Check out these frequently asked questions
Invoking the spirit of our very own ‘Agony Aunt’in the form of the lovely and well-versed Lou Walsh, we hope to provide solutions to your professional queries and answers to your industry questions
I’m trying to embrace the whole giving pupils responsibility thing! What do you give your pupils responsibility for first?
Answer: Nice question! I guess the answer depends on how deep you want to go with this. We could look at it in terms of giving them responsibility for remembering the time and day of Lesson 1, bringing their licence, their glasses and their money along too! Thinking about it, I would say I also give them responsibility from day one for being self-aware enough to know they are safe, legal and fit to drive and to learn. That goes hand in hand with being responsible for telling me if they need something explained in a different way, if they don’t understand anything, and if they need more or less support from me. I think giving responsibility for learning is often neglected, but so important to encourage, especially in these days of client-centred coaching. In terms of actual on-the-road skills, general car control is often the first thing I’m handing over to them. After that, responsibilities tend to occur according to the skills they pick up, what they show
an understanding of and an ability to take them on without being overloaded and/or pushed beyond their abilities. Too much too soon and they could just be merely surviving rather than learning. With this in mind, it could be that responsibility for anything such as the MSPSL routine could be given in any order. Another good start to their responsibilities is saying ‘thank you’ to fellow road users! A bit of common courtesy is a good thing…and as they are the driver, they should say the thank you (backed up with a little wave or smile from you
I have a pupil who is brilliant! She loves to learn, reflects, absorbs and is totally committed to developing and improving on every lesson. The problem is she can’t afford many lessons. She saves up and does just one a month. Should I offer her some of my time for free? I know her life would be massively enhanced if she could drive.
Answer: Many instructors experience similar situations. It’s up to each of us to make up our own mind and if you can find a way that it works for you, then why shouldn’t you find ways of helping where you can? It could be that you come to an arrangement to add some time on to the monthly lessons as a gesture, or perhaps suggest two slightly shorter lessons every two weeks instead to cut down on the length of time between lessons. Giving free lessons is your privilege. Perhaps she’d be open to paying for her lessons over a long-term period, a financial arrangement that continues after she’s passed maybe? Or perhaps you’d be happy to be paid in cake! A fantastic alternative that’s worth investigating is the Marmalade Foundation’s ‘Helping Deserving Drivers Scheme’. You can apply on her behalf and, if successful, her lessons will be funded. To see if she’s eligible and to nominate her, go to: marmaladenetwork.co.uk/foundation.
Making the Right Choice
I’m about to buy a car with large, non-adjustable driver and front passenger head restraints. Will that cause me a visibility issue? Should I rethink my purchase?
Answer: When testing potential training vehicles, I would strongly suggest that as well as driving it for yourself, you test drive it from the instructor seat. Take a rear-view mirror with you, check your own visibility, notable instructor blind spots, comfort, seat position, visibility of speedo and the dashboard in general. Is there adequate storage for your pens, visual aids and other teaching tools you have? Don’t forget cup holders! Nothing more frustrating than not having somewhere to put your coffee! There are often easy solutions if you discover a disadvantage, such as a subtle repositioning of your middle mirror, putting it more toward the centre of the windscreen, may help.
Go and test drive it again, take your mirror and see if there is a simple solution in practice.
I failed my Part 3 today. I’m currently giving free lessons and my car is liveried up. I have a pupil who is almost test ready. Should I remove all my sign writing?
Answer: I think your disappointing Part 3 result doesn’t really need to be a factor. When giving free lessons and not being under the conditions of a ‘pink licence’, you’re not restricted how you advertise and can ‘work’ independently, so you’re perfectly entitled to have whatever you want all over your car, regardless of your Part 3 fail. You may get a few raised eyebrows from other instructors, as well as provoke a bit of gossip or suspicion as you’re in a sign marked car with no obvious badge displayed, but you’re not doing anything illegal. If you’re concerned about giving the wrong impression, you can remove them of course, but don’t feel guilty.
Booking In Late
I’ve had my Standards Check invitation. It says I need to book a date for within 3 months. I’ve gone online, but the only available dates are past this stated deadline. What should I do?
Answer: That’s often the case. The DVSA understand that demand outweighs the supply. More dates may appear as appointments are released, or previously booked tests get cancelled or moved. However, rather than waiting, book what is available at a time and on a day that suits you and it will be fine, even if after the 3 months.
Can you recommend a good car vacuum cleaner?
Answer: Personally, on the rare occasion I hoover my own car out, I wheel my trusty Henry down the drive. However, I admit the guys at the car wash always do a better job than me. So, although I can’t personally recommend a brand or model of vacuum, others tell me they are very happy with their G-Tech or cordless Shark models of cleaner. Check out the reviews, but be aware of cheap imitations. From experience I can say that basic, cheap, spontaneous purchases over the years have never yielded good results.
For more from Lou Walsh, check out Driving Instructor TV