Thursday, March 9, 2006

On Training

Towards the end of my tour in Del Rio I started to compile a list of what I thought was important to know or do as a flight instructor.

I think the notes I took would apply to any type of instruction, but the intent was so that I would remember the lessons I had learned when I someday went back to teach. Someday I would like to write a book about instructing. A real book--not a reference tome that knocks you out in five minutes or a black and white FAA publication. A book not about the mechanics and technical aspects of instrcuting, but about the human part--something from the heart that the majority of teachers are sorely lacking in today.

I think a lot of bloggers have a thing for writing. I always have, starting with my "Spy Book." It was a journal that I kept all of my secrets in--a practice passed on from my Aunt Mary, who got it from reading Louis Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (which I subsequently read many times over as a kid). The thought of writing a book has always been there, though I could never come up with a subject to write about.

Following is the list of my brainstorming notes, quotes, and thoughts. I am posting this more for myself to come back to and expound upon later rather than a daily read, since it's pretty long. In the event that this turns into a book someday, I think that the list of chapters would come from some of these...

  • Don't ever write a student off--or at least let them know that you are.
  • Celebrate victory--no matter how small.
  • It's not about physical appearance, but it helps.
  • Care.
  • Know your stuff.
  • Be willing to devote as much to the student learning as he is, if not more.
  • "I only ask that you keep up with me."
  • "The reason I'm failing you is because I don't want you to die."
  • Know their personalities.
  • Go to bat for them when needed--but only when needed.
  • "Do what works--which may not be what I do."
  • "In flying, the evaluator is looking more for the result than the way you get there."
  • "Do whatever you need to do well."
  • Listen.
  • Watch.
  • Watch students' interaction with each other.
  • Realize that although it may be important to you, it is most likely infinitely more important to them.
  • Be professional but relaxed--a scared student will never learn.
  • Don't, under any circumstances, get pissed off in the aircraft.
  • If required, get pissed off on the ground.
  • Hold the group responsible.
  • "E Pluribus Unum"--if a student viloates this law, hammer him.
  • Students don't like arrogance. They already know you're better than they are at what you do.
  • Never, ever, underestimate the effect you have on a student when you say "you're good." Having someone that has wings already acknowledge talent is extremely empowering.
  • You are not so much an IP as you are a guide. IP's focus too much on the "P." Meaning--"I am what you want to be--be like me." This is the base problem of why ost IP's that fail, do. It's not a matter of "be like me." There is a list of things a student needs to do--you need to allow them to do these things in his own way.
  • You will have students that are smarter than you. Many will be much smarter than you. But don't ever forget--you have wings, and they do not. No matter how smart, they need you to get to their goal.
  • Encourage creativity.
  • Make their goals yours.
  • Make sure that they realize the sacrifices that you are making in order to teach them. Don't dwell on it, but ensure (particularly at points when they elect not to give 100%) that they do know how much you are sacrificing. An example--I would remind students that I had another life outside work, that I had kids and a wife that I was not with in order to teach them how to fly. Thus the burden of student X, who was not trying 100%, was that it was not just I who was sacrificing, but my family as well.
  • Disappointment tends to be more effective than anger.
  • One of the greatest fears a student has is to be alone in his training.
  • Give students more credit than they are due.
  • A student, even a below-average one, will probably catch your mistakes. Admit them.
  • Students will be more receptive to you if they realize that you are human.
  • When something does not go as planned in the aircraft, figure out why instead of just reacting. The same goes for a student in training. Don't just react to their mistakes, try to discover the root cause. The window of opportunity to do this may be relatively small, so analyze quickly.
  • As a leader, surround yourself with people better than you are.
  • Though not infallible, the instructors you work with, in your eyes, are the finest in the world.
  • If a student is taught something wrong, tell them that they were and correct it along with an apology.
  • Have a "hammer." And then use it only if absolutely necessary. If you smack them with it at every opportunity it not only loses its effectiveness, but "surviving the sortie" becomes the only objective the student has.
  • Give responsibility to your IP's. Lots of it. The younger guys are chomping at the bit for it. If they fall on their face, run top-cover for them and become the one that they have to answer to--not your boss.
  • Encourage mistakes--and make it reasonably easy for them to admit them to you. If you crush the first guy to make a bad callthen you'll never hear of a bad call again--even though they happen every day.
  • As the boss fall on your sword for your guys every day. The return for this is loyalty.
  • Professionalism is important. Professionalism without expertise is destructive.
  • Know what the goal is, and then get the resources required to get the job done. Too many time we get so focused on "the right way" that we fail to see alternate methods.
  • Get there first. Leave last.
  • Damn near fanatical devotion to an ideal, organization, or image works wonders. I put enormous effort into focusing on the team rather than the individual. Do this and the team will mold the individual for you.

More detailed explanations to follow over the next two years.

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