Mentor April 2012 : Page 24

Improving the Teachability Index T eaching anything well is an art that requires superior interpersonal skills. In aviation this requires a discrete certificate we earn through ad-ditional study to assure we know at least the rudiments; congratulations, CFI! Learning is also an art, but unfortu-nately our students are not trained nor equally gifted here (no one I know has a graduation certificate for this either). To quantify these skills the phrase “teach-ability index” is a helpful heuristic. To be successful as an instructor, we not only have to know how to teach, but also must be sure our students know howto learn. Carefully guiding and inspiring your students can create very special pilots, not just technically proficient but also self-aware and self-reflective. Tese pilots will not only progress more easily through initial training, but also will become safer pilots because they are continuously self-monitoring and self-correcting. Let’s start with the common obstacles to learning and then move on to the meta-cognitive skills. Ego and ignorance are the two ob-stacles most commonly experienced in teaching aviation, and there are vari-ous levels and forms of each problem. I always counsel my young instructors that there are really three people aboard on most instructional flights: you, your student, and your student’s ego. I am us-ing this term in the vernacular to mean “sense of self-worth, self-image or basic confidence.” Every pilot needs confidence 24 • www.nafinet.org at a certain level to be successful and assume “pilot in command” authority. An overabundance of confidence, which the Greeks called hubris, leads directly to the accident scenario. Too much ego in the cockpit also dramatically impedes instructional progress (this can be either the student or the instructor, but we are the “trained professionals”). Our stu-dents are pretty amazing people. Often they have achieved a lot in life already and are launching off into an even great-er adventure. Professionals don’t lack for confidence and are used to “running the show.” Tey have money and drive and may be further pumped up by the flight school managers who erroneously intone “the customer is always right” as they ring the cash register. Now you have this overinflated “client” in a small plane, and you have to teach him or her to fly… how is that working for you? Te first step in improving their “teachability index” requires a discus-sion of ground rules to manage the ex-pectations that might have already been created. Most flight school advertising sets this off on the wrong foot with unrealistic promises. Tis discussion should establish a professional tone and a relationship of trust. I have found a little humor can help puncture the initial tension. Some important points to cover: “In flight training there is a lot of deferred gratification; we do not start out master of the ship. We learn to toddle, stumble By David St. George Te first step in improving their “teachability index” requires a discussion of ground rules to manage the expectations that might have already been created. and finally walk. Initially, you are pretty helpless in the plane and must have some humility approaching this task of aviation. Humility is the rarest personal-ity trait in aviation and also the most necessary trait for success. A person new to this experience is encountering a huge alien world of knowledge and experience. As I see it, my job as CFI is to carefully guide and coach you so I become superfluous one step at a time; my job is to get out! Your goal is to take over all these responsibilities and skills one step at a time and ultimately assume

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