(And make your students Happier !)
HOW TO BE A HAPPIER FLY FISHER:
AN EMOTIVE MCI APPROACH
PART II, THE CASTING INSTRUCTOR
by César de la Hoz – FFF-MCCI Madrid, Spain
translation and text editing: Marc Fauvet
from the Federation of Fly Fishers – The Loop spring 2012
After the first approach on the happiness of the fly fisher, we need to talk about another important character in this equation, the fly casting instructor. Why? Because the fly fisher speaks with himself, he only has to care about his own happiness. The instructor also talks with others so he is responsible for the happiness of his pupils for a time of their lives. To achieve this goal is a huge responsibility.
How many of you remember a very good teacher? All of you, for sure. How many of you remember a bad one? All of you, for sure. And what kind of emotions bring back these memories? Of course, you are the one to answer these questions, but I can imagine… Happiness or sadness. I choose the first one, so I chose the teacher of the first question, the one who woke up good vibrations. This is the key as a Casting Instructor: If you want to be one of the best CI or MCI, you need to transmit happiness with a fly rod in hand.
ENGINEERS VS POETS
One of the most interesting discussions there is in the fly casting world. One in which you have to choose, Are you an engineer? Are you a poet? You can find this kind of conversation today on a river bank, a fly casting course or during a demo in a fly fishing fair. You can find a lot about fly casting physics in forums, boards, threads… And yes, people like to be a fly casting instructor “engineer”. This probably makes you cool and attractive in the casting field but not to woman because woman want happiness. Just joking: All Human beings want happiness.
And on the other hand we have the poets, these days underestimated. Oh man!, if you´re a “poet” casting instructor its because you´re no good in physics and hide yourself under the wings of assonance, rhymes, sonnets and stuff like that. In fact, Mel Krieger talked about poet and engineers at a moment when almost no one knew about fly casting physics (well may be Alejandro Viñuales did…) but today things are different, so now we need to redefine these terms.
My purpose is to create a new word, one word derived from two: poet and engineer. Maybe a casting instructor is a POETEER, half poet and half engineer. Lets try.
Do you remember Super Grover in Sesame Street? Hey I´m from mid 70´s! A Poeteer is like Super Groover. Neither an engineer, neither a poet but what does he do? He tries to make people happier. That´s it. So, a Poeteer has to create happy fly fishers, helping them to improve their skills and helping them to cast better. That´s all. Why? Because to be a happier fly fisherman is to be a successful fly fisherman. And here is where a Poeteer appears, like Super Grover, solving problems. The problem is not to be a poet or to be an engineer, the problem to solve is to teach properly.
One example: when you read a self-help book, most of the time this book tells you what you have to do, instead how to do it. Well, I´m going to try to give you some tips on how to make people happier while instructing.
There are three ways to get something: aggressive, assertive and passive. And there is one option in which we can manage this in the correct way: communication. We are beings who speak. Casting instructors are most of the time, beings who speak. We transmit knowledge by telling, not only demonstrating. And this communication has two forms: communicating technical issues (engineer) and communicating and understanding emotional issues (poet). Et voilà: POETEERS.
Remember: We learn much more by dealing with feeling and emotional issues than by memorizing technical data. If you feel the cast you will improve the cast. You can read all about physics on Google but never improve your casting. So MCI´s you need to understand and transmit what a pupil needs before technical issues. Even, when you need to talk about fly casting physics, you need to create a good rapport, a good connexion between the pupil and you. You need to be assertive, instead of passive or aggressive.
An aggressive communicator only thinks of his own interest, talking from his own knowledge and giving no attention to interest of the other. An instructor like this normally talks in this manner:
Pupil: I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Instructor:You have to do it this way: Accelerate to a stop, you need angular acceleration until RSP. Clocks and watches are only to give you the time and nothing more.
A Passive communicator pays almost no attention to his own knowledge, has a lot of doubts and has no trust in himself. Something like this:
Pupil: I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Oh yes…. 11 to 2, normally we need to do these movements to put the fly in the ring. Yes 11 to 2.
An assertive communicator pays attention to his own interest but also in the interest of the other. Trying to put both together and looking for empathy, also he asks some questions to get the job done.
Pupil:I have to cast from 11 to 2?
Yes you can. But do you think that there are other ways to do it?
Yes, of course.
And in how many ways can you do it?
May be between 10 to 3 or 10 to 2.
Perfect ! As you said you have different options to cast a fly and now you understand that you have to adapt your casting stroke to the different situations you have on the river.
Just by asking someone: In how many ways can you do something? you´re opening up their mind. This is crucial. This is the beginning of the learning process because you’re turning it into something mutual, not unidirectional. It´s a big difference. This kind of communication builds trust and generates positive emotions. In this way the pupil trusts the instructor, not only about the instructor’s knowledge but because it links the pupil to the process of learning. Someone involved is someone who pays more and better attention.
Aggressive communicators are very common in schools, companies, clubs… in life. There are a lot of teachers telling others what they have to do and how they have to do it. This makes people that learn from fear, not from responsibility and it normally kills creativity, something essential in fly casting. It also kills the “flow”. Being aggressive is a kind of style that has benefits on a short-term basis because it gives one a sense of control over a situation. But in long-term it generates rejection because the pupil dislikes this impersonal selfish style. The same thing happens with the passive instructor, it generates unease towards the pupils through lack of empathy and distrust. So, try to be assertive, but you have to work at it, it´s not easy. Some readers now are telling themselves : Hey I´m very assertive ! And I ask them: Do you really think so? Let´s try some questions to find out:
How many times do you ask a question before you explain what to do? How many times do you ask, “Hey how do you feel today?” Instead of: “Come on, hurry up, we´re waiting for you, it´s time to go…” To make changes in the way you express yourself you need to make some little changes in the way you think. If you´re on the bank of the river before you start fishing and the guide asks you: “This river is amazing, How do you feel?” Your thoughts will be happy. You will take a look around and feel comfortable in this amazing place because the happiness runs into your organism in form of beta endorphins. They produce a state of general wellbeing and are released in pleasurable situations like laughter, sex and physical exercise and that’s what fly fishing all about: casting a fly is a form of exercise. So if exercise releases beta endorphins, don´t create through communication a bad and stressed situation telling something like: “What an ugly day, it´s raining again.” Do the opposite, stimulate this wellbeing.
It´s important to know that there’s a big difference between having good communication strategies and being courteous. Courtesy is the demonstration or act that manifests the attention, respect and affection that someone else has. Empathy is the mental and emotional identification of a subject with the mood of another. As an instructor to emphasize is to go far beyond courteous.
Do you like photography? There are three basic terms in photography that will maybe help you understand this: Depth of field and sharpness and reframe. It is essential to add depth of field to our communication, as well as it´s necessary in a photograph to see a larger area. Also you need sharpness in your language, not only in the way you talk about casting mechanics, but also about what the student needs to know. And of course you need to reframe because when we talk, we transmit a unique perspective. Try to see the perspective of your pupil. This will make yourself closer, easier to understand and sympathetic.
To be a poeteer, try to enhance these four basic thoughts when teaching:
1. Casual thinking: Is the ability to determine where the problem is and formulate it. Those who do not have these thoughts tend to attribute their problems to others: “This pupil is very difficult” “This group is very unbalanced, it’s impossible to teach them”, “They don´t pay attention, they don’t´want to learn”.
2. Alternative thinking: Is the ability to generate as many solutions as possible once the problem is formulated. The people who lack these thoughts and don´t know where to find them often seek a unique solution like: “Do this in that way” “Don´t try to cast like that” “This is the only solution”.
3. Perspective thinking: Is the ability to put oneself in another, it stems from selflessness. Aggressive instructors have great difficulties in putting themselves into others. It’s the hardest to achieve.
4. Consequential thinking: Is the ability to foresee the consequences of acts and speech.
Remember that not to be a good one but only to be one, you don´t need to be an engineer or a poet to be an instructor. Knowing a lot about casting dynamics doesn´t make you an excellent teacher and neither does certification. To be a good instructor is to practice good educational skills and to work on these abilities and thinking. I have told you four, but you can find a lot more inside of yourself if you ask yourself the correct questions: What can I do to make my students feel better? In how many ways can I do it? Is my communication as good as I need to teach properly? How can I control my frustration when a pupil don´t understand what I´m talking about? What are the best ways to explain physics?… These are only a few.
Nowadays, as an instructor you need to know the basics of fly casting of course, but if you don´t know how to transmit those basics properly, technical teaching will be very difficult to achieve.
So first of all, you need to know exactly where the problem is and develop a strategy.
Then you need to add different solutions to fix it, not only one. If you give only one solution, the pupil can either do it or not. You only have a 50% chance of success. This is hazardous at best.
Of course you’ll need perspective thinking, this is essential. If your student does not understand you it’s because you didn´t explain yourself properly, not because he or she does not know how to understand what you are saying.
So, ask questions, and not so many: “You have to…” “You should do…”. A good poeteer, a good instructor, is an open minded communicator. This makes consequences easier to assume and make yourself happy as an instructor and your students happier because they not only learn about fly casting, they see that they have the ability to improve, are confident and of course they will see better loops when they’re casting. And this is priceless.
Sometimes I get very tired of seeing teachers who only put attention in technical stuff, leaving in the background the personal needs of those who want to learn. This classical way of teaching must be broken by putting more attention towards the happiness of the pupil, on his emotions, on his objectives. Remember: All challenges overcome with satisfaction will leave a satisfying emotional footprint which eases the challenges ahead. This makes us happy. However, when we keep in our mind the memory of a failure when facing a new challenge, the feeling is so negative that future problems seem to be second to none. This makes us unhappy.
If you leave a satisfying emotional footprint on your pupils, make sure that they will be motivated to continue on the way, looking for more. If not, they might give up. So, what are you waiting for? Make your pupils happier:
1. Not only be correct, emphatic and,
2. go beyond your typical way of teaching and put your attention foremost on the person, not just in physics, casting errors or tailing loops.
As an MCI I owe much to those who are investigating casting physics and deliver this knowledge for free on forums. I want to say thanks to all of them. I´m trying to participate in that effort by providing knowledge on how to improve teaching. Cooperation makes us happy, no doubt. So, remember:
To be a happier fly casting instructor, is to be a successful fly casting instructor.