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Helping ringers get more out of ringing

Most people, in ringing as in other aspects of life, benefit from being ‘taken under the wing’ of someone more experienced. This is often called mentoring, an idea that dates from Ancient Greece, appears as master-apprentice in mediaeval guilds, as guru-disciple in many religions, and is fashionable in modern management.

Mentoring is not teaching – transmitting of a package of information from teacher to pupil – but a partnership where one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to help foster the development of another ... a wise and trusted counsellor ... an influential senior sponsor or supporter. John C. Crosby summed it up as: Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction

To see how it relates to ringing, consider the experience of a typical recruit who has a period of one-to-one tuition while learning to handle and then attends normal practices with little further coaching on skills such as bell control, listening or ropesight and only rudimentary guidance on method learning. ‘Standing behind’ is common, but it is mainly limited to advice about method mistakes during a touch.

A few ringers are ‘self starters’ who instinctively look for new information and better ways to do things, but many just accept what they are given and do what they are told. Once the initial momentum fades they drift, but with suitable encouragement and guidance they could do more and get more out of ringing.

The progression from handling a bell safely to being a competent performer takes time and is easier (and more rapid) if accompanied by an extended period of coaching to perfect ringing skills and avoid slipping into habits that will limit future capability. Likewise, encouragement to develop a flexible approach to method learning can lead to greater confidence, a richer repertoire and more enjoyment.

Mentoring more ringers could help them to get more out of ringing (and probably reduce the risk of losing some) but those who would benefit don’t usually ask because they don’t know what to ask. That’s where the ‘nudge’ from a mentor can help by actively engaging – making suggestions or asking questions.

Some bands have the resources to mentor their developing members but not all do, so it is sensible to look outside the tower – to the Branch – whose role is to supplement what bands can provide for themselves. So how do you make the connection?

One way would be to attend Branch practices where there are experienced people willing to advise and help, but anyone in a band where Branch practice attendance isn’t the norm might not think of doing so, and in any case might lack the confidence to make the first move. That obstacle can be overcome if the tower captain or other senior member of a band suggests going to a practice (or better still offers to go with them).

Another way would be for the band to discuss the mentoring that it can provide internally and for the tower captain then to discuss how the Branch could supplement it. Another valuable way for ringers to consolidate their performance skills is to ring for an extended period at a reasonable standard – for example in a quarter peal or peal – rather than just ringing short touches. That opportunity can’t be provided by all bands from their own resources but it could be provided by drawing on the wider resources of the Branch. A ringer who has never rung a quarter might not consider that, so again the prompt (and support in preparation) may need to come from the tower captain or mentor. Anyone who has already rung a quarter peal and who would like to consider ringing a peal is encouraged to do so this year, as part of the FirstPeal2015 initiative that I wrote about in the last newsletter. So ...

Tower captains – Could any of your ringers benefit from mentoring? Please ask if you think you need help.

Ringers – Could you get more out of your ringing with more opportunities, help or advice. If so, just ask.

John Harrison (Chairman) June 2015

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