Teaching new handbell ringers

A couple of generations ago, nearly every ringer could complete a plain course of Plain Bob Minor in hand - it was a part of learning to ring.  A friend of mine has recounted how she learned in a classroom, with all the ringers holding two bells (not necessarily a matched pair) and marching through the tenor course as Wilf Moreton counted them through.  Those were the days.  Of course, the wartime ban on ringing brought a lot of ringers to handbells out of necessity.

Necessity strikes again.  Lesley Belcher, Chair of the Association of Ringing Teachers, approached us recently about getting some new ringers trying two-in-hand, so that they can continue to progress even while training in the tower is a long way off.  Her idea was to bring new ringers and teach them handbells in Ringing Room, and then find them a band to continue ringing with. What a fantastic idea!  We were in (and in our enthusiasm we may have volunteered most of the handbell ringers in Scotland as well).

Fast forward to last night where Simon and I had our first two learners in a session.  This was a get-to-know everyone and see what we can do session, plus the usual 'sorting out the technology' rituals.

One of our learners, Jenny, has passed her LtR Level 1 before getting shut down by lockdown.  So she is going to learn all her method theory via handbells.  I think this is the best way to learn, so we are looking forward to this.  We started with some Plain Hunt on 4, and then had a go at Plain Hunt on 6.  We let Jenny use a diagram she wrote out earlier this time, but she is going to learn her coursing pattern for next week and try without.   

I remembered later that my first go on handbells was ringing Plain Hunt with a big diagram on my lap, so using a bit of an aid to get started can work.

By the end of the session, Jenny was able to make a mistake and carry on ringing, which was a really positive step and a good sign a resilience.

Our other learner, Caroline, has rung Plain Bob Minor before and is trying to get beyond it.  In fact, she rang it very well, and seemed comfortable from any pair - so we tried some Little Bob.  She had said she was struggling to get to grips with this method.  In fact, she rang it very well, and confessed that sometimes she was just guessing until she got to a part that looked familiar.  For the avoidance of doubt, this is good learning strategy.  By keeping going and using the bits you know as stepping stones, eventually the bits you don't know get smaller, the bits you do know get larger, and in the end you really do know the method thoroughly. 

I am not alone in finding Little Bob tricksy, and on 6 you don't get much in the way of established treble bob hunting pattern before you get thrown into a new one.  One way to deal with this is to learn the whole course as a pattern (which isn't as hard as it might seem); another way is to play around with method variations, which gives you all your familiar Plain Bob patterns in different orders and from different starting points.  So next week we are going to have a play with Reverse and Double Bob, and try some St Clement's minor.