Occasionally, DVA receives allegations of inappropriate verbal or physical behaviour on the part of instructors. Usually, instructors are shocked and distressed to be advised of these allegations. Likewise complainants described very unpleasant episodes which they feel are serious enough to report.
We know from speaking with instructors that some of you have signed up learners who have transferred from other instructors, because of behaviour that the learner has been uncomfortable with. Learners who are not comfortable with their instructor's behaviour seem unlikely to confront them, and feel it is easier to make an excuse and cancel future lessons. Therefore the fact that a complaint is not made to an instructor is not an indicator that there is not a problem.
Obviously instructors and learners spend a lot of time together and inevitably friendships develop and personal information is shared. It would seem that some instructors feel that risque jokes, lewd references/conversations and innuendo are acceptable while teaching people how to drive, especially if the learner is judged 'to give as good as they get' or because they perceive the learner to be 'up for it'.
It is very difficult to legislate for this type of behaviour as one person's 'banter' is another person's insult. Instructor should remember that the ADI/learner driver relationship should be run on an extremely professional basis, along the lines of pupil/teacher relationship, and with the same respect for the learner driver that you would expect for yourself or your family members. It is also important to remember that the instructor is the person in charge of the lesson, the atmosphere created within it, and the behaviour that occurs. If you are not happy with the behaviour or conversation of your learner, you should say so or tell them that you cannot continue to instruct them.
It is very difficult to be categorical about what is or is not acceptable, but conversations of a sexual, racist, political or religious nature should be conducted with caution, (if at all) as should references to age, sexuality or disability. Discussions about yours or the learner's personal or romantic life may also be risky even if it appears that the learner has encouraged or does not mind, such a discussion.
It is not the intention to offend instructors who conduct themselves with total professionalism at all times. However, there would seem to be a number of instructors who do not recognize that their normal behaviour may not be considered appropriate by their pupils.
If you feel that this advice is over-stating the problem or that it could not possibly apply to you, please imagine how you would feel if a letter arrived on your doormat, telling you that an investigation had begun into your behaviour; how this could affect you, your life, your relationship with your spouse/partner, your credibility and confidence, and your future as an instructor.
If you have any comments on this particular item or have any advice you would like to share on how instructors can avoid some of the pitfalls of their profession, please email firstname.lastname@example.org