Friday, 10 July 2009

I Miss 'Em!

One of my favourites passed her test on Wednesday. First time too, which was nice. Rachel, for that is her name, was thinking before hand that she probably wouldn't pass first time as apparently most people don't, but she was properly prepared and breezed it! Although I was almost as pleased as she was with the result, I was more pleased the previous day, in her last lesson before test day, when she was driving around with fabulous, sensitive control and a clear knowledge of what she was doing. Bearing in mind that a few months ago Rachel couldn't set off without stalling (her first lesson) the change is amazing and consequently never ceases to amaze me in Rachel, or any of my other learners. The actual pass itself is occasionally tinged with sadness for me as whilst I'm always pleased for them, the pass also means I won't get to share time with them any more, as they progress with their driving career without me. As with many others, I've really enjoyed teaching Rachel to drive and will miss her.
That same afternoon though, I saw Tess, another of my previous clients who passed her test (also first time) in April. It was a completely chance meeting in Tesco car park but gave us a chance to chat and catch up. It was very rewarding to see her driving around and be able to think; "I made that possible". Still miss her too, though. Not to mention Ed, John, Andy, Zoe, Sarah and many others. Just in case any of you ever read this... Drop me a line and let me know how you're getting on...?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Born To Teach?

Life as a driving instructor has its ups and downs, but on the whole, it’s great. I get on very well with most of my clients and we have a laugh or two whilst they learn how to drive. I really enjoy building a relationship over the time I spend with them, sharing the joy and frustration as they learn and struggle, and then learn some more, and sharing their elation as they pass their test (most of my passes are first time too, which is nice). Occasionally I get asked if I’ve thought about becoming an examiner. This is something I really wouldn’t want to do.
As a driving instructor, I get to know my clients and build something of a bond with them, sharing time in the car together, experiencing highs and lows of the learning procedure and ultimately the final high as they wave the pass certificate in the air and text all their mates on the way home. As an examiner I’d get to see a stream of individuals for 40 minutes each, half of whom (at York, pass rate is about 50%) I’d have to crush by telling them that they haven’t reached the standard this time. No banter. No sharing. No bonding. No learning. No fun.
As a driving instructor I sometimes conduct mock tests but at least at the end if it doesn’t go well I can go on to say
“Well, that wasn’t great, but now let’s go and fix it!”
I love the whole teaching thing of facilitating learning and seeing people do something that they couldn’t do an hour, a week, or a month ago. And then being able to think;
“I made that possible.” It’s a great feeling and very rewarding.
I get this in the dance world too. On the night the Engine Shed re-opened its doors to the salsa community, I had the pleasure of dancing with several ladies whom I have taught to dance and I delighted in every one of them. Even better when separately but on that same evening, two of the ladies concerned actually kissed me and thanked me for teaching them to dance. How good did that make me feel?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Life On the Road

It was five months ago I started work as a driving instructor and for a while I wondered if I was going to make it. The hardest part of the job is actually finding pupils to teach, hence my getting a franchise with the AA Driving School in the hope that they'd get some for me. There are never any guarantees but they've got more experience of marketing driving lessons than I have, and a conversation with an established AA instructor during my training led me to believe that they are pretty good at it. The first week was a bit of a disaster, all sorts of problems with admin etc, resulted in no one to teach at all. The AA tell us we're welcome to go and find people to teach ourselves but that's far easier said than done and after a cold morning stood outside our local college handing out special offer cards to anyone that would take one (not many as it happened) I realised when no one actually took me up on the offers that self marketing was likely to be difficult. Fortunately, the second week, things started to pick up and carried on for a month or so as I steadily got busier.

Until Christmas. From early December to end of January, I got about two new pupils a month, not the two a week I'd hoped for. Business was definitely not booming. From what I understand, most independant driving instructors get most of their work from referrals. People who've passed their tests and told their mates how brilliant they are. I thought this would work for me too but first I had to get someone through their test!

Good news then that yesterday, exactly five months since I started, I got my first test pass. My pupil Andy was well chuffed as he'd reckoned the cards were stacked against him. With a colourful history of driving disqualifications (earned riding a motorcycle unlicensed and uninsured) he thought the any examiner would be desperate to keep him off the road but he went in there, properly prepared and passed first time with flying colours. I like to think I can take some of the credit for that, though to be fair Andy does have a lot of aptitude. It's been a pleasure working with him, and more so when the examiner pronounced the news at the end of his test yesterday (albeit without breaking a smile, miserable sod!). Andy is over the moon as he's got a car waiting to be driven and now he can go and drive it.

I'm over the moon too for I've now got a good test pass in the bag and almost feel like a "proper" driving instructor. Business is picking up too. Throughout February introductions started coming more frequently again, and my diary has now been pretty full for the last couple of weeks and looks like continuing in the same vein. As my mate Maureen says;
"Life is grand!"