Like all jobs, being a driving instructor has both good aspects, and bits that I could quite happily live without.
The good bit is that I generally find it fulfilling. It fits my abilities as an intelligent communicator, and the evidence of my proficiency is clear to see every time somneone succeeds in being able to do something when they were struggling only minutes earlier. I love teaching. I'm actually teaching an experienced teacher at the moment, and it's been an interesting experience for both of us. He sees something of his own methods in many of the things I'm doing.
I also enjoy driving. In particular, I enjoy the skilled driving that I've been trained to do, and which I'm training others to do every day.
And having a nice shiny new car to do it in is also nice of course.
But to be a driving instructor, you need to be more than just a teacher. You also need to be a salesman. It's a competitive industry, and unless you pay close attention to the business side of things, it's difficult to make a living.
Salesman/businessman is not a role that sits comfortably with me, and so I've struggled.
I'm now giving a huge chunk of my earnings to someone who is emphatically a salesman, and in return, he gives me work.
So in order to be able to do this job I enjoy so much, I need to find somewhere around £300-350 a week just to cover my overheads. When the work doesn't come in, as happened last month, I very quickly get into serious financial shit.
There are other things to set against this job too. Being messed around by my clients for one. Having to do my own tax is another. The ethics of helping ever more people to get themselves fully qualified to drive, given my understanding of issues such as climate change and resource depletion is yet another thing to consider.
So, a few months ago, I enquired about becoming a driving examiner.
The examiners are not self employed teachers. They are civil servants, and they get paid not to teach, but to assess in a uniform way, the driving of the candidates they encounter. They work to a rigid set of criteria, unlike the dynamic, extemporising role I currently occupy.
I find this somewhat depressing, but on the other hand, I don't have to give £130 a week to some bloke who's already a millionaire, and I don't have to put up with some dickhead from Birkenhead who's convinced that 10 minutes is more than enough notice for cancelling a lesson, and who thinks the £20 a lesson is bloody extortionate.
The response to my enquiry was an e-mail informing me that the DSA had no current vacancies for examiners, but that they would keep my name on file for 12 months, and let me know if anything arose.
I assumed that would be the last I heard. At some later point, I would send another enquiry and they'd keep that on file for 12 months too. But a week or two ago, I got a letter informing me that vacancies would shortly be opening, and so I looked at the appropriate webpage and found that there were indeed vacancies for examiners.
Unfortunately, these were in places like Canaerfon, Blackpool, Hyde, etc. To take these would require either a relocation, or an extremely long and tedious daily commute.
The closest is probably Sale, which is on the outskirts of Manchester.
As you can see, this would entail a round trip of almost 100 miles, and a couple of hours travelling time each day. The journey to work would take place in rush hour, so I would have to leave home at 7am every day to make sure I got there on time.
I took an early morning drive out there to see how feasible it was. The M62 was at a standstill in some parts, and it took about 100 minutes to get to where I was going (although I got a bit lost at one point due to a road closure)
Still, it's do-able. Many people have far more tedious commutes, and the journey home, well before the evening rush hour would be far less onerous.
So I've applied. I don't know how far I will get, and if I'm not accepted, well I can still do what I'm doing. But it's just possible that a few months from now, I'm going to be a civil servant. With a clipboard and a shirt and tie.