The Amateur Amateur: A Classy Seminar, Part I
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
January 21, 2004
figured out by now that I like to try new things. Like many Amateur
Radio operators, recent events have gotten me thinking about
emergency communications. I was already a member of a Radio Amateur
Civil Emergency Service (RACES) group, but its activities were
strictly limited to SKYWARN (weather spotting). That was rewarding,
but I kept wondering if there was more that I could do.
Internet one day, I accidentally stumbled across the St Louis County
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) site. I was somewhat
surprised, because I didn't think that there was
a St Louis
County ARES group. I contacted the ARRL ARES Emergency Coordinator
(EC), the local ARES leader of the group and learned that it had only
recently been re-formed.
Anyway, I filled
out an application to join the new group. One of the questions was,
"Are you willing to undergo training?" Well, of course I
was. That seemed like an odd question to me, but then I like
to learn new things. I guess that some people don't.
But it was the
next question that really pulled me up short: "Are you willing
to train others?"
responded, "Yes, once I have been sufficiently trained myself."
Big mistake! And
when you make a mistake like that, the repercussions can be like a
shock wave traveling at the speed of light.
The day after I
mailed the application I got a phone call from the St. Louis County
ARES EC himself asking if I could attend a meeting that evening. I
couldn't believe he had received my application that fast. Have you
known a piece of mail to be delivered and acted on that
I attended the
meeting. The EC passed my application around to the Assistant ECs,
each of whom read it, licked his chops and eyed me like a hungry
wolf. It was pretty much at this point that I realized the error of
The Training Committee: (L-R) Gary Hoffman, KB0H; Dana Joines,
W0AIA, and David Bartholomew, AB0TO.
take long before I was designated as "The Instructor." I
protested that I had very little emergency communications experience
and had only gone through two of the three ARRL Amateur Radio
Emergency Communications courses (ARECC).
It seemed, though, that no one else had any more
than I, and no one else had gone beyond the first
course. Dana Joines, W0AIA, and David Bartholomew, AB0TO, offered to
assist if I took the job. I did. The wolves had me.
Dana and Dave and
I became the "The Training Committee." Although the other
two were eager to help, it was clear they were looking to me to make
decisions. One decision had already been made
for us, however--that we should use the ARECC Level I book as our
textbook. The fact is, we had no better source of material.
Not long after we
began working on our training course, the EC contacted me to tell me
that we could not call it a "course."
"Call it a 'training class' instead," he said.
"I don't understand," I countered.
"You're not teaching the official
One decision had already been made--to use the ARECC Level I book
as our textbook.
'Powers Above' don't want people to think you are
so they want you to use the word 'class' instead of 'course',"
Dave, Dana and I
agreed to meet once a week until our class was ready. We sent a lot
of messages back and forth by e-mail and spent a lot of time going
over the ARECC Level I book. The idea was that our students would
read the book just as if they were studying on their own, and we
would offer summaries, explanations and supplementary information in
our weekly classes. We also wanted to have demonstrations, or what we
began to call "touchie-feelies."
I had worked out
a basic lesson plan for the course by this time. I edited it to say
"class" instead of "course" and sent copies to
Dana and Dave.
The three of us
met again. By this time our individual interests and roles had become
clear. Dave was good at procurement. He would find a place to hold
the class and arrange to get the textbooks. Dana wanted to complete
the ARECC series of courses online, become a Certified Examiner and
eventually an ARECC Mentor.
Both of them
wanted me to do the actual teaching. And I just wanted to survive the
whole thing and not make an utter fool of myself.
students are we going to have?" Dave asked. It was important for
him to know how large a room we would need.
Actually, we had
no idea how many people would sign up for our course, er, class. We'd
seen signs of interest, but since we had no definite date, time, or
place no one wanted to sign up yet. We figured we'd be comfortable
teaching a class of about 10 people, and would definitely limit the
maximum number to 20. If this turned into a success, we could always
do another one.
I didn't know how difficult it would be to actually teach a class, uhh
seminar, but the preparations were becoming overwhelming.
At this point I received another call from the EC. "You can't call it a
'class,' he said. "It's really a 'seminar.'"
"It is?" I replied.
"It wasn't my idea," he pleaded.
"Okay, it's a 'seminar,'" I said.
Our committee-of-three had approved my basic lesson plan, and I had begun
writing synopses to hand out to the students. I also went through
everything I'd written to that point, changing all references to
"course" or "class" to "seminar."
I didn't know how
difficult it would be to actually teach a class (excuse me, seminar
but the preparations were becoming overwhelming. Dana and Dave kept
smiling at me and saying things like, "Relax! You'll do fine!"
I was glad that
they had confidence in me, but they misinterpreted the root of my
apprehension. I wasn't worried that I couldn't do the job. I knew
that I could--and even knew I could do a good
job. But I also
knew that I could do a good job only
if I were well-prepared.
There was no way that I could stand before a class (seminar) and just
By this time Dave
had found a place for us to hold the seminar. We decided to go ahead
and set a date. Public announcements were made. Our meetings and
e-mails and phone calls intensified. I was a nervous wreck.
Then the EC
phoned. "Good job!" he said, adding, "Errr, change the
name from 'seminar' to 'study group.'"
(To be continued)
ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's
been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The
Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur,
not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is
N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web
page. Readers are invited to contact the author
© 2004 American Radio Relay League