Well, we are currently in an interesting time with the outbreak of the Coronavirus – or COVID-19 to give it the correct name. I am seeing the panic and hysteria on social media start along with the usual false and dramatic stories.
This current story started a little earlier for me.
Being married to a Chinese wife, we have a lot of family and friends in China and go there regularly. We were hearing first-hand of the problems and I first started hearing some very strange stories and hysteria.
Of course, China is different to the UK in that their government will take steps to stop the mass hysteria and falsities from spreading on social media platforms. Soon, Chinese people were actually unable to talk about it on their WeChat and QQ networks (think Chinese Facebook). If they did, they found their accounts closed. I think the Chinese government realise early on, whilst the virus was and still is serious, the other virus from within the social media and Chinese whispers (excuse the pun) was a greater risk to society. We had friends, currently in China visiting from the UK who fled back home as quickly as possible. Now these friends have taken to self-isolating even though they are of no risk and have not been showing signs of temperatures or coughs nor have they knowingly been near anyone infectious. They are simply being cautious.
So, now the Coronavirus hitting the UK and driving instructor Facebook – and my Talbot owners club forum all seem to be talking about the virus.
I’ve seen a Facebook post where a driving instructor (an ex-examiner) has contacted all her pupils to explain how the car will be kept as sterile as possible, hand wipes will be used and is asking for pupils to do what they can. A very admiral attitude. This instructor has told her pupils that *IF* they feel ill, do not to attend the lesson and there will be no cancellation fee.
And this is where the post gets interesting as many are saying they don’t care what the reason, they will still be charging their pupils.
In another post, an instructor has said how one of his instructor’s pupils contacted him to explain she was a doctor and was currently treating a patient suspected of having the virus and she thought it prudent to cancel the driving lesson. Seems sensible, right?. The school owner agreed with no charge, but his instructor has insisted on payment (which I believe the school owner has paid). This was again met with responses about how others will charge no-matter what the circumstances.
It was at this point that I was moved to write this post.
My thoughts are twofold. If a pupil is told they will be charged for a lesson if they cancel for illness, what are they likely to do? I asked my wife and she said she would go to the lesson anyway and if the instructor caught her illness, it’s their fault.
I tend to agree that pushing the charge is going to force pupils to take lessons they might not actually be fit to take and could spread illness. This surely could spread any illness resulting in lost time to the instructor far in excess to the lesson fee they could have lost. Not to mention the fact that it’s possible (I’m only saying possible) they could spread an illness to their family and friends that could result in some very serious outcomes.
My second observation in this was the fact that some are saying that if you say you won’t charge for illness, pupils will use this as an excuse to cancel. Really? Why would a pupil need an excuse to cancel? My pupils used to love coming to their driving lessons and if they ever did cancel, they did it with genuine regret. And I think we have the answer that I’ve talked about here before. The truth is many pupils turn up for driving lessons almost as if it’s an English or Maths lesson (I know some people actually like maths and English, but I use this as an example). If your pupils are looking forward to their driving lessons, why would they ever need an excuse to cancel?
Our role is to not only teach people, but to do so in a style that the learner enjoys. If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s theories, then look it up. Unless your pupil feels comfortable and feels they are valued, learning will not take place. Gone are the days when teachers beat education into students, and I don’t necessarily mean with a cane.
All too often we see an instructor who’s complaining about more cancellations, or about how a pupil won’t learn as if it’s the pupil’s fault. I honestly believe it stems with the instructor-pupil relationship – and if it’s not right, the problems will be there.
Back to the current virus, then. As a driving school owner I thought about this and I actually don’t have the right to tell any of my instructors what to do. I hope all instructors use common sense and don’t take a stubborn attitude to this. As a school I am not writing to all the pupils, though I can’t speak for all the individual instructors. I hope everyone takes the simple precautions that they should be doing. Not just with this virus, but hand-washing is always good. Anti-bacterial wipes in the car always and I even used to keep those lemon flavoured (well smelling anyway) cleaning wipes. Wipe everything in the car regularly, it’s good practice always, not just in this current climate.
Don’t encourage pupils with illness to attend driving lessons. It’s not fair on them, you or your family.
To me, currently this situation is no worse than many other illnesses that we could catch and pass on in our public role. Every day we meet many illnesses, many quite invisible. Let’s not forget that five people every day die as a result of driving a car. Perhaps people should be bulk buying driving lessons just in case!!
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.