Wednesday, 26 February 2014

a minor milestone mastered

It's been a while since I got out onto a golf course. I think the last time I played might have been as far back as November, but I've had a rare day off today, and went to play a round with my Dad and his mate, Don at Arrowe Park municipal course.

The ground was pretty sodden, and all the proper greens were off limits. Every hole had a temporary green in front of the real one. The holes were twice the size of ordinary golf holes.

So each hole played shorter than the listed yardage, and putting was easier, although the temporary greens were much lumpier than what you'd normally get. Also, when I play with my Dad, we're fairly laissez-faire about the odd errant shot. So on a couple of occasions, I'd just rehit a badly struck tee shot, and we'd turn a blind eye.

My goal has been to get around an 18 hole course in less than 100 strokes, and I've never got that close. A typical round might be perhaps 120. My best round was 107 if I remember rightly.

Today I went round in 97.

When we got there, a big group of women had just started at the first tee, so we cut through to the 8th tee and played from there to 18, then did 1-7. I never had a disastrous hole. My worst score was 8, and that was on a par 5 hole.

I really felt I was starting to get it.

Yes, it was in exceptionally easy circumstances, and yes, it's entirely possible that next time out, I will be unable to hit two consecutive balls straight, but I thought it worth noting here that I'd finally managed to achieve something I'd set out to do.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014


...and having said it was an important thing to remember, I promptly forgot it.

I have a responsibility to my clients. They give me money, and in exchange, I do my level best to give them the skills they need to a) pass their driving test, and b) be confident and competent drivers.

If I try something, and it doesn't work, then it's up to me to try to find a way that does work for them. If they don't pass, then I have to take at least some responsibility.

And so with training a trainee. Same deal, although the stakes are rather higher.

Today, I introduced Beth to the PST's. The PreSet Tests that form the basis of the part three (teaching) exam that's the final hurdle that has to be cleared to get your green badge. I asked her to try to talk me through a PST on turning left and right.

Here response was hesitant, and not at all what I'd expected.

"I don't think I can do this". She said, on the verge of throwing in the towel, and on the edge of tears.

This is both my fault and my responsibility. I'd thrown her in at the deep end, without the tools she needed to make even a tentative foray into what she needed to do. I changed tack. Putting the PST's to one side, we did some practical, structured talkthroughs after discussing the structure that needed to be put in place.

Build from there. Learn from today. Just as I wouldn't ask a novice driver to drive through a busy city centre, I need to puppywalk Beth through the basics for now.

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Words... don't come easy...

Think of something you can do really well... Like making a sandwich.

Now, imagine talking someone through the process, step by step, of making a sandwich. The person you're talking through the process has never made a sandwich before, and they're wearing a blindfold.

Now, did you remember to get them to hold the handle end of the knife? that the serrated edge goes downwards? When you told them to cut a slice of bread, did you get them to take it out of its wrapper first?

Ditto the cucumber...

Today I did my first instructor training session with Beth. We went out for a drive, then swapped around and I got her to talk me through moving away from the side of the road. Much hilarity ensued as she tried to break down what appears to be the simplest of driving tasks, and put them to me in a logical sequence.

It was a reminder of where I came from. For me, the words flow out effortlessly, but that fluency didn't just happen. It took many hours of intensive effort to get to that point. That I think is a useful thing to remember.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

...and I open the door

I will be doing some kind of assessment drive with the person I wrote about in my previous post, next Wednesday. How exactly it will go, I have no idea, but I plan to get her spending a fairly short time actually driving, and spend quite a lot of time getting her to try to talk me through some very basic stuff, as if I was a new driver.

Suddenly, after leaving all this stuff behind ten years ago, my head is full of instructor training.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

opportunity knocks...

For a while now, I've been toying with the idea of franchising. This means using the power I have to get work to provide other instructors with work, in exchange for money.

Trouble is, it's hard to say what you're going to get. Most instructors came off the "Instructor College" conveyor belt, and they never got the standard of training I got.

Today, I met an old friend. She's a friendly, intelligent, laid back person, and I reckon she'd make a good instructor. There's always been a good chemistry between us too.

She recently lost her job. She worked as a delivery driver for a florist, so she's at a bit of a loose end.

We talked about me training her to become an instructor this morning, and she seemed interested.

It's a step into the unknown for both of us, but with a bit of research, I reckon I could get her through the tests she needs to pass. She would then be free to do whatever she wanted to do, but ideally, she'd then work under my name. That would get her off to a good start, and allow me to offer driving tuition with male and female instructors, over a wider area (she lives near Bromborough, and is well placed to cover parts of the Wirral I don't want to cover)

Watch this space...

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Monday, 3 February 2014

tax year 2012-13

I earned about £9500. I paid £450 income tax. No skives or evasions. That's just the way it was.

You could see that something was starting to happen though. My income was almost exactly double in the 28 days of February 2013 than it had been in the 31 days of October 2012. If the upturn had happened 6 months earlier, we might not have lost the house.

The graph below shows income from May 2012 to March 2013. The blue at the top is May 2012, and the graph reads clockwise from there. It does not show outgoings, and is therefore not a graph of profit. I left out April of both years because they are truncated, as the tax cutoff falls on the 6th rather than the 1st.

As you can see, the last two months make up over a quarter of the 11 months shown.

I'm currently working around 43-45 hours a week, not including time spent between jobs. I'm out of the house for 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. The vast majority of my actual paid work is at the full rate. I no longer have to give it away on the cheap through things like groupon and what have you.

One of my pupils works for a firm of accountants. She does a lot of driving instructors accounts, and she reckons a whole load of them are earning a lot less than £9500. I can believe that. That was one of my best ever years. The coming tax year (which ends in April this year) might well see my income double. Well almost anyway. All doing a job where I'm my own boss, doing it on my own terms. I do the first 2 hours for £10, then it's full price all the way. The vast majority of those that take the introductory offer go on to take a full course with me.

I'm not being boastful. I'm counting my blessings. The reason the upturn occurred is because of the work of someone else. The reason I met that someone else is because I made a good impression on his fiancee.

I play backgammon. It's a game that involves both skill and luck. The best players (amongst whom I will never feature) know the principles and statistical favourites for any given position. They play to maximise their luck, while doing what they can to limit the options of their opponent.

It feels like this is going on here. Sort of. I'm not directly trying to put the competition at a disadvantage, although if I'm getting a bigger share of a finite pot of clients, it surely follows that some other poor instructor somewhere is now struggling to put food on the table. But I've taken my remit, and stretched it into all sorts of unlikely areas, such as comedy, psychology, philosophy, and information technology. I'm hoping in the future to include phlebotomy, chiurgy, sociology and apathy.

My understanding of teaching is that it is in part at least to provide a space in which the pupil can work stuff out for themselves. Sometimes I tell them what to do. More often, I ask leading questions that force them to follow a logical path. Both approaches have their place.

This being TheWholeDamnWorld, I couldn't go through a whole post like this without referring to Google Earth.

Since moving to the caravan, we get our broadband from BT. That means I can use their network of hotspots. This is bloody useful. I can get the laptop out, and if we're somewhere near a hotspot, we can get onto the internet. From there, we can take a look at some situation or other, that my pupil has struggled with, while stationary, and under no pressure. The streetview part of things is particularly useful in this respect.

Point is though, I've ended up with a whole slew of advantages, and when the dice rolls went my way, I was in a position to capitalise.

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