How to Be a Good Teacher (According to My Kids)

13 Things Flight Instructors Can Learn from Public School Teachers…

I am always thinking about how I can be a better teacher and flight instructor. Not a day goes by that I don’t worry about how effective or ineffective I was while instructing that day, or about how I can be better at explaining a certain topic. And I think as instructors, we’re all still trying to figure out how to explain the concept of lift and how to teach a student to land an airplane.

These are the things I think about while driving home from work or making dinner or while sitting at my computer thinking of another article to write. So last night while the kids were eating ice cream and watching a Halloween cartoon on Netflix, I sat down with my computer and tried to come up with an article to write about flight instruction. But as it almost always happens, my kids demanded my attention.

 

“Mom, will you play cards with me?”

“Mom. I need you to sign this paper for school.”

“MOM! GUESS WHAT?!?! My P.E. teacher can do a BACK FLIP!”

“And my math teacher is so awesome. He says math is evil! He’s my favorite teacher ever.”

 

That last one got me thinking. Who are my kid’s favorite teachers? And why? What do these teachers do that motivates kids to do well? What do they do that makes kids admire them and respect them? And do any of these things cross over to flight instruction? (Well, duh. Of course they do.)

So I asked my kids (ages 7 and 10) to think about their favorite teachers and to think about what made them great teachers. Here’s a list of what they came up with – straight out of their mouths. Most of these ideas seem pretty simple at first glance, but if we spend some time on each one, we discover that these really are the qualities that make up a good teacher, and we’re all better at some than others.

 

1. Be Funny

My kids rarely agree. But “being funny” was at the top of each of their lists. This is distressing for those of us whom humor isn’t a natural talent, but there’s no denying that making people laugh has its advantages. And the research backs it up: studies have shown that humor (subject-appropriate humor and not inappropriate humor) has a positive correlation to learning. Guess it’s time to work on my stand-up routine…

 

2. Be Nice (to everyone)

My son says that his favorite teachers of all time all have this in common. He says they’re nice to all of the kids, all of the time.

3. Plan Fun Activities/Go on Field Trips

When we think of field trips, we often associate them with young children. But there are plenty of field trips to take with your flight students, as well. When is the last time you took your flight student to the air traffic control tower? Or to the nearest flight service station or FSDO?  We often get caught up in sticking to the syllabus to move students through quickly, but we could take a lesson from elementary and middle school teachers here. Get out and have fun!

4. Get to Know Your Students

My kids say that their favorite teachers get to know them and remember small details about them. Like what they did last summer. Or their favorite food. Or that they have a big test coming up in another class. It’s the little things, folks.

 

5. Don’t be a Jerk

My 7-year-old offered this up. Simple enough, right?

 

6. Don’t Give Up

My 7-year-old also claims that not giving up is a good quality for teachers to have. I agree. Don’t give up on your students!

 

7. Don’t Let Bad Kids Get the Best of You

One of my very favorite pieces of advice about how to be a good teacher comes from my super sincere and observant 10-year-old son, who says that his favorite thing about his 4th-grade teacher was that she never let the “bad kids” get her flustered. He says she was just as nice to them as she was to everyone else, and that she never let them get to her. I think this is sound advice. Never let the bad students bring you down.

 

8. Help a Kid Out and Give Hugs

My second grader says he likes it when his teacher helps him. And he says hugs are good. My fifth grader says hugs are just for little kids, though, and that he’d rather his teachers not hug him ever. So let’s pair this one with “respecting personal boundaries.”

 

9. Practice Explaining Topics at Home

We can all be better at explaining some things, right? It’s helpful when a teacher can explain what they’re trying to teach. My kid says that it’s never good when your teacher doesn’t know how to explain something. And this is what makes teaching so hard, right? We don’t know everything, but we should all take more time to practice what we’re teaching ahead of time if we don’t know it very well.

 

10. Assign Homework (But Not Homework That’s Too Hard!)

The key here, I think, is to assign appropriate homework. Homework is useful, says my son, but only if it’s not too hard.

 

11. Give Out Rewards

Stickers and lollipops might be just for kids, but that doesn’t mean that adults don’t like a bit of recognition sometimes. Keep flight instruction fun by offering “rewards” like solo certificates or employing the t-shirt tail tradition. Find other creative ways to publicly reward student successes, like taking a photo of their first solo to post on social media, or having a “brag board” in your office.

 

12. Evaluate Your Students

Tell them when they’re doing well or not so well. My son says a simple smiley or frown face works well.

 

13. Always be Positive

We all agree that smiling is contagious! Students like a smiling teacher!

 

 

Sarina Houston

Sarina is a freelance aviation writer, an independent flight instructor and co-creator of This Aviation Life. She is passionate about general aviation and equally passionate about teaching the next generation of pilots.

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