This industry, like many others, has myths and false stories that exist but in this blog we attempt to give guidance from actual situations encountered, so that the reader knows that the content is not a theoretical opinion based on conjecture, but actual experience. We hope you enjoy the blog and welcome any feedback or questions to BIG TOM Admin on info@BIGTOM.org.uk
By offering a customer a fixed quantity of hours on a driving training programme, it is easy to assume, from any of the parties involved, an expectation that the programme is going to be precisely timed for any individual pupil’s needs. The reality is that driving training is far more nuanced than that, and it is unwise to have such expectations, whether they come from the pupil or an instructor. There are many reasons why pupils learn at different rates, but one that is highly impactful is that of self-belief.
Pupils have varying degrees of confidence, drive, assuredness. Self-esteem comes from the experiences we collect through childhood and beyond. Situations that occurred through our upbringing involving parents, friends, siblings and other family members, can have profound effects on how we view our self. And so it should come as no surprise that when pupils start to learn to drive, we can witness a spectrum of behaviours that demonstrate a person’s self-esteem. One of the challenges is that not all pupils will want to engage in speaking about their inner beliefs. Perhaps their experiences have been deeply traumatic and they have no desire to open up those mental wounds on a driving lesson.
Typical behavioural examples while training would be an unwillingness to go out of first gear, a lack of eye contact, a very quiet pupil, signs of nervousness, excessive chattiness on unrelated subjects, late cancellations of lessons, deep sighs, nervous laughter, lack of attention, expressions of hopelessness and self-doubt and a desire to stay in the same locations for practice. There will undoubtedly be many others, but the above offers a flavour of some of the more common traits.
The effect of this is rather marked. Progress can be significantly slower than the average. The average according to DVSA research is 45 hours with an instructor plus 22 hours of private practice. Pupils with low self-esteem can easily clock up 100+ hours with an instructor, and with this knowledge, you begin to realise how for some pupils, the idea of a set number of training hours with the expectation of a driving test to follow can make no sense at all.
The BIG TOM franchise invests time to clearly explain the above to customers so that they recognise that although we make provisional test bookings, that does not imply that a pupil goes to test regardless of progress made. The advantage of clear communication is that the pupil and driving instructor are working in alignment, making every effort to maximise the learning potential without creating pressure that can in itself, affect learning potential.
If a pupil who suffers from low self-esteem enters into a training programme knowing that the goal of taking a driving test is not a given, then they will be under no illusions or disappointment if it does transpire that they need more hours to practice. Crucially though, as the training programme has been delivered with the best of intentions and with maximum efficiency, however many hours the pupil has received is undeniably crucial and a valuable step towards the end goal. 45 hours of professional driving training for a pupil who ends up needing 90 hours in total, is still an investment of time and effort that leads them halfway to achieving their goal. This is a growth mindset, where specific outcomes are not assumed, and time taken to practice is considered an investment and taking a further step forward towards a goal. If that 45 hours was received via an intensive course over 3 weeks rather than pay as you go driving lessons over 6 months, that equates to a saving in time for a pupil of over 5 months. If you are reading this as a driving instructor, you will undoubtedly have heard from many pupils how they often perceive the timescales of pay as you go driving lessons as ‘holding them back’ – it is a very common complaint to hear from pupils learning to drive.
If a pupil suffers from low self-esteem, pay as you go driving lessons often do little to help matters. A person lacking in confidence would very much like to avoid practice given a choice, the shorter the training session the better. If a driving lesson can be easily cancelled or shortened by any means, all the better. One lesson a week is very much a strategy that will appeal because it lessens the exposure to self-doubt. All of us reading here, will know how much more attractive it is to avoid doing something that takes us out of our comfort zone. And there seems to be no limit as to how we can all convince ourselves that sheltering from the difficulties of self-improvement is the way to go. The problem is, all of this avoidance and postponement does very little to achieve the goal of learning to drive. This is fundamentally why it takes a great deal of courage for a pupil to keep entering into an environment that they know will be extremely challenging. What we do here at BIG TOM is adapt our training programme to ensure everything is done, that can be done, to make the learning environment as comfortable as possible for our customers. This is a fact that can be evidenced in the customer reviews that previous customers have voluntarily written about their experiences learning with us.
In summary, driving instructors who have some experience behind them will know only too well, how disabling low self-esteem is on the progress some pupils will make when training. Whether the pupil outwardly expresses their doubts or internalises their thoughts, the consequence can still be profound. Some people who do not suffer from any self-doubt, can often not comprehend how debilitating this problem is. Lack of belief in our ability, value and worthiness can often have profound effects on our day-to-day living. There are training techniques that can be adopted to help pupils recognise progress, accentuate positive thoughts about their ability and reassure them that their difficulties are by no means unusual. We cover these techniques in our franchise induction training because they can also be beneficial for pupils with special needs, learning difficulties and developmental disabilities.