‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” (Benjamin Franklin)
On a cold January day nineteen learners assembled in South Petherton, Somerset to participate in the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART) course for Teaching Bell Handling. We ranged in age and experience and were mostly more curious and trepidatious than would have been anticipated from individuals keen to teach others. Whilst some came with confidence and prior knowledge others were unsure of their ability both as practitioners and teachers. How could we possibly aspire to teach others when we ourselves were not expert ringers?
We soon learnt that learners are all different, they have different aptitudes, different experiences of learning and different expectations. They have different levels of confidence and motivation and such it was with us. Some of us came with the clear purpose of teaching others, some because they wanted to improve their ability to help other learners and some simply to understand and assess their own aptitude for teaching. Regardless of our motivations and background, our tutor Clare McArdle, made us all feel welcome and inspired us to believe that we did potentially all have something to offer. Why else were we there?
Clare guided us through the skills and techniques of assisting a learner to develop and improve their bell handling skills. We learnt the importance of repetition, feedback and recognising the difference between achievement and mastery of the skill. The day course was a helpful blend of theory and practice enabling us to work with our peers in pairs to put into practice a range of techniques and learning strategies. We especially learnt the importance of observation and individualised learning, ensuring that feedback was purposeful, constructive and focused. We learnt not to overload the learner, to communicate clearly and give affirmation as well critique.
We started a journey to develop our own confidence and expertise at teaching bell handling to novice learners. That journey is now down to us. Guided by a local mentor we are encouraged to identify a learner to work with, using a log book and peer support to develop ourselves as reflective practitioners.
In our Branch we have already met with our mentor to reflect upon the course and are using locally organised training sessions to start our journey.
The ART, ‘Learning the Ropes’ Scheme brings a structured approach to learning. As such it also aims to improve the standard of teaching, to ensure that learners have a strong foundation upon which to progress confidently. This course, is just one of a number that aim to develop a wider circle of competent teachers and teaching assistants who can, in the longer term, have a steady and developing impact upon the growth and standard of teaching and ringing.
If this programme only helps me to more confidently assist others to develop good bell handling skills then it will have achieved its purpose. If some of us go on to ART’s more Advanced courses then that would be a bonus to our towers and to the ringing world.
And for the cynical, I would echo, ‘Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticise others.” (Roy T. Bennett)
Practical advice for teachers, right from the first lesson.