Monday, 16 November 2015


Let's just imagine that instead of teaching people how to drive (and teaching people how to teach people how to drive) I teach people how to dance.

One day, I get an email from someone who desperately wants to learn how to dance.
He's desperate. He wants it so so badly. He's prepared to pay good money. He's been turned down by 29 different dancing teachers, but he's heard that I'm a total hotshot when it comes to getting people dancing.

I agree to give him a lesson and find that  he has only got one leg, and a withered one at that.

Well, ok. Maybe we can somehow incorporate his crutch into his moves? If he's keen enough, why should only having one leg be an obstacle?

Over the next few lessons, it becomes apparent that he's also as deaf as a post, and can't hear the music, and is unable to learn the moves unless I write them down and point to them at the appropriate time with a pointy stick.

Ah. I can see I have my work cut out for me here, but hey! Wouldn't it be a coup? If I could get this guy dancing, wouldn't that make me just awesome?

So we carry on with the lessons, and find that he has problems with his vestibular system that mean he has severe problems with balance, and would probably keep falling over even if he had two fully formed legs.

But my one legged deaf dancer has staked a lot on this, and has spent quite a lot of money already. He's also decided that he wants to make a living as a dancer, and has quit his day job in anticipation. He has every faith in me. He shows me pictures of his wife and children. They look up at me with beseeching eyes. The kind of dancing he wants to do involves swinging buckets of sulphuric acid around, and if he gets things wrong, he might just kill or injure himself or his dancing partner, or a member of the audience.

There is of course, an ethical question here. The best dance teacher in the universe is not going to turn this person into a professional dancer, even if the wannabe dancer spends all of his life savings and ten years of his life on the project.

So is my job to do try to help him achieve his dreams to the best of my ability? Or should I tell him that I doubt anyone can help him, and refuse to take the gig? And at what point does the former become the latter? The warning signs were there, even before I'd met him for the first time. Why had he been turned away by all those others?


My first trainee instructor has until January 2nd to pass his teaching test. He gets three attempts to do so, and the third and final attempt must be booked before then, although if the date of the third attempt is later than that, the DSA will honour it as long as it was booked and paid for before the cutoff date. His first attempt is this coming Wednesday. Today he did a mock test. I did my best to put myself in the role of an examiner, who is himself in the role of a learner, and we did a full blown mock test.

The teaching test is in two parts. For the first part, the examiner will play the role of someone who hasn't done a particular thing before. After half an hour, that part of the test ends, and the examiner becomes someone who has done a particular thing before, but who may not be able to do it particularly well. Each part of the test is graded, and the overall result is two numbers. X/Y

Here are the criteria: To become a fully qualified instructor, at least a 4/4 has to be obtained.

Grade 6 - A very high standard with no significant instructional weaknesses
Grade 5 - A good overall performance with some minor weaknesses in instructional technique
Grade 4 - Competent performance with some minor deficiencies in instructional technique
Grade 3 - Inadequate overall performance with some deficiencies in instructional technique
Grade 2 - A poor overall performance with numerous deficiencies in instructional technique
Grade 1 - Overall standard of instruction extremely poor or dangerous

I gave my trainee a 2/2 but that was being generous. He needed to go through it in some detail with the person who'd never done it before, but had no words and gave up, instead electing to try to do it all on the fly. The pupil was being told to check his mirrors, without knowing what mirrors to check, to sort out his position, without knowing what that position should be, to slow down without any idea of what speed was required, and to change gear without knowing what gear to go into. The scope for mayhem was vast, and mayhem duly ensued. This is something that has happened before, when we've been training. He gave up on the briefing, and I drove on the edge of recklessness. I bollocked him for it too. To no avail. He's not going to miraculously acquire the extra leg or functioning set of ears that he needs, and no amount of training from me or anyone else is going to make any difference.

He's already stated that if he does fail, he intends to start the process again, but when (not if) that happens, I will have to tell him that I can take him no further.

I'm really not looking forward to it.


And now his car has broken down. To get a replacement, he's signed up as a franchisee with a driving school. Because of the way he is, he's vulnerable to people for whom the bottom line is all that matters. It would have been simpler and cheaper to contact a specialist car hire company and get a temporary vehicle for until his own car was mended. I don't know the precise details of what he's arranged, but he still intends to do his training with me.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?


Pete said...

Has this chap passed part 1 (theory) and part 2 (driving)?

How old is he?

What is his source of income if he has given up his job?

Are you aware of any underlying issues that make him so insistent on becoming an instructor? Perhaps it was the dying wish of a best friend or something along those lines.

I don't feel there is an ethical standpoint with regards to continuing to teach him or stopping teaching him. However there is a duty for you to be realistic with him about his chances.

You have already stated that you were brutally honest with him about his ability and that you have decided not to continue with him. So, these actions and decisions of yours do not breach any ethical code. All that remains is the difficult conversation when he inevitably fails the part 3 test and you tell him that you are parting ways. As a softener, you might suggest to him a plethora of other driving jobs that he could apply for e.g. bus driver, HGV driver, delivery driver, train driver.

Paul said...

He passed his part one in januiary 2014. From there, he has two years to get through the other two tests. He passed his part two a few months later, and was training with another instructor until christmas last year.

That trainer dropped him after he'd phoned up with a question. on christmas day. This, my trainee thought, was entirely unreasonable.

He has several children. One is severely autistic. One has been diagnosed as possibly on the autistic spectrum. He is indignant about this. He sees such a diagnosis as a stigma.

Put the last two sentences together, and it points strongly towards him being autistic himself, but without ever being diagnosed as such. The hereditary nature of the condition, The attention to and focus on details, without understanding the bigger picture, the lack of social function. It fits.

I wasn't brutally honest with him. I pulled my punches, and I have not yet told him that I will not train him again if he fails this time round.

In about an half an hour, I will be making my way to the test centre, because he's asked me to attend the debrief. I suspect the exminer will be diplomatically scathing. I also suspect they will want to have a quiet word in private with me too.