As far as I can remember, I had one persistent, recurring childhood fantasy/dream: To fly. All by myself.
Some 40 odd years later, it has finally happened. I went through a short training to learn to fly a paraglider. So how was it to live out your childhood fantasy, you might ask? Well, nice! Really nice. But, somehow not as fantastic as the original fantasy!
Mostly because jumping off the face of a high cliff defies your basic instinct. And also because, as a beginner, you are easily overwhelmed by the equipment, and overstimulated by the manoeuvres you need to make in order to get airborne, fly your course and land safely. All of this while you are dealing with some degree of fear of seeing the earth floating away from under you.
What makes things even more difficult for me is that the instructional methodology used is that of an old-fashioned drillmaster. The faculty seemed to be skilled pilots, but clearly they had no clue about the fundamental principles of instructional design or practice. Most of us have gone through a school system that believes that scolding, insulting, bullying and humiliating students is a reasonable way to get them to focus and learn. No wonder some variation of this methodology is used everywhere — parents do it to their children, bosses do it to their subordinates, and all kinds of ‘teachers’ do it to their ‘students’. That the faculty at paragliding schools is made in the same mould should not have surprised me. But it did.
You see I have strong views about teaching and learning. It might seem a little radical to some, but I believe that if the student is not able to follow your ‘instructions’ then you, as a teacher, must introspect. A fee-paying paragliding student ready to jump off a cliff is motivated and focused. And if she/he cannot ‘get’ what you are saying, then clearly the problem is you. Period! As a one time instructional designer I could go on. But, perhaps, I should spare the average reader of this blog. I would be happy to elaborate if an ‘instructor’ is interested.
Anyhow, as things stand, I am now ‘qualified’ to strap on a paraglider and jump off a cliff. And fly. It does seem like some kind of an accomplishment, but it has not been as awesome for me as I was hoping it would be. It is possible that I need to fly some more and become comfortable with my own skills before I really start to enjoy it. To do that I need to find another flying school. A school/teacher who is willing to accommodate my need to ‘understand’, to ‘get it’ and not just mindlessly ‘follow’ a drillmaster. Perhaps I will never find such a place, perhaps I will never fly again. Or not!
I think I like flying enough to try again. And again. If not a paraglider then perhaps a sailplane. Or a balloon. Or a microlight.