Thursday, October 16, 2014

Drive Time

 Drive Time
By David

My youngest son is taking driver training and practicing his skills in the family vehicle. Helping him to put the training book rules into practice is a challenge sometimes; it has required me to do some intentional thinking about how I drive. What are my driving habits? What do I do--subconsciously--as I navigate the streets?

I used to play a boardgame called “Car Wars,” (pictured above) a game of cars with mounted guns trying to outmaneuver other, similarly armed, cars. The game provided a template you set next to your piece; decide how sharply you want to turn and the template showed where your vehicle ended up afterward. Obstacles, and other cars, were easy to see (not always easy to avoid.)

Out on the real streets things are not so cut and dry. Analyzing my own driving habits led me to a pair of recurring actions: I check the rearview mirrors almost constantly--for lane orientation and blind spots--and I spin the steering wheel back at the halfway point in a turn to avoid overcorrecting. I shared these habits with my son, I don’t know if it was the last one, but lately his turns have improved.

Often, we clash over the book (information in the driving manual and what he has learned in the class) and the street (experience with other drivers) The rules don’t always interact well with the traffic on the road. For example, he stops 5-6 feet away from an intersection. Now, I think he should be pulling forward closer to the corner for better visibility, but he does not. Was this instructed to prevent new drivers from stopping too short? It can make for some frightening situations when a tree or other obstruction prevents seeing traffic more than half a block away: either he pulls out without a clear picture of what is coming, or he hesitates too long and misses a window into traffic.

Note: Despite my above questions, we are happy with the driving school we chose. We picked this particular one as it only hires police officers to instruct classes. It is important to start them out on the right track. (And to my children’s credit, they have not had any tickets or accidents so far--two of them have been driving for eight years, combined time.)

Thinking about how I drive led to a discussion at home about “metathinking.” Literally, thinking about thinking. How do we analyze what we know or the way we do things in order to teach others? Breaking processes down into their component parts to make them understandable and comprehensive. The math sentence 2+2=4 seems easy until you think of what is involved in getting to that point. You have to know what a number is, that it means quantity (visually, it is much easier to explain this concept; teaching it verbally requires teaching vocabulary as well.). You have to be able to read the sentence, which means you must know that the symbol “2” means “two,” which means a “pair” of things. Likewise, you have to know the symbols for “plus” and “equals” and the meaning of those terms. You need to know your numbers at least up to four. That is a lot of background just to get to something so simple, don’t you think?

Now, what if the person you are teaching learns differently than you do? You have to be able to present it in a way they will understand and process the information to get the most out of your instruction. How do you approach helping someone to understand and learn something you know? Do you think about such details, or am I overthinking it? (Mega-meta-thinking)

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