Common Instructor Errors


Boy buckling his seatbelt

    In the last two editions of The Accelerator, we’ve discussed how what we say – and how we say it – is important to effective teaching and learning. This is the final installment in the series.

            Polish and professionalism help our employers, customers, and students to hold us in a higher regard than they might otherwise. Anything we can reasonably do to cause others to view us in the best possible light serves us well.

            Word clutter is a common component of casual conversation. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with using more words than necessary, our messages might be clearest to our students when we clean out the clutter. Whether we’re teaching in the classroom or in-car, each word we utter requires energy. It might be we’re less tired at the end of our instructional sessions when we use fewer words and phrases.

            Here are some examples of spoken clutter:

  • “…for me.” Some instructors tend to issue commands to students and tag on those two words: “Put the car in Park for me.” “Bring your speed up for me.” “Do a head check for me.” Not only is “…for me.” not necessary, it’s not as if we’re teaching our students to please us. Our mission is to assist learners with driving legally, and with the least risk possible, for them, primarily.
  • “You know what, …” This phrase is a spoken wind-up, of sorts, similar to how a baseball or softball pitcher winds up before sending a ball toward a batter.
  • “…OK?” Somewhat similar to “…for me.”, “OK?” tends to be tacked onto the ends of some instructors’ commands and directions: “Be sure your phone is powered down and put away, OK? “Set the parking brake before shifting to Park, OK?” What if it’s not OK? The point is, student approval is not required.
  • Some people sprinkle their speech with “actually” and “basically”. In most all contexts, those words are needless clutter.
  • You wouldn’t dare to say “literally”, would you?

In the April edition of The Accelerator, we established that collisions result when

two or more road users attempt to occupy the same space at the same time. But, do we know what collision means?

            Here’s a hint: All collisions are crashes, but not all crashes are collisions. Consider the first two letters of collision: co-, and think of other words whose first letters are co: cooperate, cohabitate, collusion, and others.

            A collision involves two or more moving objects striking one another. A collision is one crash type. But a vehicle hitting a tree is a crash, not a collision, since the tree is a stationary object. And although collisions and other crashes are not intentional acts, they are not “accidents.” They are crashes, incidents, wrecks, and – when fitting – collisions.


Student and instructor going over checklist standing by a car 

            Words can be clutter, and they can also be confusing. Here are more examples of how we instructors might know what we mean, but our students might not know what we mean:

  • “Bumper” – have you ever referred to a car’s bumper when working with students learning to park? By today’s automotive standards, “bumper” might be an archaic term. Many decades ago, bumpers were distinct, mostly metal components attached to the front and rear ends of vehicles. No longer are “bumpers” distinct, easily-identifiable car components. It might be more effective for instructors to say, “Where the car’s front tag is (would be)”; “The extreme end of the rear of the vehicle.”
  • Similarly, “fender.” True, the more modern term is “quarter panel”, but either way, would our youthful learners know what we mean if we were to use either term?
  • Some tradition-bound instructors refer to “corner” and “block(s)” when providing behind-the-wheel students driving directions. For example, “Turn right at the corner.” And “Go up another few blocks and turn right.” As long as students understand accurately, great. But one wonders how many modern-day teens think in terms of corner and block(s).
  • As you approach a controlled intersection, do you coach your students to stop behind the (STOP) line? Very likely you do – many of us do. Consider, however, that to some students, behind means beyond the line. It might be clearer if we were to say “Stop before the line,” rather than “Stop behind the line.” That’s something to think about.
  • “Turn left right here” – huh?!

            Words matter, and words mean things. Our words are our tools. Enjoy this video clip, and use it to plan to be an even more effective communicator than you already are.

Abbott & Costello Go Ahead and Back Up