A Driving Instructor Does not try to Make you a Better Person, but to Have Better Habits.
But they do teach you to follow rules, to look out for the disadvantaged (cyclists and pedestrians) to give way, to plan ahead, to thank others for letting you through, to return this favour. In other words, there is no pastoral curriculum, no tutor time, there are no assemblies. Instead you become a better person, as your driving self, because your driving instructor makes it a habit during your lesson.
Your habits make you who you are.
- I always indicate even if there is no car behind me. In this way I will never forget at a time when I really need to indicate.
I always scan the road up to half a mile ahead, (near, middle, far Dominic!) so I have never been caught speeding. I see cameras well ahead of time.
- My driving instructor taught me to change gear before corners and hills, to take the outside line at the beginning of the bend, to watch the trim of the wheels of oncoming cars, to block change the gears.
- I still drive with my hands at 10 and 2, especially if I’m driving faster than the speed limit.
- I drive over 30,000 miles a year, and I’ve never hit anything.
- (There are obviously lots of bad habits which I have taught myself too).
My point is, we all develop habits which make us who we are, and we can choose to develop the habits of our students. If they are habits we value, then they will learn better, and become better people at the same time.
Are Your Rules Yet a Habit?
Schools and classrooms, in contrast, are full of rules which never become habits.
Here are some which will make students better learners and might make them better people. It depends what you value, after all.
1. Only use joined up handwriting.
2. Make notes during my teacher talk.
3. Only what you need for learning appears on the desk.
4. Even if you check the time on your phone, I will confiscate any phone I see.
5. I won’t speak while someone else is speaking, and neither will you.
6. I will publish the results of your tests and quizzes within my lesson.
7. I will select students at random to type at the board and to read out loud. This will happen to you in every lesson. If you say no, you will do it with me at lunch time.
8. If you miss a homework, you will have a detention.
9. Your homework is online, so even if you are away, you can still do it, unless you give me a note from your parent.
10. On the rare occasions I ask you to copy from the board, I mean every word. I want you to memorise at least 5 words at a time, so you keep up and don’t lose your place.
11. When I ask you to write silently, that means without talking. I will only answer a question you write down, neatly, on the next line of your book, so we both have a record of my teaching. I will answer it in green pen.
12. When I teach you from examples, make notes in green. Improve your own example in green so I can see how you were trying to learn from my feedback.
13. If you are standing or sitting next to litter, pick it and give it to me or put it in the bin.
14. I won’t answer any question or respond to a comment which is called out. Put your hand and up and I will answer you or tell you to move on till I get to you.
15. If you have finished and got the answers right you won’t get extension work, but I will ask you to teach someone else, without giving them the answer.
These values will make my students better learners and, I think, better citizens, even though they have nothing to do with my subject.
I would even go so far as to suppose these habits will be far more effective than everything they learn in tutor time, and even from the best planned assemblies (because assemblies are ephemeral, and their learning never becomes a habit).
Our students’ habits are their values. We can’t influence their values if we don’t change their habits.