In March 2020, Paul Lewis led the last Association of Ringing Teachers M1 bell handling training course before ringing ceased in the face of COVID-19. It was fitting that Paul should lead the first M1 course in our new, cautiously optimistic world.
We met at Longcot in the Vale of the White Horse on Saturday 18th September. Our group included ringers who had taken the course before lockdown and had forgotten everything; towers without learners, towers with a great many learners and towers looking forward to recruiting some new learners. It included a member of the recently victorious ODG youth squad within a wide range of age and teaching experience.
We worked on approaches to teaching backstrokes, handstrokes and the combined stroke, both when a bell is down and when it is up. Then we looked at teaching ringing up and ringing down and critiqued our own handling styles. Finally we practised the skills of taking the rope from a learner, retrieving a dropped rope and of offering other forms of physical assistance.
A big learning point was the experience of role playing the learner. The practical elements of the course were done in groups of three. After a demonstration from our tutors Paul and Nick, each of us would take a turn playing the learner, the teacher and the mentor. The teacher would explain the exercise and talk the learner through. The learner would try to forget their knowledge and follow the instructions from the tutor. The mentor would observe and add feedback for the teacher. As the learner it was interesting to find some of the exercises hard to do. Focusing on a micro-element of bell handling, or mirroring someone’s hands doing an action, felt strange and required more of my brain than just ringing on autopilot. It made getting good instructions from the teacher more important. Seeing, listening, and feeling from the learner’s perspective were very valuable
Excellent tuition, as always, was what we came for and was what made the day so enjoyable. As a bonus we had a perfect setting; we were the first training group to enjoy the brand new kitchen, the elegant meeting/ viewing gallery and the new stone floor at Longcot. We had a superb lunch out in the churchyard, warmed by the autumn sunshine and under the benign eye of the white horse on the hill.
Many thanks to Paul and Nick Brett for teaching us; to Susan Read and Tony Crabtree who organised the day, to Mark Curnow who tied and untied the bells and to Lucy Laird and Revd Norma Fergusson for lunch and for making it possible to meet at Longcot.
Dorothy Hall and Elizabeth Mullett, Oxford.