Learning how each pupil’s mind works is important. They can surprise you very easily.
I’ve had a handful of people who, when asked to turn right at a roundabout, have literally tried (or intended) to turn right – as if it were just a crossroads. In all cases they hadn’t heard the word ’roundabout’ and after questioning (and sometimes following tears) it became clear that they didn’t recognise the big concrete circle in front of them as a roundabout. In one case, this was less than 30 seconds after we’d just gone around it from the opposite direction!
You have to be ready for it. No pupil has ever actually done it: I’ve stopped them as soon as their hands have moved.
But one case I’ll always remember was driving down a country road with a pupil in clear weather and a clear road. We’re driving in a straight line, when suddenly I’m thrown from one side of the car to the other as we swerved sharply all over the place. After we’d righted and were going straight again I asked my pupil:
What did you do that for?
I was trying to avoid that horse poo in the road.
This was the same pupil who had once squealed and curled up in a ball in the driver’s seat while we were doing 50mph on a dual carriageway because a lorry had overtaken us. I simply took the wheel and – not quite following the Official Driving Instructor Teaching Guidelines – said:
Don’t EVER do that again
And she never did. She was the most entertaining pupil I think I’ve ever had.
On a more serious note, some people have real problems to deal with. I was teaching a pupil with dyspraxia and we’d sorted out his initial inability to raise the clutch gently in a real driving situation. When stationary he could find the bite gently, but when moving off his left leg was like a bungee cord: Boiing! Up like a shot.
One time we were driving at 60mph on a straight road. It was nearly 10pm, dark, and there were no other cars around. All of a sudden he just turned the wheel and we were heading towards the kerb. When I pulled us over and talked to him about it, I asked the question:
What made you turn the wheel in that situation?
I honestly don’t know.