Reports on the 2004 Association Training Conference

Details of the conference are here

Saturday 4th November 2004

Those who can, teach...

A long time ago, when I was at school, we used to recite a trite little aphorism: ‘those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. Presumably our intention was to convince ourselves of our superiority over our teachers.

On Saturday, on a misty morning, I drove across the fens to Downham Market, to attend a training day, organized by the diocesan association of bellringers. The day was about teaching beginners to handle a bell, and to take their first steps at ringing backstrokes and then handstrokes.

Richard Pargeter, the Association’s training officer, first led a dozen or so would-be teachers through the basics of learning to ring, handicapped only by the want of a cable to connect his laptop to the projector - although this lack of a Powerpoint accompaniment was no great handicap. As well as the basics of what the beginner needs to learn, the teacher must also be aware of what might go wrong, and be able to cope with potential disasters and put right lesser mistakes. After coffee we trooped over to the church, and Richard demonstrated these points with the aid of a complete and willing novice. After an hour of teaching her and demonstrating to us this brave soul was confident at ringing backstrokes, and able to try ringing handstroke and backstroke.

In the afternoon, we were ourselves let loose to supervise some volunteer novices and pseudo-novices. When you know how to ring, and are starting to teach then you realize how dangerous it can be for a beginner, and how ill-equipped you feel to cope. So I was quite pleased to stand in front of a novice and have her ring backstrokes while I rang the handstrokes; and then to have her ring a few handstrokes as well as backstrokes. She was quite good at this, but then I realized that she had no idea how to stand the bell, and I would have to do this. Lesson to be learnt - always have an exit strategy, preferably before you get going.

Back to that old jibe about teachers. Nasty little boys that we were, we added another clause: ‘and those who can’t teach, teach teachers’. And that was certainly not true on Saturday. Richard Pargeter is not only a very experienced ringer, but has taught many others to ring over a period of 20 years or so. His booklet One Way to teach Bell Handling, published by the Central Council, summarizes his approach to teaching novice ringers, and his comments on theory and practice made him an excellent teacher of novice teachers. I and others came away with knowledge and confidence to begin to teach our own beginners - all in all a good day’s work.

Simon Kershaw
Tower Captain, All Saints, St Ives, Cambridgeshire

Another report

It was on the fifth Saturday in October, to avoid any of the District meetings, that we assembled for the Ely Diocesan Association Training Conference, hosted this year by the Wisbech district in Downham Market church hall. We were an assorted group of ringers - some to learn about teaching bell handling, some to improve their own bell handling, some experienced teachers to pass on their knowledge, and some intrepid learners who were prepared to let the learner teachers practice on them.

We started with a theory session and Richard Pargeter, the Association Education Officer, explained his method of teaching bell handling which he has developed over a period of time. He stressed the importance of not suggesting errors to the new ringer and, in order that our trainees would not hear about all the errors which they could make, had arranged for them to be taken to see the bells in Downham Market church. This also meant that the trainees could have the necessary safety points explained to them in a small group before the first practical session.

After a break for coffee, we all went over to the church for a real-life demonstration. We were extremely fortunate to be able to watch Richard giving a first bell-handling lesson to a new ringer who had never handled a rope before. The trainee coped magnificently, and was completely unfazed by all the extra people standing around. We watched in fascination as the first wobbly backstrokes became confident and controlled, and pulling off the first handstroke was added to the beginning of the sequence.

Returning to the church hall, we found the catering team (Andrew Stevens and Sheila George) had the tables set for lunch and were all ready to dish up. During lunch time, between queuing for the next course and talking to our neighbours, we watched part of the Central Council video on bell handling and tried to spot the handling errors which were being demonstrated.

Next there was a chance to put some of what we had seen into practice. Brian Hullah, ringing master of the Wisbech district, had organised tied bells in both Stow Bardolph and Downham Market towers. All the learner teachers had a chance to do some teaching, either with a real learner or with another ringer pretending to be a learner, and always under the watchful eye of one of the experienced teachers. Several of us wanted to practice regaining control when a bell starts to drop, and it proved surprisingly difficult to let this happen deliberately.

There was time for a final question and answer session in the church hall, then tea and cakes, before the conference ended with thanks to all involved.

This was a most useful day with plenty of opportunity to share ideas and meet other ringers from around the Diocese. Many thanks to the organisers. Do look out for next year’s conference and attend if you can - I certainly hope to be there.

Janet Garnett