If your new recruits are really doing well, the chances are you’ve considered running some dedicated foundation skills practices to help them progress more quickly, possibly with group teaching. If you’re running these practices really well, you’re planning them ahead, you might have some experienced helpers, everyone gets chances to ring something they want to, your ringers are enjoying themselves, attaining goals and feel that they are making progress. Brilliant!
But hang on! Just as more advanced ringers tend to flock towards good practices, word does spread quite quickly and you might well find that new ringers from other towers will start to come along too. Whilst visiting ringers are always a pleasure, it’s also possible that what started out as a small, local practice can easily become overwhelmed by lots of visitors, especially if they don’t have the luxury of a foundation level practice in their home tower.
So if your practice which comfortably catered for 8 people suddenly has a regular attendance of 20 or even 30, what can happen? Your own ringers, for whom you set up the practice in the first place, might well only get one or two rings in an evening and their progress will slow. You can become frustrated, wondering why you're teaching everyone else’s learners at the expense of your own. Your practice has become too popular!
There isn’t one easy solution to this tricky situation, after all you don’t want to exclude people. Start by talking to your home band, including your more long-term visitors. Ask their opinion. Try and find a solution that works for both your team and everyone else. Remember:
You never know what could happen; this is how the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing started!
Would other towers in the area like to collaborate and run some similar practices to cater for demand, perhaps on a different evening?
There are probably plenty of good teachers in your area who would be willing to help. They might not be doing much teaching due to a lack of new ringers at their own towers so could well be keen to help with some joint practices to benefit the wider area.
Would your Branch or Association be prepared to run a regular session to ease congestion?
How about forming a ringing cluster with local towers. Running as a hub allows a range of practices targeted at different ringers to be run throughout the week.
Encourage slightly more advanced ringers to come along as helpers to practices aimed at people who are at an earlier stage. In this way you will be training up the teachers of the future. In return, make sure you can also offer them their own dedicated practice for something more advanced. Encourage a culture of ‘give and take’ so that everyone benefits.
Rather than running a general open practice, consider holding regular, focused workshops. The name workshop rather than practice has different connotations. Be open; tell everyone...and be clear: "Next Tuesday is Plain Hunt skills for these five people." Arrange a series of workshops for different groups to ring something they are working on. That way, it’s fair, everyone gets their own special practice or if already competent they can come along as a helper, and your practices will be more focused and productive.
If you feel the practices have lost their way and you can't find a solution, consider taking a break (maybe coinciding with when you go on holiday) then start again with things run slightly differently. Hold themed practices for small groups by invitation to manage the sessions and number of ringers. If anyone complains, invite them to run something!
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