an announcement over the intercom. At another school, the bell rings only to signal the start of the day and the lunch breaks.
There are also schools that do not use school bells at all. At one of these schools, large wall clocks are visible in each of the classrooms. One of the teachers explained that all watches and clocks are synchronized every morning. In this way, the school instills self-discipline and time management subliminally.
There are many creative ways schools can explore. Apple has an app called PA which seems to be an exciting option for schools that like high end technology.
The bottom line is we cannot become complacent about the way our schools are organized. We need to be critical of the symbols and the behaviours that are entrenched at the schools as part of the reculturing journey. Using default siren sounds that belong in a war, disaster or emergency context do not mirror the empowering core purpose of a school. Schools are destined to be happy, disciplined spaces and we are tasked to create that environment for the children.