Written June 15, 2013
Most of my students have heard me say that a flight instructor has two roles: To teach and to protect. While I think that it’s basically true, I suppose that there are some other, not so obvious, roles that the CFI performs. He also evaluates. He does that constantly. He does that at first so that he can figure out what he needs to teach and how much he’ll need to protect. Part of that evaluation is to test. When the flight instructor reaches over and fails that engine, he’s evaluating to see how the student will handle it.
Sometimes the best thing a CFI can do is nothing. Sometimes he has to just sit there and let the student practice or to simply see how he performs a particular action without any input from the instructor.
My son, Hooper, and I were talking about a new role his employer had assigned him; to train other guides on a particular stretch of water. His boss told him that there would be just one rule: He was not allowed to “touch the sticks”. For a guy who takes pride in his considerable ability to row and guide a boat through white water, this seemed terribly frustrating to Hooper. But to me, it demonstrated that his boss knew what he was doing. It occurred to me that he was being asked to do what I’ve been doing for years. A flight instructor so often “flies with his mouth”. Except for an occasional demonstration, his job is not to fly; it’s to teach and to protect the student while he’s learning. All my students have heard me whine, “I just hate demos!”. There’s a reason. What flying skill I have has been developed while I was flying, not while I was teaching. That skill will gradually atrophy and that’s why I try to allow myself at least an
hour a week to practice. That practice helps keep me looking less like a moron when it’s time to demonstrate (I said it HELPS me. I still look like a moron… just less of one).
I was flying with a guy who did well. He was actually one of my favorite “types”: a guy who recognized that he had an area that needed improvement and who’d asked me to help him with it. At one point, while blasting around the pattern, I told him, “I’m just going to sit back here like a bump on a log now”.
He immediately replied, “I’m not paying you to be a bump on a log”.
And that’s what prompted me to write this little piece. You see, from time to time, I think they DO pay me to sit there like a bump on a log. ‘cause I’m THINKING, you see!
I’m watching, feeling and evaluating. And THAT is one of the things a teacher does.
I recently watched the impressive documentary, “Buck” on Netflix. It deals with a guy who, it is said, inspired the story of the “Horse Whisperer”. As someone who grew up on the back of a horse, I found it fascinating. But what fascinated me the most was how horsemanship could be a metaphor for life. Thusly, the things I learned from “Buck”, are things which I can bring to flight instruction. You just may find me doing a bit more thinking and analyzing in the future!