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Coaching the student

On our evaluation forms you will see references to coaching styles and techniques. This article is to clarify what is meant by the term, coaching.

Our job as educators is to communicate to our students what we wish them to do. If we communicate effectively, they can complete the task in minimum effort and time. Without quality coaching a new driver is forced to learn by trial and error, the way we learn most skills. In driving, trial and error could be dangerous, if not at least anxiety producing. Sometimes inexperienced or under trained teachers will tend to use too many words or concepts in explaining what they want accomplished. Our job is to be able to break the information down into bite size pieces that can be easily processed and understood by our students. For an example we will compare the coaching of a parent telling his new teen driver what to do and then the professional educator communicating the same topic but in a more clear and concise manner.

Dad “There is a red light up there!” ..... “I said the light is red up there!”
Son “I see it!”
Dad “Well then don’t you think you should start slowing down?” said with a tone of judgment.
Son “ I am!”
Dad “Significantly son!” (sarcastically)
Son “ I’m significantly slowing down” (more sarcastically)

Now the clear coaching of a professional:

Teacher “What color is the next light?” (asking for feedback and directing the student’s attention)
Student “Red.”
Teacher “Foot off the gas, move to the brake, begin applying firm and steady pressure now.” (No judgmental tones here, and taking direct control of the students foot.)
Student “Ok.”
Teacher “A little more pressure..... a little more, try to keep enough space so you will be able to see the red car’s tires on the ground. (at this time, once you are stopped, you might want to tell them the 3 reasons why we keep that space; I will sometimes say, “There are 3 reasons to do this, I will give you one reason now and the other two will follow later.”) Reason #1 it gives you an escape route if the car behind is not stopping.

That was excellent, you are now stopping better than 70% of the drivers around us. Now would you like to learn how to make perfect stops?”

With clear coaching a new driver can feel successful and looks forward to learning new skills. Driving becomes joyful and not full of angst. Now here is an example of late coaching where the teacher is not leading the student properly:

Teacher: You are braking too late, you should have stopped further back, you are too close to the car in front. (You have done it wrong once again)
Student: “Whoops, sorry!”

So even if the teacher is not using judgmental or irritated tones in his voice, the student being coached after the fact is always being told he is wrong again. This takes the joy out of learning. This makes the student look forward to when the lesson will be over.

If we are doing our task with great skill, we should experience both joy and satisfaction in a job well done. If we find we are feeling robotic, or looking forward for the lesson to be over with, this is a sign that we are just going through the motions, which is the first stage of burnout. I find myself repeating the same words and phrases over and over, but that is not boring, it’s part of the job of coaching. Our job is to lead our students....we always have to be several jumps ahead of them. The better we master this skill of coaching the easier and safer our jobs will be as Driver Trainers.

What makes leading the student easier is having good seeing habits ourselves. Remember good eye-lead time is scanning, seeing, and interpreting 10 to 20 seconds ahead of our vehicles. The average driver is only scanning 3 to 4 seconds ahead and a new driver will probably only be scanning 1 to 2 seconds ahead, unless of course you direct their eyes with good coaching. On the first lesson we begin with seeing habit coaching by asking the student what color is the next light. “How about the light after that, what color is it? Can you see the brake lights ahead in lane 1?” So we can effectively lead the student’s focus by asking the right questions, and we want to do it as soon as possible so as not to create more anxiety...this is where your good seeing habits will be most helpful.

If we are doing our job well, the student will be looking forward to the next session, instead of looking for the session to be finished.

Good Coaching

  • Is done early rather than late.
  • Is devoid of sarcasm or irritation.
  • Uses the least amount of words possible.
  • Sometimes asks for feedback.


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Ken and Sunshine Driving School were the best things that could have happened to me during learning to drive experience. After a horrible set of lessons from another local driving school, after which I vowed I would never drive again, Ken reestablished my confidence in my driving abilities. His calm demeanor assured me that I was always safe, and his encouragement (and occasional humor) helped me learn in a positive and constructive way. Folks, Ken is undoubtedly one of the best driving teachers out there. His experience shows in every lesson and interaction. It was a pleasure and honor to learn how to drive from Ken, especially after encountering the worst. Heck, I even passed my test first try!

I hope that this suffices! I could probably write you an in-depth 5 page paper if you really wanted it. I'm thinking a catchy title would be: KEN CORNELIUS, PRAISE BE UNTO HIM! :) hahaha.

I hope that you and all of your family is doing well. I recommend you to EVERYONE! Truly!

Best wishes always,
Olivia, Thacher Student

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