Airplane Pedagogy

I mentioned in my last post how much I appreciated some of the scarier parts of learning to fly, especially that a student pilot has to make mistakes in order to learn from them.

Since then, I’ve been considering other ways in which student pilot pedagogy might be analagous with other modes of teaching, particularly that of my day job: the teaching of writing.

What I’ve been thinking about, mostly, is comparing flight to writing an academic paper. So many of my students, fresh out of high school, are locked into the “five paragraph essay” structure that doesn’t allow for a lot of intellectual freedom or creative expression. Similarly, using an airplane requires a lot of formality, especially through checklists, but pilots and writers both have to consider the context in which they are exercising their craft. Writers have to take into account audience, purpose, mode; pilots must think about weather, fuel, destination. Writing an introduction is akin to taking off – where thrust and lift become important. Providing evidence to support your claim can be like straight and level flight, where as long as a writer is actively scanning for issues and remaining alert, the content of the paper will propel it forward. A good conclusion can be a solid landing.

I’m not really any closer to getting my pilot’s license as I was at the beginning of the summer, but I love learning about it and I find it fascinating how I’ve been trying to apply this knowledge to other aspects of my life.


Taking Flight

I’ve started studying for the written examination to become a light sport aircraft pilot. It’s not something I’ve always dreamed of doing, like most potential pilots, but my interest has been piqued after going up a few times in small planes (neither of which were light sport, but still – LSA seems more feasible to pursue right now than a recreational or private license).

I thought it would be more difficult, to be honest. I’m not saying that it’s not hard – a lot of the physics stuff is taking a while to sink in. I don’t understand how turns work, for example, and it might take a few actual lessons to comprehend landing procedures adequately. But there’s a philosophy that elevates learning to fly that I wish I’d picked up on years and years and years ago: You have to make mistakes. You have to.

Mistakes aren’t something to be avoided when you’re learning to fly. You’re in control of the aircraft, but not the circumstances that surround you. You don’t control the weather, for example, so you have to make different choices based on the direction the wind is heading. You might face different challenges at different airports, or because of the geography of the terrain you need to pass through. And, just as in driving, you cannot control the actions of other planes in flight. The plane is in your hands, but the situation is not.

So you make mistakes. It happens.

And you have to make those mistakes in order to learn how to recover from them.

My learning philosophy up until this point in my life has been to avoid mistakes. Never having to deal with the consequences of a bad decision is so much easier, right? Maybe. But easier does not mean better. I’ve been operating under the illusion that I am in control of every aspect of my life, but that’s not true. I’m in control of the vehicle, but not the circumstances, and avoiding issues and problems has made the vehicle more fragile and less adaptable. When circumstances force me into trouble, I am not prepared to recover.

So I’m borrowing this philosophy from learning to fly and applying it to more of my operating procedures, not just in the cockpit but in the classroom, in the kitchen, at the store, at the doctor’s office – wherever it may be applicable.

People who write good and do other stuff good, too

I try to collect work by people I know because I like these people and I like their work. Here’s a small list of what I’ve gathered so far that should be free for all readers to enjoy.

Check this post for periodic updates.

Christopher R. Alonso – “The Shallows” (fiction)

Abi Bechtel – “Her Face” (nonfiction)

Couri Johnson – “I’ll Tell You a Love Story” (fiction)

Emily Lundgren – “Trees Struck By Lightning Burning from the Inside Out” (fiction)

Alex Puncekar – “Selling Ghosts” (fiction) and “Bad Beat” (flash fiction)

William R. Soldan – “Running” (fiction)

Andrew Wehmann – “What you Find in the Drink” (fiction)

Jonathan Wlodarski – “The Cake” (fiction)

Kailey Sherrick – “God Speaks to Grandfather” (nonfiction)

First blog post

This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Be excited that you’ve started a blog. You’ve been thinking about this for a while, after all. What better way to get your long-from thoughts to the masses? No worries about character limits or image filters. Whatever you want can go in this space! The possibilities are endless!

The possibilities are overwhelming. Now you should start questioning why you’ve started a blog. Who is going to read this, except Aunt Terry? She’s pretty good about trying to keep up with what’s going on in your life. She calls you sometimes to talk about what’s been on your SnapChat lately because she has the app on her phone but doesn’t know how to use it to communicate. But if you talk to Aunt Terry periodically then do you really need another social media kind of repository for your thoughts and ideas? Are your thoughts and ideas worth sharing? Are they even worth having, most of the time? Now is the time to wallow in self-doubt for several weeks.

In the meantime,  to make yourself feel better, compile lists about possible blog topic ideas. Make sure you keep these lists on scrap paper – the backs of receipts and envelopes, assignment sheets, a recipe you printed out and tried once and didn’t like – so you can lose them almost as soon as you write them.

The next time you log in to the WordPress page, make sure to spend the whole time playing with the layout. Upload six or seven pictures of your own before returning to the default. Play around with all the widgets and bookmarklets provided by the blog hosting service. Produce no content of value. Repeat for several weeks at a time, until you give up and delete the entire effort.

Start back at step number one.