Taught a class this weekend. It was so darn wet I hardly dared pull a camera out. Took a couple of snapshots, but that's about it.
One of the things we talk with students about is the concept of Rider Responsibility. In other words, the idea that we are the ones responsible for ourselves out there. Sure, there's bogies everywhere we turn when we're riding. Nobody is going to cut us any slack. It's up to us to develop the physical skills and mental strategies we need to survive and prosper. Bottom line: We need to take responsibility for ourselves. Excuses don't cut it.
Each time I teach I'm presented with examples of both sides of the equation. Those who take responsibility and those who don't. The problem for me is that we have two clearly defined ways to evaluate the students in our basic classes. There's a written test and a riding test. We set out the parameters. The students meet them or not. Very little room for subjectivity. Sometimes people pass who really aren't ready for the streets, yet. Sometimes people pass who really shouldn't be on a bike at all. As a professional I have to live with that. Although I make sure they know the kind, but honest truth before they leave.
This weekend triggered some musings on my part about responsibility. A lot of things in the world of motorcycling cross over into the rest of life. Actually, is there a life outside of riding? Interesting concept.
***** Arriving unprepared *****
I proctored a written retest before my regular class on Saturday. If a student fails the written test or the riding test they are allowed to try again later. Within certain parameters, at least. So I had a group of five coming in to take the written test again.
Two of the group were young guys under 21. They arrived separately. Both of them said they needed a pen. Neither fumbled in pockets or did anything to make me think they might have had a pen but simply forgotten it. It was clear they expected me to provide one for them. Ok. Let's see here. You come here for the express purpose to take a written test. Yet you don't bring anything to write with. Interesting. I'm paid to be professional about it so I simply handed them a pen from a stash.
I know it's a little thing. What pains me is the idea that they expect somebody else to take responsibility for them. Doesn't our behaviour in life demonstrate what our attitude toward riding will be? Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky. Perhaps I'm just over-sensitive because I care a lot about motorcycle safety. Am I totally out in left field, here?
****** It's never my fault! *****
One of the people who showed up was scheduled for both the written and skills test on Saturday. Which means he failed both the first time. A guy about my age. Old enough to have grown up. He started right out by telling me everything the other instructors did wrong. The bike he was assigned to was a piece of crap. The instructors didn't give him the attention he needed. They didn't do a very good job of coaching. On and on and on........
That's why he was here in Albany. He'd taken the class at another site but didn't want to go back there.
His claim was that he failed the skills test because he put his foot down. I challenged him because nobody fails for that one thing. Turns out that he also popped the clutch and launched out of the corner, completely missing the turn. Right away a comment that Dean W made in response to one of my recent posts came to mind.
I explained to the guy that launching out of the corner meant he would have crashed into oncoming traffic in the real world. Right away he made sure to remind me that it was only a parking lot, not real life. Brace for it. You can feel the punch line coming.
So, let me get this straight. You want me to believe that you would be just fine in the real world of traffic even though you couldn't control a small training bike in the parking lot?
Of course, it wasn't his fault. The bike he was riding was a piece of crap, remember? Right.
To cap this story off, the guy was happy with me because he passed the written test. He told me that he was going to call my boss and give me positive reviews. I found out this morning that he had already called in to complain about the other instructors. Between two calls he spent an hour and a half sounding off. But he liked me! I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear that. I felt so honored. I live for student praise and not the satisfaction of really teaching them something.
I happened to be out on the range when he was starting the skills test. Once again, he started on his long list of complaints and how it wasn't his fault. This time he had a fresh audience in the form of the other students there for the retest. I pulled him aside. It was time for some words of wisdom.
"I'm not conducting the skills retest. I wasn't one of your original instructors. However, I do want to leave you with some words of wisdom. Until you learn to take responsibility for yourself, you shouldn't ever touch a motorcycle."
As of this morning he hadn't called my boss with those words of praise for me. I still have high hopes, though!
For somebody to take something, somebody else has to hand it off. The same applies for responsibility. Both in motorcycling and life in general. Here's a story on the positive side.
I've had the honor of teaching some of the gals in the program's support unit. These girls do such an awesome job of making everything work. They handle student registrations, course files going out and coming back in, completion cards, supplies, student concerns, you name it. Their success ratio is somewhere around 98 or 99 percent. I have the utmost respect for what they do and thank them for it.
Two of the gals were scheduled to take the class this weekend. I was totally humbled by the fact that they signed up for this weekend specifically because I was teaching. Unfortunately, one of the girls came down sick and didn't attend.
Braving it by herself, the other one showed up. She's never ridden before. At the time, her plan wasn't to ride. She wanted to see what the class was like to better relate to the students. This gal also does the scheduling for instructor assignments. I was hoping that things went well. Never good to have somebody who somewhat controls your fate on your bad side, you know?
Having her in class was a lot like having a little sister in class. She's family, so to speak. You want her to succeed. You like her. The temptation was to give her a lot of extra attention. I resisted. It would have been wrong on a couple of levels.
All my students get a lot of attention. That's what I'm there for. I care about them as riders and as people. I like to think they all get what they need from me. Giving my "little sister" extra attention wouldn't have been fair to the other students. It would not have been fair to her, either.
I'm a professional evaluator. I could see that she was capable of things even if she didn't know it, yet. It's kind of like teaching a kid to ride a bicycle. I can remember running alongside my kids holding the bike up. After a while I let go but kept running beside them. Pretty soon they'd realize that they were actually riding by themselves. That newly found confidence was the platform they built upon.
The same thing happens with riding students. They need confidence. They will only get that by having personal success. I start them out. ( I'm speaking for all my fellow instructors, whether in Oregon or not ) Little by little I let go. The students realize that they're capable of doing this on their own. Now I simply guide them, rather than hold their hands, so to speak.
That's the handoff.
"Little sister" did just fine. Now I hear she might actually want to get a bike of her own. Cool.
Fascinating how much riding and and life otherwise are intertwined, isn't it?
Miles and smiles,