My neighbor Bob was fond of saying, “The best gift you can give is a gift that keeps on giving.” I always thought this was a profoundly significant statement, until he gave me a pregnant cat. Thank Bob.
Oddly enough, Bob’s statement does have meaning in the flight instructor’s world. In a sense, flight instructors are gift givers. They provide opportunities for their students to succeed, which is a gift that keeps on giving.
As the old saying goes, “Nothing succeeds quite like success.” Experiencing success during a flight lesson is a powerful motivator. It keeps students interested in flight training and keeps them coming back for more. More importantly, it helps students assuage the doldrums experienced when learning plateaus make unwelcome, but anticipated visits. For this reason, good flight instructors should never let a student complete a lesson without experiencing some form of success.
Start by identifying one or more goals for the student to accomplish during the lesson. Keep no secrets. Once the goal is achieved, immediately reinforce the success. This is not a time to be stingy with your praise. Give it up. Tell the student that you’re happy with his or her accomplishment. Then, make sure you reinforce the success at least one more time during the student’s postflight briefing.
What happens when learning difficulties or unplanned events prevent the student from achieving the identified goal? Well, this is why you get paid the big bucks. As a creative flight instructor, you must find some success even in the midst of potential failure.
I’m not talking about being facetious either. In other words, don’t look over at a student that has difficulty landing and quip, "Well Bud, at least you’re damaging the airplane less on each pass.” It’s preferable to say, “Well Bud, the landings aren’t quite to my level of satisfaction, but I was certainly impressed with the way you recovered from the porpoise, then commenced a go-around.”
Good instructors recognize the need to fuel their student’s motivational engine. Success is that fuel. Make sure your students get their share. Choreograph each lesson to ensure your students achieve some form of success. Reinforce that success when it occurs and remind them of it as they depart the airport. This is your gift that keeps on giving. And it keeps them coming back.
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