Monday, January 08, 2007

Classes Are Good. Don't Forget To Elmer

[Note: In Amateur Radio circles, an Elmer is a mentor who takes a less experienced Ham under his or her wing and teaches them a lot of the good stuff you don't learn while studying for your license.]

These days when you read the posts on or your favorite email list there's a lot of talk about the declining quality of the people coming into ham radio. I'm not sure that I agree that's true. After all, there have been lids as long as I can remember. If it is true perhaps those of us who've been around a while should shoulder some of the blame.

A lot of us devote time each year to helping out with Techician classes, etc. at the local club. This is a good thing but don't let it stop there. I think a lot of times a new Techician earns his or her ticket and that's practically the last time they ever hear from a Ham in their area. Once they have a license the real teaching needs to begin if we want to create good operators instead of just statistics.

In the Fall of 2006 my local club, the Sangamon Valley Radio Club and the nearby Macoupin County Amateur Radio Club co-sponsored a Technician class that produced around 20 new Hams. We didn't let the teaching and the fun end at the VE exam session.

Shortly after the class ended several club members had new Hams over to their shacks so see equipment in operation and to let the new folks be guest operators to check into the local VHF nets, etc. This sort of activity provides an introduction to the local community and gets the new people interacting on a more personal level.

Shortly after the new year, we held a "no host" Technician Class Reunion at a local restaraunt that featured a buffet style breakfast. We invited all of the people from the class plus spent a couple of weeks making sure as many area hams as possible knew about the event. The result was a 50/50 mix of old hands and newcommers that spent the morning talking, eating, and making new friends. As we adjourned from breakfast there was even a mobile antenna installation going on in the parking lot!

So, by all means keep teaching those Technician, General, and Extra courses. Just don't forget to keep Elmering!


Tim, N9PUZ