It was third time lucky when nine of us met at St Mary’s Church Frensham, to take part in the Association of Ringing Teachers course. The course, planned for November, had been cancelled first due to illness, then due to snow.This time we battled through high winds to meet Pip Penney, our tutor for the day. We were a mixed bunch, including some with many years’ experience of teaching ringing, who were looking for fresh ideas; some who had dipped a toe in the teaching water, but felt they needed a little more confidence; and some who had never taught new ringers at all. Frensham is an excellent venue for training, with easy bells on a ground floor ring, and just a few steps from a comfortable room for the theory sessions. On a cold damp day, we were especially appreciative of the plentiful tea and delicious home-made cakes provided by Clare Le Marie (thank you Clare!)
This was a Module 1 course, teaching basic bell handling, but it also encouraged us to think about principles behind teaching and learning, motivation, observation and progression in the development of skilled activity.That may sound a little heavy, but it didn’t feel that way as the day alternated theory - understanding what and why we might try with our learners, and practice - going to the ringing chamber to try it out for ourselves. At the heart of the ART approach is the idea of breaking a complex process into small steps, which allow the learner to focus on one new idea or one new element at a time, and to get that absolutely right, before combining those actions into the complex sequences required for proficient ringing.
Pip steered us very skilfully through both theory and practice, and ideas which initially seemed madness (teaching ringing down in lesson one!) began to make sense in the context. Role playing both teacher and learner not only helped us understand (or perhaps remember) the perspective of the learner but also helped us gel as a group, supporting each other. It also meant no-one felt embarrassed to say, ‘I don’t understand’, ‘Have I got that right?’, or ‘Can you show me again?’ or even to ask a really basic question (which is usually on everyone’s mind). In fact, we got on so well as a group that there are plans to meet up again, a few months down the track, to see how we are all getting on.
It was a very full on day, and by the time we left everyone felt up to capacity with new ideas, wondering if we would remember a quarter of them - but ART has thought of that too, and we each took away with us a pack of resources, for both teachers and learners, with all the basic ideas we had covered in the day. No, I don’t think we could have just bought the book – doing and discussing made sense of things I had read before and had not understood.
Whether I will use all the resources or encourage all my learners to sign up to ART accreditation, is yet to be seen, but I for one am looking forward to trying some of the ideas with a new learner as soon as possible, whilst it is all fresh in my mind. At some point I would certainly consider trying ART Module 2F from Rounds to Plain Hunt.
Practical advice for teachers, right from the first lesson.