Education is a hot button issue in any election year. Yet it never gets any better, no matter what we’re promised.
It’s my impression the electorate merely wants to hear someone make a promise, even if it’s an empty one. They’re looking for a cheerleader. Somebody to toss out platitudes and catch-phrases that give the impression something positive will come from their candidacy.
Truthfully, it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to think somebody located hundreds or thousands of miles from your home can have a profound impact on the ability of any given teacher to educate any given classroom full of students.
What our national system of education lacks is both simple, and relatively inexpensive. Yes, it is.
Education ultimately comes down to the relationship between a student and a teacher. If they mesh well, devote an appropriate amount of time to virtually any topic, and review the material periodically to improve the student’s retention, you’ll get real high-quality education going on.
Note, this process does not require smart boards that cost tens of thousands of dollars. It does not necessitate the investment in massive buildings that can accommodate thousands at the cost of millions.
No, real education, true education, merely requires one teacher to sit with one or more students, and teach.
There may be no better place to see the diverse application of educational techniques in action, both positive and negative, than the general aviation marketplace.
While some flight schools make good use of expensive three-axis full-motion simulators, others do just fine with little more than a picnic table, a shady tree, and the creative display of a CFI’s hands as they mimic an airplane in flight.
Whether attending a lesson in-person with a hundred other students, participating in an online course from the comfort of home (even while wearing your favorite footy-pajamas), or sitting in a tight corner of the FBO’s pilot briefing room, GA’s educational goals are significantly different from those being sought by the public education system.
In general aviation, the goal of the CFI is to transfer information, and affect a behavioral change in our students. Whatever works, works.
We reference a syllabus, make use of actual lesson plans, treat each student as a totally unique individual, and make a serious effort to motivate and inspire our students to achieve their goals — even when the going gets tough.
How we achieve success with our students is as unique and individual as our students themselves. There is no magic bullet.
There’s no lesson plan that will impart the exact same level of knowledge into a string of students. Each will adapt to their experience and their environment differently. And each will come away from their lessons with slightly different insights that they’ll apply and adapt throughout their flying careers.
Consider this: I had a student many years ago who was so excited about learning to fly he lost his lunch on his first lesson. That experience shook him up. It embarrassed him. In fact, he was so chagrined he tried to high-tail it out of the airplane and into the parking lot as soon as we landed. I stopped him, shared a few supportive thoughts, and encouraged him to come back inside the FBO and schedule his next lesson with me. Which he did.
As you might imagine, my student arrived for his next lesson even more wracked with nerves than he had been on the previous flight. I assured him we’d be fine, and he trusted me. We pre-flighted the aircraft, got in, fired up, and taxied. That’s it. We just taxied. In fact we spent the better part of half an hour taxiing from here to there and back again in the airplane he’d gotten sick in the week before. And that was our full lesson for the day.
You see, I had a plan. I wanted my student to succeed, but his confidence was shaken and he was far more focused on how his belly felt than he was on how to fly the airplane.
So I made a command decision, which for a CFI is every bit as important as it is for the captain of a wide-body airliner. I decided to help my student become familiar with the sights, sounds, and sensations of being at the controls of a running airplane.
We repeated that lesson, then repeated it again, then did it one more time. By this point my student was frustrated. He wanted to fly, dammit. And so we did.
But now he wasn’t thinking about how he was feeling, he was more interested in getting a better bang for his flight training buck. When we finally flew, he was entirely focused on flying — and we talked about that in the debrief after our flight.
I’ve never used that technique with any other student. But then, I’ve never had another student who needed to overcome that exact issue.
When we start looking for teachers to teach, and not for politicians to mandate a teaching process that will work for every individual it touches, we’ll have an improved educational system.
I’d like to think that one day that will happen, and that possibly, just possibly, a pilot will lead the nation’s educational system to new heights by recognizing that teaching requires creativity and a recognition that each and every student needs to be seen and treated as a unique individual with specific goals, challenges, and potential.
Let teachers teach. You’ve heard that slogan before.
Aviation has put that motto into action, with great success. That’s something of which we can be very proud.