Safety Publications/Articles

The golden rule

There's an old saying, "Nothing succeeds like success." Success is a powerful student motivator. It keeps students interested in their training and gives them hope that they'll eventually earn a private pilot certificate. It also helps overcome the doldrums that often follow learning plateaus. Understanding the need for success and how to dispense it is an important part of your job. Always keep in mind the golden rule of flight instruction: Never let a student get out of the airplane unless he's experienced some form of success.

Begin every lesson by setting goals for the student. When a goal is achieved, immediately acknowledge and reinforce the success. Then, praise. Tell the student you're happy with his or her accomplishment. Make sure you reinforce the success during the postflight briefing. This sequence is very important. A frequent complaint I hear from students is that their CFI is "never satisfied." Some CFIs do inadvertently keep raising the bar without acknowledging success. This is a morale buster.

What happens when learning difficulties or unplanned events prevent the student from achieving the goal? Here is where CFIs really demonstrate their skill. You must find some success within the failure. If the whole goal wasn't reached, find the portion of it that was executed well. Say what went right as well as what went wrong.

Keeping students feeling good about their progress is an extremely important part of your job. Good instructors recognize the need to keep their students motivated. Begin by choreographing each lesson to ensure that your students achieve some form of success. Remember to acknowledge and reinforce that success when it occurs, and remind the student about it as he or she departs the airport with a smile and the desire to return and learn.

By Rod Machado

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