Monday, October 5, 2009

More quick thoughts on refugee driving lessons.

[One in a series on teaching refugees to drive -To see the other posts on teaching refugees to drive, click on the driver education link at the end of this post.]

As mentioned I am studying education now. Although I find the program (largely) dreadfully boring and the work tedious, the truth is that it is making me a better teacher. (The signal to noise to intense challenge ratio is not the same as Cornell.)

But, like I said, it is making me a better teacher.

And, as mentioned, I probably now know more about the ways refugees learn to drive than anyone I know. (Which does not make me an expert, by any means. It just puts me in a position where I've got to look to myself to judge how to proceed as there's no one around to ask.)

And, out of all I mentioned in a previous post, plus two more, just one passed her road test on the first try. Which means the rest failed on their first try. When a person fails their road test in New York they are given a print out from a machine that lists their errors. Of those I've seen, a handful, each and every one included the statement "showed poor judgement."

Which makes sense. And I've mentioned they only rarely study the road book.

Here's my current thought. Driving is not a single skill. It is a set of many, many skills. Many of these skills an American takes for granted. However, if one is to teach a third world refugee to drive, one must learn to divide those skills into their individual components and teach them one by one.

Now many of these folks are impatient to drive. Many have educational deficits. Many come from indigenous cultures where long term planning is largely a foreign concept. Many are insecure and lack confidence in their ability to learn. Many have high anxiety and often need this assuaged a bit before they begin to drive.

My current thought is that the best approach to all these things is to divide the skills one by one. Teach each one. Celebrate each small victory with them and make them feel good, and make yourself feel a sense of satisfaction (this is a time consuming, sometimes draining process), before moving on. Let them know they are part way there and did accomplish something before going on to the next part.

This Tuesday (today technically) I am scheduled to begin teaching my latest student, a student who just failed his road test. We will focus on learning "right of way techniques." Much of this will be done in the library using matchbox cars and such. We'll see how it goes.

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