As a relatively novice bell ringer, I didn't expect to ever have to teach bell handling to beginners, but as part of both the Scottish and the Newcastle and Durham associations, neither area exactly awash with towers or teeming with ringers, I am suddenly in the position of needing to help various towers bring learners up to speed as quickly and safely as possible.
So when I found out that Judith Frye was leading a group to train ringers in how to teach bell handling, using ART Module 1, I jumped at the chance.
It was a roaring success for me, and clearly a productive and enjoyable weekend for the twelve other participants.
Obviously, a great deal of credit goes to the actual composition of the course. Taking a complex physical process like bell ringing, and de-constructing it into bite-sized chunks, which can then be taken into a tower and practised, separately and in a sequence, until they become automatic, is clearly a sensible and well-tested approach to learning and teaching, and I am grateful that ART has take the time and trouble to formalizse this process, in such a user-friendly way and with such good support materials and follow-through mentoring.
However, what made my training days fantastic (at least for me) rather than simply good, probably comes down to the following:
We were extremely fortunate to have Judith Frye as our tutor and her son Jonathan who organised the course. This super-duo, aside from being excellent ringers, are also excellent communicators, who managed to present the activities articulately and concisely, and demonstrate them clearly. The pair worked very well as a team, injecting not only professionalism but also humour into all their presentations. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better - their home baking was delicious!
I was one of six other relatively new ringers in the course, with the other seven being extremely experienced ringers with decades of teaching experience behind them, so that all of the pairs in the practical work included one of them, thus reducing any sense of panic or clumsiness greatly. Although the novices certainly provided feedback and input - we remember clearly what it's like not to know how to handle a bell - the input of the more experienced ringers was very useful. The atmosphere was respectful and supportive, with lots of humour and enthusiasm.
Scotland has very few ringing towers, but amazingly, we have a state-of-the-art, purpose-built ringing centre, with a light peal of twelve. This enabled all the students, who paired up for the practical sessions, to have one up and one down bell so that all of the exercises could be done seamlessly back to back without having to raise/lower bells, and even if this became necessary, it was possible to do so very quickly without having all the students exhausted at the end of the day (we were exhausted anyway).
This clean and modern tower with a well-lit ringing room and perfectly lined up new bells and ropes, not only has a peal of 12; there is also a light peal of 8 and a dumbbell attached to a simulator with a large screen for solo ringing. When I tell you it is set in the middle of fantastic scenery and only a few miles from a pub with real ales and a log fire - well, it's just about a dream venue for a teaching weekend.
Looking forward to Module 2F already!
Several ringers from Edinburgh attended the Bell Handling course at Tulloch on Saturday and Sunday. Here are some comments from them:
"I triumphantly tamed a wayward (unleashed) bell rope for the first time ever. And conquered some of those ‘what ifs’ that have previously prevented me from teaching. An essential first step towards being able to confidently put into practice all my newly learned teaching skills!" Phyllida
“As someone with no ringing teaching experience I felt comfortable with the course - everyone was very friendly and supportive. The format of lots of different short exercises in small groups worked really well and meant there was something for everyone to learn, from new to experienced teachers.” Susannah
“I found the course enjoyable and un-threatening, with lots of opportunity to try out techniques on easy bells with friendly colleagues. There were lots of ideas for improving learners’ handling and to sort out bad habits that inevitably crop up. And the flapjack and rocky road were delicious!” Barbara
“I've been ringing for 48 1/8 years, what more do I need to know about teaching people to ring, I have seen it and done it, I have never been on a course, what use would that ever be?? Not quite the mindset I was in thankfully. Was I surprised!! the ART Module 1 course was terrific. It was all very logical, well laid out, well planned and terrifically delivered by Judith with some assistance from young Jonathan. Loads of little nuggets and tips, everything straightforward with easy to understand notes and booklets. Can't wait to get going now.” Ian
Practical advice for teachers, right from the first lesson.