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Where are your students?Where are your students?

Situational awareness is a key skill whether flying an airplane or running a business. In the air, it’s vital to know where you are and where you’re going. In business, especially the business of flight training, it’s vital to know where your customers are.

Too often we leave student progress completely up to our flight instructors. If they succeed, we succeed. If they fail, we fail. Instead of leaving your school up to your instructor corps, take control and ensure that each of your students is successful.

Thankfully, there is one technique that will ensure this happens, and implementing it is quick and easy. Although it may seem counterproductive, establish a meeting. Require your flight instructors to come to a weekly session where the only order of business is an update on the progress of each of their students. To make this as effective as possible, set some ground rules.

  1. Keep it brief. No one likes death by meetings. Keep things running quickly and efficiently. Schedule it for half an hour. Make that timeline by requiring everyone to be prepared in advance to brief the group.
  2. Keep it positive. Don’t tolerate snarky comments or negative feedback. Instead, get the double bonus of staff development by encouraging the CFIs to help each other. It’s likely that another CFI has experienced the problem. Encourage dialogue and feedback for a shared learning experience that brings up morale and sets a culture of constant improvement.
  3. Keep it focused. This isn’t a time to recount last night’s pub crawl or concert outing. It is, however, a time to quickly, but thoroughly, get a status on every student in the school.
  4. Keep it accountable. The primary benefit of the meeting is to make sure you are aware of the problems and work to fix them. Don’t waste everyone’s time by not following up. Make sure to support your CFIs and students by offering to fix the issues as soon as possible.

Although adding a meeting to everyone’s schedule can seem to be the exact opposite of progress, there is power in knowing exactly where your students are in the curriculum. Not only does it offer you a chance to make sure no one drops through the cracks, it gives you a way to engage them when you see them at the school, and it connects your instructors in a positive learning environment that values learning and feedback.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

"Flight Training" Editor
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.

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