What it's like to be a driving instructor

Learning to drive gives many people their first taste of freedom and is a skill that stays with them all of the way through life.

And helping students to master the motoring skills they need to get behind the wheel on their own are approved driving instructors like Rachel Armstrong.

She prides herself on being “patient, friendly and approachable” and has been teaching pupils since qualifying in April 2014.

Rachel says she loves her job because it allows her to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them pass their driving test.

“I enjoy seeing people develop their driving skills and achieve their goal. To some people passing their driving test is a life-changing event so it’s particularly rewarding to be a part of that,” says the 39-year-old.

After 10 years working in the stressful world of retail management, Rachel decided she needed a change of direction.

Becoming a driving instructor appealed to her because it would enable her to use her people skills and organise her own diary by being self-employed.

“I’m good with people, I enjoy driving, I wanted to be my own boss and I have always been keen for people to drive safely,” says Rachel, who is currently using a Hyundai i10 Premium SE as her training car.

To become a Government approved driving instructor, she needed to complete the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) qualifying examination, which is in three parts.

The first is theory which consists of a multiple-choice test and a video-based hazard perception test which Rachel studied for at home.

The second part is a practical driving test which follows 10 hours of one-to-one training and the final section is the practical test of instructional ability, which also follows 10 hours of training.

Rachel belongs to an elite group of ADIs who successfully completed their driving instructor training by passing all three parts of the qualification process first time.

She usually covers areas of Tettenhall, Bushbury, Pendeford, Perton, Codsall, Brewood, Featherstone, Essington, Wednesfield, Willenhall, Bilston, Parkfields, Penn, Wombourne and Albrighton and her diary can vary from week to week.

“On a week day, I give lessons in the morning, have a break for lunch and give lessons in the afternoon. I have to be flexible when I work because I have to fit around the availability of my pupils can change from week to week so it’s rare that one week is the same as the next and I quite like this,” says Rachel who firmly believe in making pupils feel at ease so lessons are always conducted in a calm, friendly and relaxed manner.

The Aston University graduate enjoys the flexibility of the role as it enables her to fit her work around other commitments.

“I organise my own diary so if I want time off I can take it without having to ask,” says Rachel, who generally gives two-hour lessons.

She also likes reading the reviews left by students about their experience of learning to drive, which are published proudly on her website.

“I work hard, always striving to get the best out of people, so it’s nice to be recognised and appreciated in my job. It’s important to feel valued,” explains Rachel.

One of the factors she believes sets her apart from others in her field is her very high first time pass rate of 79 per cent. Recent figures show the national pass rate is around 45.5 per cent.

“I believe this is because I’m passionate about my role as a driving instructor. It’s not just a job to me. I don’t just want people to pass their test, I want them to become safe drivers for life.

“I’m very happy as a driving instructor, I would never go back to my career in retail management,” explains Rachel, who operates her driving school under the LDC franchise.

But there are some challenges that come with being your own boss, she says.

“It can be quite frustrating when a lead comes to nothing, when you’ve put a lot of time and effort into dealing with that lost enquiry.

“It can also be frustrating when prospective or current pupils take days to responds to calls, texts and emails as a lack of communication can make it difficult to plan my diary. and I like to be organised.

“However I stay motivated because I understand you win some you lose some, you can’t expect to win them all.

“When I have trouble getting in touch with somebody, the next time I see them I find out the way of communicating with that person and then I make sure they know what I expect of them in terms of communication – ie. that I expect them to get back to me in a timely manner when required. That way we all know where we stand, expectations are clear,” Rachel tells Weekend.

But she says the positives far outweigh the negatives and there is immense job satisfaction in being a driving instructor.

“Sometimes you get to know your pupils very well and understand how much it would mean to them to get a driving licence. It can be very emotional when pupils pass their driving test, not just for them but for me too.

“I feel very proud in these moments because I know I have made a difference. I also had a run of eight consecutive first time passes which I’m very proud of,” adds Rachel.

l For more information see www.lessonswithrachel.co.uk or call 07900 913251

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