Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

1 Critical Flight Instructor Lesson For All Parents

failure

F/A-18D “Hornet.” Photo courtesy of Satoshi Hirokawa.

Have you ever raised your voice out of frustration toward you child? When I fail to follow the wisdom of Ephesians 6:4, I exasperate my child.  I apologize to my children when I fail them; they know their dad is not perfect.  Let me share how my failure during a teachable moment reminded me of a valuable lesson I learned from a flight instructor.

Before I was a flight instructor, I was a student.  I learned a valuable lesson during a few rough training missions:

The worst instructors are screamers.

screamer

T-45A “Goshawk.” Photo credit: LTJG John A. Ivancic

“Pull,” my flight instructor pimped from the back seat.  I pulled the stick to perform a maneuver in the T-45 “Goshawk.”

“Pull!” he yelled seconds later.  I pulled harder.

“No, don’t do that!” he barked in despair, revealing his annoyance.

I was confused.  I didn’t know what he wanted me to do.  He didn’t tell me how hard to pull, when to start, when to stop, or what I was doing wrong.  Not only was I confused, but I was also getting flustered.  I was getting stressed out.

Stress can be good.  Sometimes it is necessary to teach an important lesson (remember Matthew Broderick teaching his soldiers to shoot in a chaotic environment in Glory).

Sometimes it helps optimize performance (competition creates stress, but also raises performance levels). 

But too much stress, or stress without quality instruction, is bad.

For the rest of the flight, I was on edge.  I fumbled with switches and flubbed maneuvers.  I got “behind the jet.”  I was off my game.  I was flying in a state somewhere between choking and panicking (read Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw  to learn the difference).  I knew with certainty I was going to “down” the flight which meant I would receive low scores from my flight instructor and have to re-fly the event. 

To my surprise,  Mr. Hyde, who I was apparently flying with in the air, transformed back into Dr. Jekyll on the ground in the debrief.

“Yeah, some of the maneuvers weren’t quite perfect, but no big deal.  We’ll debrief them,” he casually remarked.

Huh?  I just had the worst flight of my life and I thought my flight career was over.  I was ready to hand over my wings when they told me I was finished (actually, I didn’t have wings yet, but it makes for a good story).

Now my flight instructor was acting like it was no big deal.  All that stress, all that discomfort, all those additional mistake. . .for nothing.

If only my instructor hadn’t screamed.

Author and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Micahel Hyatt describes the impact of leadership style in his post “A Tale of Two Coaches: What Kind Are You?

I’ve come to an important realization:

Among the titles I have earned, the most important is teacher.

I don’t work in a classroom, but I have two teaching jobs. My students wear diapers and oxygen masks (hopefully not at the same time).  When frustration builds, letting go is difficult.  But the regret caused by losing your cool is always worse.

As long as I am a father, I will be a teacher.

May my Father teach me never to become a screamer.

What do you think makes a great teacher?

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