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Professionally Speaking

Make It A Game

Fun teaching and good teaching are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often go hand in hand. Think back through your own education to your own teachers. Chances are, the best of them made learning a game.

For years I taught a college aviation management course. Today, I teach workshops literally coast to coast. My clients range from small companies to Fortune 500 corporations, and from church groups to NASA. I've taught new hires at the lowest levels, and I've taught rocket scientists. In all these years, I've never seen a single exception to one incontrovertible fact-people learn better if the teacher uses games.

There's a corollary to that fact. The teacher who uses games attracts more and better students than the teacher who is strictly business.

I knew a CFI who turned the preflight into a game. He often "booby trapped" the airplane so that his students did find something wrong on the preflight. I remember he had a shortened oil dip stick that always read low. He removed fuses so that various and sundry items didn't work. You can bet his students were never bored with the preflight. They learned to really look for something wrong, rather than just go through the motions. And, since they often found things "wrong," they learned to discuss and think through each problem.

And they spread the word about their fun CFI. And he thrived.

Another CFI taught her students fun little "shortcuts" to solving navigation and other problems. For example, can your students figure, within legal limits, the time for any IFR leg, at any reasonable speed, instantly, in their heads? Hers could and they bragged about it to other students. And her business grew.

CFIs who make learning fun for the student also have fun themselves. Their enthusiasm stays high. They have a better job than CFIs who don't have fun.

Dick Branick played a game with the Atlanta sectional chart. He pointed to a red airport, and the student ex-plained what type of airport that was. Likewise with a blue airport, and the student explained again. Then Dick pointed to an empty circle, neither red nor blue. The student couldn't identify that circle to save his E-6B. Dick would tell the student to study it for a few days. Eventually, the student would find out that the circle wasn't an airport at all, but was instead the letter "o" in the words "Smoky Mountains."

I also knew a CFI who set a kitchen timer for an unknown amount of time during a flight lesson. When the timer went off, the throttle was pulled and the student practiced engine-out procedures. Very realistic game.

Half of the fun of playing games is rewarding the winner. The best reward might well be a photo on a bulletin board. (I am convinced that the instant camera is the most underutilized tool in flight instruction.) Put the picture up of Joe finding the oil low. Of Mary pointing to the "o" in Smoky Mountains on the sectional.

Flight instruction certainly isn't child's play, but it can be an adult's game. Try it-you'll like it!

Ralph Hood is the national CFI marketing mentor for AOPA Project Pilot Instructor.

By Ralph Hood

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