I first taught a group of retired people with a friend when I was 17, cycling some 8 or 9 miles in each direction to get to the church that wanted some ringers as the bells had not been rung for years. I don’t even remember how I got involved! I did get the band ringing call changes on six. Over the years I have taught several recruits but somewhat sporadically and with no plan. I am now in the ‘retired’ age group but still active at work fulltime.
I attended a Teaching Bellhandling course at Earl Stonham at the weekend and was concerned that I may not agree with what was being said, because I have taught ringers to handle over many years with differing degrees of success.
I have always been a believer in good striking rather than being ‘clever’ at methods. Some cleanly struck call changes rung for a wedding is far better than a ‘clippie’ bit of Plain Bob for instance. It was great to hear throughout the day that this is the approach that ART takes. Get the basics right and the rest falls into place.
In the past I have been concerned how easy it is for something to go wrong when introducing catching the sally and putting the two strokes together. The ART approach has given me new confidence on how to approach these elements and make adjustments.
I am looking forward to working with new recruits and using some of the useful little tips I picked up during the day. The hand ring exercise for instance and the biscuit tin on the floor are things I will make use of. I even used the ‘shuffle, shuffle, away and together’ exercise at the practice on Tuesday on a tail end that was not in use with a beginner!
I arrived at the ART training day on bell handing with little experience of teaching and a lot of trepidation. I needn’t have worried - Lesley took us through the stages of teaching bell handling using a combination of demonstration and practical sessions, making the learning relaxed and fun. The foundation stones had been laid a week before though a theory session delivered via Zoom. This meant that, on the day, we could get straight into practicals, working in pairs and taking it in turns to be the teacher and the taught. On the few occasions that I have helped to teach previously, I have worried that I will miss the sally whilst the learner rings the back stroke. The most significant innovation of the ART course for me is teaching the building blocks for the two basic strokes with the bell down or being rung under the balance. It seems such an obvious solution to my worries, but it feels like a very fundamental change in approach. The day followed a logical progression to give us the skills we need and a structured approach to teaching. It was delivered with great enthusiasm, warmth and lightness of touch by Lesley. Now I just need to find a volunteer!
It has been nearly ten years since I first attended the ITTS (as they were then) M1 and M2 courses. With our local ringers showing enthusiasm for teaching, and many of them attending this M1 ART course, I thought a refresher would be beneficial.
Having attended, what surprised me most is how beneficial it has been as a refresher. Having not taught ringing for some time, it is easy to overlook, or forget, particular ideas and teaching techniques. For example, much more emphasis is placed on the merits of teaching with a bell that is partly up. While I recall this from the first course, it seems to have evolved into a more prominent technique for teaching and developing bell control.
I was also intrigued to see whether there is still an insistence that one does not 'pull' a bell rope - if there is one thing I remember from the first course, it is this. Perhaps it is down to who is leading the course, as, this time, the notion of not pulling a rope did not emerge! [Note from Lesley - I often hear myself saying "Say 'guide', not 'pull' if your learner is pulling too hard" when we talk about the language we use to learners - but maybe I forgot this time - sorry!]
I certainly ended the day better placed to resume teaching, and therefore would encourage those who attended earlier courses to consider the benefits of attending again as a refresher.
Practical advice for teachers, right from the first lesson.