It is, I think, generally agreed that a driving instructor has to be able to teach people to drive. Driving instructors also have to be good judges of driving – how else could we identify problems in others’ driving? Furthermore, with the relentless push towards Client Centered Learning, we are being constantly encouraged to help our pupils carry out analysis of their own driving and their emotions and motivations when doing so.
We analyse our pupils’ driving and we encourage our pupils to analyse their own driving but when was the last time we actually turned the spotlight on our driving and analysed that? Is it not unreasonable to expect driving instructors to be good, if not excellent, drivers themselves, constantly striving to be better?
One of the issues that we and many other people have is that there is no further testing of drivers after they have passed their test. We assume that there is never any degradation in their skills and that they remain at least as competent as the day they passed, even though we know that that isn’t the case. We hope that they improve through experience. That may be the case but we also know that they will lose many of the things we teach them. If we were to be an unobtrusive observer into the world of those experienced drivers, we would probably judge them to be experienced but driving outside the confines that we attempt to set for our pupils. Likewise, if we watched our own driving, would we see a driver combining the best of experience with the best of good practice? I know I wouldn’t.
Does it matter? If we are simply doing a job, then probably not. I sit in a car, correct a few issues, get paid, go home. If a pupil forgets everything I have taught them, then it isn’t my problem because I’m just doing a job. Whatever happens after they pass their test is absolutely nothing to do with me. They are simply a statistic and, if I’m lucky, a source of further business.
It does matter to me. I want my pupils not only to learn to drive, pass their test, be safe on the roads but be really good drivers. I want my pupils to set such a good example that they are noticeable not only to their passengers but to other road users. I do want them to be paragons of driving virtue and I want them to have the confidence to stand out as such. I don’t expect them to be perfect because we are all human and make mistakes. I do expect them to continue appraising and analysing their own driving so that they learn by their mistakes.
So what about us? Do we have to be paragons of driving virtue? Yes, I think we do. We have to set an example of how to do things properly. Surely, nerves aside, we have to drive as though there is an examiner watching our every move. We have to drive within the law, displaying good technique, applying best practice and setting the best possible example. We have no idea who is watching although that shouldn’t be our motivation.
I know some driving instructors remove their signage when no longer ‘on duty’ so that they are not known as instructors. I have done this rarely, usually when going long distance, otherwise I am proud to hang my driving on my signage and declare exactly who I am and what I do, not only through my signs but also through my example.
I belong to a profession. I profess to be a good, safe, law-abiding driver. I profess to be a good instructor teaching my pupils the best skills that I can. I profess to be a professional. If my driving belies that, then the best I can hope to be is an amateur and not a very good one at that!
I strive to be a paragon of driving virtue – how about you?