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Like most enduring things in life, ringing is a cycle. Ringers come and go, but a good band will go on. We have seen many departures over the last two years. We miss good friends as well as skilful ringers.
But the last year has also seen the other end of the cycle. Four people decided to take the plunge and learn the art of ringing, so I have been doing a lot of teaching. Sadly, one of the first two decided that ringing was not for her, despite having good progress to the point of ringing for service. The other is still progressing well. The second pair started some six months later and may be ringing with the rest of the band by the time this is read.
I prefer to teach people in pairs. Obviously it makes better use of the tutor’s time, but it also means they have someone with whom to share the experience. The conceptual gulf between someone to whom ringing comes almost instinctively and one struggling to coordinate hands, arms, eyes, ears and rope in ways which seem impossible, is wider than you may think. It is much wider than the gap between student and tutor teaching facts rather than physical skills. Most of us avoid things we are not good at, so we are uncomfortable when we appear incapable of doing something which looks so simple and easy.
It is very interesting to compare the experience of teaching teenagers with adults. Superficially the youngsters have all the advantages. Their learning skills are fresher, with some things being picked up almost intuitively. Against that, they have not developed the same persistence to overcome blockages, so when they do meet them, they can become disillusioned. It is very hard to help them out of these holes; they are well practised at listening to adult advice which does not t their inner view of life and quietly being unmoved by it.
The young are generally fitter and more used to physical flexibility and exertion. A determined twelve year old girl can deploy phenomenal effort on the end of a bell rope. In contrast, the mature trainee is capable of introspection and is more able to think about the learning process. This makes teaching more of a shared experience. Learning is generally slower, though not much slower, and usually more consistent. Adults, have predictably less free time, but seem better able to manage it.
If it all sounds like swings and roundabouts, it goes on that way as well. The national loss rate from training ringers is quite high. Youngsters seem to account for a lot of that. Older ringers are often more committed once they start. Real high fliers, though, do seem to have started young, and so do tower captains for some reason. Perhaps the analogy with swings and roundabouts is more true than usual. Swings need more energy to get them going, but can go really high. Roundabouts just keep going round. The Exercise needs both.
As for the teaching, both are rewarding. The investment of time by both tutor and band is high, but is amply rewarded when the student progresses to become a useful member of a band. We all had to be trained once, and in return for decades of being able to practise a very enjoyable skill, we all expect to put something back.
Of course, if you already have some experience, you could have a head start. People who have given up ringing before becoming really proficient are often cautious about starting again, feeling that they must be unsuited to it. Very often, a fresh start, with a different tutor in an active band helps. The realisation that so much has been retained can be very encouraging.
I expect to be able to start a couple more trainees in the next month or two. If you are interested in learning to ring or taking it up again, let me know.
John Harrison (Feb 1990)
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