Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

I Get No Respect

Early warning: This is going to be a tough-talk column.

Ever since I can remember, Rodney Dangerfield and CFIs have been saying it-"I get no respect." I can't comment on Dangerfield, but I have a question for CFIs. How come you get no respect?

It is a sad fact, I am afraid, that most CFIs start out with more respect from the student than they end up with.

Think about it. Do you remember your first encounter with a CFI? If you were like me, you approached that CFI with a large chunk of respect, more than a little awe, and even a touch of fear. This, after all, was a Sky God. He could not only fly, he was a "commercial" pi-lot. He was even a certified-get that word, certified-flight instructor. Surely he could fly without an airplane and leap tall buildings with a single bound-perhaps even a single hop.

Did I have respect for that CFI? Lord, respect wasn't even the word for it. I felt as if I was in the presence of an ordained master of the universe. Especially after I found out that he understood all those bedazzling buttons, whistles, and lights on the panel of that unbelievably sophisticated airplane, the Cessna 150. (That is not a typo, young folks. Back then it was a 150. The 152 hadn't been invented yet.)

Yea, verily I was truly awed by the CFI. That feeling lasted for almost one whole hour. By the end of that hour, I had learned better. By then I knew that instructing was a lousy job from which the CFI hoped to be freed ASAP. I learned that the C-150 was a dinky little airplane that the CFI held in great disdain. I learned that CFIs get no respect.

Sadly enough, I learned all of that from the CFI himself during the very first lesson. He re-educated me, and he did it almost immediately. I started off calling him sir, and by the end of the first hour I felt sorry for this obviously unhappy person.

Why do CFIs do that? Why don't they stop doing it?

The unvarnished truth is that to get respect, you must behave respectably. Henry Ford said it well: "You cannot build a reputation based on what you are going to do in the future."

Professionals get respect. If you would gain and keep respect, act like a professional. Value your customer's time and your time. Dress like a professional. Start on time. End on time. Every time. Read the student's file before the student arrives. Send reminders for each lesson. Be prepared.

Have a lesson plan that you really follow. Remind the student what you did during her last lesson, and how it will tie in with what you're going to be doing during this lesson.

Professionals in every field get respect. That does include professional CFIs. If you get no respect, perhaps you should ask yourself-why not?

By Ralph Hood

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports