I could see the frustration on my student's face. She really wanted to make better landings but seemed to have reached a plateau in her progress. I could empathize with her because I was a student and remember having the same experience.
While taxiing back to the runway after a bounced landing but a good recovery I started thinking how I could encourage her. It was a silent cockpit and the air seemed thick as oil. One thing I have learned over the years is pilots are more critical of their own landings than of others and I am sure she was thinking that was the worst landing in the history of flight.
The plane rolled to a stop in the middle of the long taxiway as she gently pressed the brakes. Not saying a word at first she looked in all directions to make sure no other planes were in the way and then looked at me in desperation and said "Do you think I will ever be able to make good landings?"
I always believe you should give as much positive reinforcement as possible so my response was "First, you did a great job recovering from the bounce and the second landing was great." Then with a big smile on my face I said "I am here to help and I guarantee after a thousand landings you will be making good landings, and most importantly I will be here to help you as long as you are willing to try."
She looked at me and smiled, "Well if you can suffer through the abuse then lets do another". I looked at her and said "One day in the future when you are greasing in all your landings we will look back at this and laugh."
If you are going to get your student to complete his or her training you must be committed to their success and make sure you communicate your commitment to him or her. To become successful at anything in life, especially while teaching students to fly, I have found it is important to remember two words: persistence and perseverance.
I'll never forget my instructor, an experienced Airline and Navy pilot who flew in Vietnam. I noticed he had many happy students and I wanted to know his secret so I asked him one day why his students were so happy when they flew with him. He looked at me and with a big smile said words that have stuck in my head forever "You need to remember three things Carl. Patience, Patience, Patience." I thought he was being coy, but realized how true those words are.
After years of instructing I realized we must have patience to persevere through our students challenges. If you can say in your mind that you are not going to give up on your student, believe me your attitude will come through in your instruction.
Along with patience we must have persistence, which is the ability to both encourage our students to continue moving forward even if they feel there is no progress. At times you may feel as if you are carrying your student which can be frustrating, but be persistent and keep encouraging them.
You must accept the fact your student may at times seem as if they are moving backward in their training. This is normal and you should be patient during this period. The ultimate failure as a flight instructor is when you stop caring about your students progress, so be persistent.
In performance based activities including running a business, playing a sport, or learning to fly an airplane, you will be successful if you are both persistent and persevering. Your students success is measured by obtaining their pilot certificate and being a safe and competent pilot.
Your student is a reflection of your ability to facilitate learning which means when they are successful so are you. This is your opportunity to pass a legacy of safety and proficiency from one generation of pilots to the next. You have the important task of creating tomorrow's pilots and you will be successful as long as you persist and persevere.