A Perfect Saturday: Bells, Good Food, Pubs and a Good Laugh

Training CourseThe clock on the wall advised it was 7.15am and there I was in the hall, coat and shoes on, holding a note book and my red diagrams book (just in case.) Lesley my travelling companion was driving her car up my drive; time keeping is one of her specialities. A few moments later we were leaving Milton Keynes on our way to Bardwell in Suffolk, no I’d never heard of it either.

Well Bardwell is a lovely village deep in the Suffolk countryside, enjoying the benefit of two pubs including the 6 Bells Inn, which as we were to find out a little later was slightly out-of-date as the church now has a ring of 8. The other pub, The Dun Cow, was the venue for the ITTS Module 2 – Teaching Elementary Change Ringing. We’d made good time on our journey and pulled into the car park a little earlier than expected. We were cheerfully greeted by Ruth and Graham. Graham had helped the North Bucks Branch prepare themselves for the 2012 Big Ring Pull recruitment drive which is, incidentally, ultimately responsible for the early start. I was one of the 43 members of the public who started to ring as a result of the Big Ring Pull initiative.

So why was I on this course with only 3 years’ experience of ringing? Well the answer was simple who could refuse Lesley’s impassioned appeal for someone who she could mentor, apparently everyone but me! Then I found out that the entry requirement was a QP of Bob Minor inside. Oh dear, I had only completed a quarter on the treble, so an emergency teaching session was organised and some of the best ringers in the branch were mobilised to ring with me the following day and by some miracle a quarter of Bob Minor on the 2nd was completed. My sincere thanks go to each member of the band that day for their wonderful support. I couldn’t have done that without them.

So there I was in Bardwell, uncertain of what to expect not really totally sure what I wanted to get out of the day but with an open mind I was prepared to listen. I’d heard all the rumours/opinions about ITTS before, the gulf between those in favour and those against was as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, but I LOVED IT and came away with a growing sense of passion and desire to implement some if not all of the ideas learnt.

You see, everything made perfect sense to me:

  • Consider the learner and their preferred method of learning, not one size fits all, and indeed a combination of the following may be required:
    • Visual – seeing it – the blue line, drawing it out on the black or white board
    • Audio – listening – saying your places out load, hearing the bells, being talked through the logic
    • Kinaesthetic – feeling – having a go, feeling the difference between holding a bell on the balance and pulling it off.
  • Then consider the variety of teaching methods Church bells aren’t the only tool, some others include: hand bells (I remember using these at Great Linford in order to see what was happening when we were plain hunting), Able (this was something my daughter used a lot when we started learning together), !Strike (I’d used this recently on a listening and striking pilot training Lesley had run and the results were really interesting), simulators (I know a lot of people hate these but actually I find them OK, once they have been set up correctly), and DVD’s (the rope sight DVD is a good one.)
  • Ensure the foundations are mastered before moving on e.g. bell handling, control, style, listening skills, rope sight, theory and of course striking.
  • Think about how to make mastering the foundations fun with simple exercises that can be slotted into a weekly practice; good fun for the learner and the more experienced ringers alike as we were to find out in the local church later.
  • Building and maintaining a team’s spirit is important – suggestions included celebrating achievements, giving each other encouragement, tower or branch outings, social events outside the ringing chambers.
  • Consider what makes people leave – as well life cycle events there are also a number connected with how people are developing including stagnation, not reaching expectations, too much pressure, becoming bored. Unfortunately I recognised all these in my own and my daughter’s experience. Luckily we’ve not felt them at the same time so I have kept going. For me the quitting points came when learning Plain Hunt, perhaps learning on three bells, then four may have helped and again learning Plain Bob Doubles was a miserable time, perhaps with the small chunks approach and applying my style of learning would have prevented 12 months of frustration, embarrassment and dejection nearly getting the better of me.
  • Build up expertise through breaking methods down into bite sized chunks was an important lesson learned throughout the course. Exercises such as the Mexican Wave, ringing your bell x times and stand, encouraging learner participation by asking them to choose the number of chimes, Bastow Minimus. I wonder now, how many months could I have saved if the learning Bob Doubles approach taught in this course had been applied. My tower colleagues were really patient and encouraging but I just wasn’t getting it.

The practical sessions at the local church were great fun. I was really nervous about joining in, having only just completed my QP of Bob Minor a few days before, but join in I did and I did OK. The exercises were simple; there was a lot of laughter and camaraderie around the group.

Before I knew it the day had come to a close and we were back in the car starting the long trip home. We were both mentally drained but really excited about what we had learned. Actually when I said the day was over it wasn’t really, we split up briefly to have an evening meal with our families and then with our partners met at the aptly named Bell Inn at Beachampton for the odd tipple or two.

So what’s next … well I’ve introduced a couple of the exercises into our tower practice, I’ve written my own development plan and goals for the rest of the year, I’ve had a good read through all the course materials and now I need to take the online test and continue the application of the learning.

So the acid test would Lesley and I recommend the ITTS course. Well I can say with 100% conviction that we both DO!!!