Saturday 17th June 2017, ringers started to arrive at 8:30 wondering if this was such a good idea as the temperatures steadily rose. A good idea it certainly proved to be, as ringers with hugely varied teaching experience were guided through the complex process of learning a new motor skill. Graham Nabb, who led the course, also got us to think about how the expectations from “outside” in the “real world” have changed, and how we as ringers need to adapt, as the CRAG survey has recently highlighted.
The day had been initiated by the Loddon Ringing hub on behalf of the Sonning Deanery Branch of the ODG, and we were pleased to welcome three ringers from Hambleden, two from Clewer, and one who had braved the traffic to join us from Essex. 8 Sonning Deanery ringers attended, some as Teachers, some as Mentors, although sadly Jane from All Saints Wokingham could only be with us in the morning.
As the two ringers from Clewer (who also ring at Waltham St Lawrence) went upstairs to help Simon Farrar the tower captain at Twyford, put clapper ties on the bells, welcoming refreshments were provided. Our thanks go to Martha and Sue, who manned the kitchen and kept us well fed and watered during the day.
After introducing us to the principles of the ART approach and the Learning the Ropes scheme, we went up to start putting these into practice in the belfry. The first session was quite intensive as we practised some of the early exercises from Learning the Ropes.
For experienced teachers it gave an opportunity to reflect on how we do the early stages, for those with no previous teaching experience it was a steep learning curve! Some delegates really took the need to practise the skills learnt so seriously that they stayed in the belfry at the end, even risking missing coffee and cake.
Graham had stressed the need to be flexible when teaching, and then had to put this into practice as the technology decided to be uncooperative. Having shown us the published ART material, and with the IT still being unhelpful, we went upstairs for a second practical session, practising teaching the skills that an effective learner would need. This was followed by the theory after Kate had worked her magic with the machines.
Over lunch we browsed through and purchased some of the excellent resources for teachers and learners. We made use of the opportunity to socialise and share experience which is always so valuable.
As teachers and mentors we were taught the importance and use of prompts, observation and effective feedback. We were also introduced to the use of the whole-part-whole approach to mastering a motor skill. A final practical session allowed the mentors to be inventive, developing a variety of handling faults for their ‘teachers’ to correct.
Overall it was a useful and informative day and very good value for money; and worth having to climb the spiral staircase backwards on crutches four times! It was good to be reminded that there are different ways of doing things, and that we as teachers can learn new things, including making use of research in other sporting disciplines. Now we just need to go and put in to practise what we have learnt as we develop our new ringers!
Thanks go to Graham Nabb for delivering the course, Simon Farrar for the use of Twyford Bells, Jacquie Hazell for co-ordination with ART and Twyford, and provision of the refreshments.
Vinni Sullivan (Loddon Hub Local Organiser)
Practical advice for teachers, right from the first lesson.