Kia ora te whanau o te kotuku,
The following story is by Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire When I Laid Down on It, 1989, 69-73.
In most American High Schools there is someone who teaches driver training. The driver trainer is something of a non-person. The parents of students never meet the DT; the faculty do not include him in their inner circle, and the students see the DT as a necessary evil. One more adult in their lives.
Nevertheless, I would like to teach driver training for a while. It would be an honor, now that I see it the way Old Mr. Perry sees it. The students call him that, “Old Mr. Perry.” It is not his real name. They also call him “the Driving Master.” The students suggested that I take a ride and see for myself. I did.
Jack Perry was his name. Very average in appearance—not tall or short or fat or thin or old or young or weird. Kind of generic. You wouldn’t notice him on the street or pick him out of a police lineup for ever having done anything remarkable. Former Navy chief petty officer, retired, one wife, four kids all grown, tends his garden for pleasure. Likes cars and kids, so he’s the driver trainer
So, I asked Mr. Perry, You’re the man who teaches DT? Well, that’s my job title, yes. I’d like to know what you really do. The students say you are one of the really fine people around school—a truly maximum dude, to quote one. You really want to know? I really want to know.
Guess this sounds presumptuous, but I think of myself as a shaman—I help young men and women move through a rite of passage—and my job is getting them to think about this time in their lives.
Most of them are almost sixteen. They know a lot more about life and sex and school and alcohol and drugs and money than their parents or teachers give them credit for. And they are physically pretty much what they are going to be.
But we don’t have any cultural rituals to acknowledge they’re growing up. There’s no ceremony, changing of clothes, or roles or public statements that says, this isn’t a kid anymore—this is a young adult. Take notice!
The only thing we do is give them a driver’s license. Having a car means you move out of the backseat (where children sit) into the driver’s seat. You aren’t a passenger anymore. You’re in charge. You can go where you want to go. You have power now. So that’s what we talk about. The power.
But what about actually learning to operate a vehicle? Oh, that comes easily enough—some driving time with suggestions—reading the manual—and they want it all enough to work on their own. But I don’t talk much about that—they have to pass a test, and it usually takes care of itself.
So what do you talk about when you’re out driving? About their new power—opportunity—responsibility. About their dreams and hopes and fears—about “someday and what if.” I listen a lot, mostly. I’m not a parent or a school teacher or a neighbour or a shrink, and they hardly ever see me except when it’s just the two of us out in a car driving around. I’m safe to talk to. They tell me about love and money and plans, and they ask me what it was like when I was their age.
Will you take me for a drive? My driving could be improved. And so we went. And so it was. My driving was improved—along with my sense of place and purpose.
For Jack Perry he will never see his students grow up, few teachers do. But from where he is and with what he has, he serves a vision of how the world ought to be.
From him, the kids learn both to drive a car and drive a life—with care and responsibility. The tutor group or Kotuku ka tohea programme gives every tutor teacher the chance to make the same difference that Old Mr Perry has done. The size of that difference will always depend on the person sitting in the support seat and how they see the importance of their role and the responsibility they take in each mile of the learning journey.
Nga mihi nui
Assessment Calendar: Term 3, Week 3
Monday, 9 August
12 Science AS91190
Wednesday, 11 August
11 Maori AS 91089
13 Biology AS 91602
Friday, 13 August
11 Art Design AS90915
11 Photography AS91312
11 Mathematics Internal AS91029
12 Classical Studies AS91202
13 Photography AS91447
13 Classical Studies AS91398
13 Outdoor Education AS91504