Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Instructing The Instructor

Ten things every instructor learns, whether he wants to or not

4 A student's irrational fears are harder to overcome than his or her lack of skill. We see it all too often: A person wants badly to fly, but his or her apprehensions are getting in the way. Often, these apprehensions breed a lack of confidence that surfaces as an unwillingness to be captain of this three-dimensional ship. At this point, the instructor changes hats and becomes part shrink as he or she figures out how to motivate this student. After a few years of doing this, flight instructors should be allowed to hang out their psychologist shingle.

5 Every student needs a different instructional approach. Regardless of how hard some agencies and schools try to standardize and make all flight instruction the same, they can't actually do that as long as we're not flying standardized students. Students vary all over the block, and the first thing a good flight instructor does is determine a given student's learning style so the teaching approach can be tailored to match.

6 Every preflight should involve a pee. There should be a section in the AIM that explains the mag/bladder interconnect. It's a given that as soon as the mag switch is twisted over to the "start" position, the other pee factor will kick in. So, every instructor learns (or should learn) that, besides girding mentally to deal with a student, before leaving the terminal, it's also necessary to be preemptive in the urinary department. Or is that "pee-emptive"?

7 There's always more for the instructor to learn. Instructors go through phases. Generally, after 10 or 15 years of serious instructing involving hundreds of students, they come to believe that they've seen every variation of mistake possible. However, after around 20 years of instructing, they realize that they still learn something new almost every month, from either a student or the airplane. At this point, the instructor doesn't know if he or she is becoming more observant or the general level of student is getting worse. Either way, the instructor is seeing so many more things that need to be corrected and/or mentioned than before. This helps him or her to do a better job of instructing as every new event sparks growth in his or her instructing skills.

8 You learn how to really fly without realizing it. As an instructor, you actually fly very little. Most of your time is spent watching, talking, analyzing and waiting out students who have made a mistake, giving them time to correct it while giving yourself enough margin to save both of your bacon. Somewhere in that process, your mental and visual acuity increases until both are razor sharp. You know well ahead of time what's about to happen and find that, without realizing it, you've actually become a better pilot.

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