Friday, October 23, 2009

Refugee driving lessons --preparation -book recommendation

[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.]

Oh my! It's been a long time since I've added to this blog. Why? I've been busy. Busy with school and other activities. Putting on my writer's hat, I moderated a pair of panels on publishing and the future of magazines at Albacon, the local science fiction book convention. As mentioned, I'm enrolled in a graduate program in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) and this has kept me busy, at times with activities that directly affect refugees. Been doing other things here and there to assist refugees, some through the TESOL program, some on my own. (Although it has nothing to do with refugees, I even took a salsa dancing lesson, something that lay way outside my comfort zone!)

One of these refugee related activities is that I still teach driving, a time consuming and at times frightening activity. Although, as written before teaching refugees to drive is surprisingly difficult, I do think that I may beginning to learn how to do it efficiently and properly (and it only took how many tries?).

Therefore consider this an initial proposal on how to go about it.

Refugees tend to drive badly because they do not have much experience with driving, automobiles or the basics of American rules of the road. They usually do not read their road book before starting to drive. (In a surprising number of instance, they don't bother to get their driver's license before starting to drive but that's another issue that I've written about elsewhere.)

Therefore the key to teaching them driving is that one must fill in this knowledge gap *BEFORE* you get them behind the steering wheel.

To do this you need materials they understand. One good resource for doing this is a book entitled "Studying for A Driver's License," by Dr. Frank C. Kenel and Beverly Vaillancourt, (-1994, The People's Publishing Group, Inc., Saddle Brook N.J. ISBN-1-56256-208-8). It's a wonderful book that teaches how to drive using simple English. Topics that tend to confuse refugee driving students such as right-of-way and choosing lanes are clearly explained and done so in a much better way than I ever could have. Then there are answer the questions worksheet pages where you can check your students progress *BEFORE* putting your life and financial future at risk by letting them drive your car with you in it!

This book is very good and can be read and understood much better than the NYS road book by an immigrant or refugee with limited English. Unfortunately the book is priced outrageously, being $25.00 (US) for a 100 page 8 1/2 by 11" paperback. What were the publishers thinking? Although there is a discount for buying in bulk, if one were an outlaw and willing to live life on the edge, one could easily photocopy the entire thing and save a great deal of money. I found the copy I read at the Schenectady County Public Library and suspect other libraries can find you a copy too, either from their own collection, through special purchase by request or by inter-library loan.

All in all, a wonderful book! I like it. My current driving student likes it too and since he often speaks of hoping to attend college when his English improves, learning to poke through a book and find answers is often a very good experience for him that has helped not just his driving but also his reading, his English and his academic skills.

I recommend it highly and wish I'd discovered it almost a year ago when I first began trying to teach refugees to drive.

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