How To Deal With A Poor Student
- How do you correct bad driving behaviour?
- How do you tell the student they can't continue?
Not all student drivers are cut out to drive a large vehicle. I have had students many times that wanted to do the job, and put major effort into trying to learn the art of becoming a good large vehicle operator, but they just didn't have the ability and judgement required to operate large vehicles safely.
You will find some people just can't do the job safely no matter how much training they receive. So how do you handle that as an instructor?
It is one of the most difficult things an instructor has to do. More than likely your student has left another job to take training for this one. Or through the course of training you have become friends, and you are reluctant to break that friendship. You may hear stories that the person is in a bad way financially, or that they have family health problems and need the job very much.
As an instructor you have a job to do. Your company and the general public depend on you to ensure any operators you pass are top quality safe individuals on the road, no matter the type of vehicle they have to drive. Also another important thing you should keep in mind is that if you pass a student and they have a serious accident shortly after training, you may be held accountable under the due dilligence laws of your area. At the very least you will be drawn into the procedures, investigations, court discoveries, and what not.
What Action Can Be Taken For A Troublesome Student
First of all, don't wait too long. If someone has been having difficulty handling the driving operations and have been continually corrected each day, it should be dealt with after a couple weeks or so at most.
Methods For Assisting A Problem Student Driver
- If you are well into your driving program and you look after more than one student out on the road, perhaps it is time for a review of driving habits and progress - for everyone. Talk to each individual privately. Cover achievements, problems and expectations. This prevents singling out the problem person or bringing too much attention to them which could be embarassing or look like a put down. The next section gives some examples of techniques for accomplishing the goal of helping the problem student make the grade.
- Talk to the person individually. Dinner time or other breaks usually present opportunities to be able to talk to the individual in person away from the others. Work the conversation around to the problem driving aspects.
- Look for other opportunities to talk to the student alone, such as when getting ready to walk out to the vehicle, or when coming from the vehicle. If you say "Can you give me a hand with..." the person is usually more than happy to oblige and it gets you apart long enough for some private comments.
Action To Help A Problem Student Driver
As mentioned above, don't wait too long for things to get worse and worse. Begin a corrective procedure as soon as you detect that the situation is getting worse day by day. Here are some things you can say and do in hopes of getting him or her back on track.
- In private conversation, point out some positive things the person has accomplished. Don't be all negative. Mention other aspects of the job and tell the individual you know he/she can do that part well. But point out "I have some concerns, and they are serious". Now is the time to use your daily driving log and point out frequent identical errors are being made, and so far they are getting worse or staying the same.
- Make mention that the goals of the course are safe driving, relating to the students problem areas. Saying you wouldn't want to see them involved in a costly accident or worse, and that they themselves wouldn't want that either, is a real cause for concern and the main purpose for this meeting.
- Point out this can't continue. Then ask the person what can we do to correct these problems. What do you think the solution is? If they come up with some solutions that they will correct the problems, or try to correct them, then you are on the way for this first meeting.
- Set some time limited goals. Depending on the problems at hand, letting them come up with the course of action, and setting a time that is agreeable to both the student and instructor just may be enough to correct the situation. Setting a time limit is very important.
- It is good procedure to keep a written record of the interaction and give the student a copy of their own. Mention the goals and the time restraint agreed upon. If the problems are not corrected by the time agreed, then tell him/her that you will need to meet again and assess the situations more severely, which may mean recommendation of discontinued training.
When The Student Driver Has To Be Let Go
If things are not improving, don't let things continue for an indefinite time. A decision must be made. If you are not making any progress, how do you handle the difficult task of advising someone they are about to lose the opportunity to drive a large vehicle.
Note: When more than one instructor is available as in some companies, it is often suggested the problem student go with a different instructor for a day or so for another instructor's opinion as to whether this person is a good or bad driver. This rarely ever accomplishes anything other than making the first instructor feel better. First of all, the problem driver will know immediately that they have a problem and are being singled out for special treatment. So the day that person goes with the other instructor he/she will more than likely drive perfectly. That is because they themselves watch every move, and are out to prove the first instructor wrong. Old habits likely will return in a few days.
So now it is time for the second private meeting and the student must be told they cannot continue training. Sometimes this will go smooth, sometimes it can be extremely difficult. After all this person is losing their job.
Company policy would be the guiding factor here. Usually an instructor doesn't have the power to let anyone go, but only to recommend to another department or supervisor that training can not continue. This is a better way because more than one person is involved and has to be agreeable with the decision. This would protect against personality conflicts, favouritism and such.
Here is a suggested way of dealing with the problem student that has to discontinue training. Each situation will vary and you would have to adjust to the individual situation. Your company's policy would dictate whether you advise the student first and then arrange a meeting with a supervisor, or if you would pass on the advice that you, another supervisor and the student will be discussing the problems in a meeting.
- At the meeting, the difficulties would be discussed again, with emphasis placed on the fact they have not improved to your satisfaction.
- Point out the safety aspects. Get the person to agree they would not want to be involved in a serious situation, injure someone or worse.
- Agree that the person has put in a good effort, but that some people are just not cut out to drive a large vehicle under difficult conditions, no matter how hard they try.
- Let the person know they are not the first to have this difficulty, and there is no shame on their character because they did not make the course.
- If they disagree, it may be worthwhile to say they probably could do it if enough time was spent correcting problems. But the course has time restraints to be cost effective and you have exceeded the average as much as can be allowed.
- Unfortunately you must recommend training be discontinued.
This is the toughest part of a Driver Trainer's job. From time to time that decision has to be made. It is important to stay calm and professional throughout all meetings and interactions. I have never met an instructor yet, that didn't find this type of action emotionally stressfull.
Related Item: Can Instructors and Students Be Friends