Another school year approaches and it seems like yesterday that I just graduated from the apprenticeship, although it’s been three months now. I must admit it has been a jam-packed quarter of a year! I was honored to be chosen by my JATC as this year’s “Outstanding Apprentice”, which meant I was given the opportunity to attend the 2011 National Training Institute (NTI) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Once a year, IBEW electricians (who also teach) gather together and open their brains to hone their instructional skills and abilities. It’s really quite amazing when you stop and think about it. Our instructors come from working in the field and transform themselves into people who teach others about their trade and livelihood. Most of the people I spoke with at NTI work 40+ hours a week “in the field” and then devote themselves to teach two nights a week throughout the school year. These people are dedicated! Many have been doing it for years and years and what drives them is the sole desire to help others along.
I became lost in a sea of Journeymen and Masters of my field and it felt incredible.
In our classes and workshops, we examined our challenges in the classroom as instructors. Luckily, I had the chance to teach one of my own night classes before NTI began, so I had a brief introduction of what was to come. Teaching is an entirely different aspect of our trade, yet it is one that encompasses all of our collective experiences. As instructors, we draw on examples that occur in the field to aptly illustrate the theories and concepts that are covered in our books. It takes creativity, imagination and humor to keep a class going strong, not to mention the vast depths of knowledge and understanding of the material to be covered. It’s challenging and fun.
I met other apprentices who had recently “topped out” and were chosen as their Local Union’s “Outstanding Apprentice”. We exchanged stories and learned about all the differences between the various geographical regions throughout our National JATCs. It was inspiring to feel a part of something much larger than yourself, working toward common goals and being together in the struggle. (This is a recurring theme I have felt throughout all of my exposure to the organizations behind the electrical industry.) I hope to maintain the connections to these other “newbies” so that we can help one another navigate through all this new territory, together.