Our fifth Scottish Handbell Day was a day a two parts, and the first part was dedicated to the Mount Vernon Handbell Club. We invited pupils to come for one session and have a 'masterclass' with experienced handbell ringers. About half the club was able to come, and we arranged for Julia Cater's two daughters to hang out and have a go too.
Much of our work with Mount Vernon Primary School in Glasgow occurred when the blog went dark, but regular readers may recall that we started a handbell club last December, with some nervousness, and a lot of curiosity. Well, enthusiasm has been the byword for this endeavour, despite the limitations of having 9 or 10 pupils to teach en masse.
Our goal in these sessions was to give the children more 'rope time' than they normally get, and in a more traditional teaching setting, then to use that advantage to break them into Plain Hunting on Six.
In the hour-long session, I arranged for two adults with two children, in three groups. I tried to balance the sessions so that the shyer children would have at least one adult they recognised. I also did a quick coaching session on what the children have done, provided their cheat sheets, and some red wrist bands (to wear on their right hands). However, I was hoping that a new teaching perspective with different ringers would expand their learning, so I didn't want to prescribe what went on in each session!
After the end of this session, we gave the children lunch, and as their parents came to pick them up, arranged for each to give a demonstration of what they did. They all rang Plain Hunt on 6 with hardly any prompting and without mixing up their hands. I was very proud.
It seemed to me like a worthwhile thing to do, and produced very good results. Hopefully, all the helpers felt the same way, and didn't begrudge the loss of a quarter peal attempt!
Now the challenge is how to maintain that momentum when we return to the school and a less favourable teaching ratio. Being able to pack experienced ringers around every learner is the best way to learn - it goes almost without saying. However, less quick methods still have a role where there is no other choice, and at least create a basis where one can really capitalise on the opportunities when they arise. My lesson from this is: don't let a lack of experience stop you trying.
The priceless postscript: next day, I overheard one young man telling a crowd at rugby training: "Yesterday, I was handbell ringing with the chairman of the whole of Scotland ringing! I was so honoured, although I didn't tell him that...."