You know somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a note on the windscreen. It said ‘Parking Fine.’

                                                                       Tommy Cooper

The agony and ecstasy of being a driving instructor

 Recently talking with my husband – a former driving instructor, we conversed about the agony and ecstasy of becoming this. What were the pitfalls, joys and the unexpected experiences he had with some of his pupils, because surprisingly for some – there is both agony and ecstasy in doing this kind of job.

 As I listened, I began to understand a little more about the challenges that come within the role.

 “There are some fantastic moments,” He said to me.

“Like teaching a Pupil to drive, from the point of no experience and never having sat behind a wheel of a car. To go from that first lesson, when they don’t have a clue – watch their learning unfold, until the point of being test ready and then watching them walk back to me with a Pass Certificate in their hand and a big smile on their face, is really rewarding.”

He always remembers one particular pupil – who week after week made the same mistakes during the lesson – halfway through one lesson in particular, suddenly the pupil started driving completely differently, instead of doing it wrong she began to do everything right – he was dumbfounded. “What’s happened?” He asked her.

“It’s all just fallen into place.” Was her response. He has never ceased to be amazed by this experience and the change which took place instantly.

I sat listening intently, thinking back to my driving lessons when I was in my early twenties – how I felt I had a champion in my driving instructor Bev – when on one occasion, when another road user deemed it just, to abuse me at the traffic lights. On stopping the car – she climbed out of her seat, all six foot of her and made her way over to the vehicle.

” Why do you think it’s ok to talk to a learner like that.”  She stood and stared at the car driver sternly. Although her method may have been a tad unorthodox – in that moment my trust grew in her as did my confidence. To this day I have never forgot the fact that she stood up for me, very early on in my driving lessons. For some reason that allowed me to have more faith in myself and the practical application of learning to drive, as I had developed my faith in her ability to do what was necessary in supporting me in learning to drive during my lessons..

The challenges (more so when you are in the early stages of your career) come when you have those moments with a pupil and they are learning something a little more challenging, than they have before and burst into tears – somehow the stresses of everyday life can find a way to seep round the edges of a driving lesson and there are moments when my husband would come home and share with me – not the details but the fact there had been tears and talking and not all of it had been to do with the actual lesson. Those times can be a little more difficult when, in your head, all your role entails is teaching a pupil the practical application of driving.

I would say there is so much more – one pupil my husband taught didn’t pass until her seventh test, her driving skills and ability grew and developed during her lessons but when it came to the test – her nerves broke through and it turned out that this was one of things they worked together on, to enable her to overcome her nerves ability to sabotage her on a test.

The one thing my husband said really frustrated him, was people learning to drive, not passing the test and then deciding to give up, rather than go through it again. Although we all make our own decisions and choices and he stands by those choices pupils make – the frustration comes from knowing exactly how much it has cost the learner pupil to get to this point-not just in money but sometimes in emotional turmoil, other times with stress sitting on their shoulders. That is when he found it hard – knowing how much work they had done to get this far – only to fall at the last hurdle, not get up, dust themselves down and give it another go.

If you do fail – that test result will tell you all you need to know. Some of the time it is down the same mistakes made during the lessons – so the learning is not yet done and at other times the nerves can just become too much and silly mistakes are made, which you normally wouldn’t do.

Your Driving Instructor doesn’t want you to give up – he/she wants you to pass your test!

For my husband he understood the freedom that comes from sitting behind the wheel of your own car. How you then decide to move or stay – go from one place to another and even learn about responsibility, because you need to maintain, insure and tax your vehicle.

There is so much more that goes into being a car owner than just having a hunk of metal to drive around everyday. For some, it has so much more meaning.

So the next time you sit behind the wheel of the learner vehicle – say good morning or good night to the Driving Instructor, taking their time to explain and go over the skills, understanding and abilities needed to enable you to be test ready. Think of them and although your lesson is quite rightly about you, your instructor will see many ‘you’s’ during the day – having personal ups and downs, queries and concerns – questions and nervousness.

Try and offer a thought to the agony and ecstasy involved in being a driving instructor, next time you sit behind the wheel as a learner driver, if you can!

Image source: Dawn Sajn / Flickr