Teaching weather theory..... <argh> :)..



Today, was my last day of Christmas candy ‘indulgence’ – I was joking to FlyKid (my stepson) that I would have to walk completely around Lake Merced about 500 times for the next two weeks to burn up the calories I’ve consumed during this recent Xmas holiday. ;)

CFI training is going fine. Last week was especially busy; not only did I have my CFI training sessions (which I’ll go on to describe, shortly) but I had to get my instrument currency requirements ‘in’ before January. Basically, the way you keep your instrument rating legally current (i.e., so that you can legally file IFR) is,, in the previous 6 month period (starting from the month your ‘in’) you need to have had 6 instrument approaches, holding procedures and tracking a course. If you fail to meet that requirement you can not file IFR, but you have another 6 month period to meet the minimums before you are required to take an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) – which basically is ‘like’ another Instrument checkride. A good thing about this is that the FAA allows for the instrument approaches to be demonstrated in a specially approved flight simulator like the Frasca 141 that Nice Air has (keep in mind that this is a complex training device and isn’t like using a ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ program <grin>).  Well, I got all the requisite approaches, et al, 'in' and am now current up to the next 6 month interval.  Although, when I can,,, I really want to get in some training to truly get me back to sharp proficiency.

Weather has messed-up some of our scheduled flying sessions, but thankfully there is no shortage of things to practice teaching in our ground sessions.

The week before last, I ‘taught’ John about airspace design and requirements, how to read a TAC and a sectional chart. Additionally (as part of the same lesson) I had to teach airport signage and markings, lighting, and how to use the Airport Facilities Directory.

Although there were obviously things that needed polish on the lesson I presented, I was quite proud of how I had organized and communicated the various concepts and points of each lesson.

One of my favorite ‘bits of golden knowledge’ that John shared with me was the importance of always telling a student why they are learning a given concept. This is so important so that the student doesn’t simply think they are being presented with some ‘useless’, largely esoteric piece of knowledge. In addition to doing the latter, John also mentioned how important it was to try to build on whatever a student’s existing knowledge/experience base they bring to the lesson.

So, John seemed pleased, overall, with my presentation a couple of weeks ago and told me that I could have my choice of whether I presented a session on maintenance records, something else I can’t recall,,, OR weather theory. He knew (because I had told him a little while back) was that weather was the one thing I was least looking forward to teaching. Not because I felt I had any serious lack of knowledge of the subject matter, but rather because it was such an information-dense subject. To teach weather you have to build the concepts you introduce to the student carefully so that each module of knowledge is reinforced by the one that precedes it. I guess I was ‘overwhelmed’ by the sheer scope and breadth of knowledge that I would have to find a way to effectively organized and communicate.

Even still, I told John that I might as well get teaching weather ‘out of the way’… So, weather it was! ;0)

A handful of days before I was to teach the weather lesson, I came across a book that had a lesson outline for each subject to be taught to a Private Pilot candidate. I ordered it and was thrilled. It was basically a bulleted outline offering little hints on what order to present the information ‘in’. It had JUST been published and was spanking brand new!

I practiced using the guide at home, using the dry erase board in the ‘classroom’ part of my office space (where I practice presenting lessons). I was quite pleased by the layout although (as I discovered later) there were some items left out that were indeed important to the lesson.

The day came to present the lesson and I was ready as I could be. Right from the start John was ‘out of the gate’ confronting me with some inexact wording I had used that might result in an erroneous concept being formed. So, I corrected my wording and moved on.

I have to admit that John seemed to be going at me a little harder than usual (but in a ‘fun’ spirited way) with the questions. On some points, I told him (as my CFI,, not as a 'student') that I honestly felt that he was going for minutiae and that the level of depth/complexity he was asking me to present at some points was deeper than the scope needed be, for the target audience (the Primary flight student). In fact, one of the CFI’s that was at their desk who I knew (who also was trained by John) I ‘shouted’ over to him that I think that John was just having fun riding me at this point… The other CFI started laughing and said he agreed and that John had done that to him during weather. John, broke in a smile (maybe realizing that he was trying to garner more depth out of the presentation than was appropriate for the level of student the lesson was intended for).

As usual, much of John’s critiques were ‘right on the mark’, however. To say that the session went perfectly would be a gross exaggeration, but for the most part, I felt good about it (in fact in the process of teaching it and interacting with John, who was playing the part of a student; I found I was coming to clearer perceptions of the subject matter than I had possessed, before.

Although I picked on myself, a bit, about how the session had ‘gone’; John said he was pleased (mainly ‘cause he said he had hit me with lots of stuff; in terms of challenges and questions and that I had done well in fielding them).

John is off this week (his wife is a school teacher and has the time off, so they take advantage of the time to plan a small vacation, after Christmas), but next week I’m to teach a lesson on how to read the TAF’s, METARs (forms of textual weather reporting), Constant Pressure charts and more. I anticipate this teaching session might be more like when I taught the session on airspace – mainly ‘cause I’ve learned quite a few tricks on how to remember how to ‘decode’ the abbreviations on the TAF’s and METARs over the years. For instance, ‘BR’ in a METAR weather report means, ‘mist’. It is actually an abbreviation for the French word ‘Brelle’ (I think that’s the spelling) which means mist. The METARs contain abbreviations for both French words and some words are English abbreviations (I guess the French wanted their part of the weather report terminology). Anyway, the way to remember that ‘BR’ stands for mist is to think of BR as an abbreviation for ‘baby rain’. I know a bundle of memory aids like this and I think they will serve me as a teacher as well (I didn’t invent the memory aids, but have picked them up from all the various sources that I have studied with.

Also, next week, I also get airborne and I give John a lesson as a primary student and (in the same lesson) give a flying lesson on maneuvers as if I’m teaching a Commercial Certificate candidate.

Good Flights!

Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,
"The Wizard of Draws" (copyright owner) http://www.wizardofdraws.com

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