Amy Teaches Track!

Conscious incompetence. That is the phrase bandied about in reference to one of the initial stages a driver goes through on his/her first track day. Everyone experiences it to some degree; you truly believe you are oh so very competent at driving when… Wham! You are shocked on your first day with the reality of how much realignment to your mindset you need to do. You suddenly realize you actually have a long way to go with regards to your driving acumen.

Enter the instructor. The instructor has already experienced everything you have. Slowly, gently (well that is the plan at least) helps you through that shock with the eventual goal of unconscious competence. This means you learn what you realize you don’t know (conscious) until you get to a point where you don’t even realize you are doing it right (unconscious). Are you still with me?

Amy Teaches Track

I began track driving less than two years ago and have been constantly buffeted with the question of “Hey don’t you want to become an instructor?” “No way” was always my knee-jerk response. “I don’t have enough patience!” Conveniently forgetting the fact that some instructors obviously had had enough patience to instruct me. Well, yes I humbly admit that patience isn’t in the top 10 of my virtues; probably closer to the triple digit part of my list… if they even go that far. But somehow someway you guessed it—I am now an instructor.

Looking back on the way it happened one could easily observe that I unconsciously arrived here. The arriving part was a couple of months ago at Monticello. I had a day in mind I wanted to drive, but was informed it was closed to members because NASA was running an instructor clinic. Darn! But the very conscious president, Ari Straus, informed me that he would just add my name to the list of attendees in order to slide me in for some personal track time. I merely had to sit in their classes and then do some role playing with their instructors driving my car, acting like the worst students ever. It seemed a reasonable price to pay. Please add me to the list. I figured worst case scenario I would get a few more chuckles at myself and maybe possibly learn something.

It was a fun day; I bonded with a few of the instructors and made some fabulous new buddies. Hello Carmen Dell Aquilla and Enrique!

So I like to end my day there with a nice cappucino at the bar. I was sitting there, minding my own business as per my usual modus operandi, when Jay Tepper, NASA’s Chief Instructor, came up to me and congratulated me on becoming an instructor. He asked when I wanted to start. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was a shill and merely wanted to play by myself, but I was flattered and thought well if he thinks I can do it then by golly I will do it!

I did mention to Jay that I would step up to the plate under the condition of being assigned someone totally fresh to the track; so fresh they wouldn’t know I was still fresh! He assured me that wasn’t a problem and I proceeded to scramble together as many instructor manuals to read in order to now be able to truly play the part. They all had a common overlapping theme—to be a good instructor you need to listen and talk—basically have a conversation with your student in order to tailor the best instruction. Listen and talk? Well I will be a natural then. When I am not talking I am listening; the talking may overshadow the listening but I can work on that.

Prior to the event I received an email with the name of my student and make of car. I diligently emailed him a few times and asked him all the pertinent questions as well as answering any of his. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask me if it was my first time, but then I recalled my first day in the not so distant past. The fact that my instructor may have never instructed before never came onto my radar; it was the furthest thing from my mind since I was counting on the fact that he knew more than I and that was more than enough. He never asked—see how our worst fears rarely ever happen? Some of us need to remind ourselves of that.

So I hopped in his car and we were ready to go, the whole time I am talking and talking. I said “My instructor style (I left out the part where I had never instructed before) is to constantly talk; is this okay with you?” I was figuring if I talked outside the car a lot, then chances were high that it carried over into my instructor style. I was right! And he was delighted because he said his wife talked all the time so he would feel right at home. I am liking this instructor stuff already. He was the ideal first student. He listened intently and responded immediately and correctly. I personally need to repeat things a few times before they become habit but he was a natural right off the bat. I thought I could get used to this; I hope they are all like this!

Amy Teaches Track

Well, we all know life is not a bowl of cherries all the time—I was sorely reminded by student number two. He kept repeating the same mistake; it just wasn’t sinking in. Then my mind scrolled back to the advice from the instructor class; give them THREE positives to ONE negative—even though you may have to search high and low for the positives. A little hyperbole goes a long way. You need to calm the student down for two main reasons: they can then react more quickly plus they can listen better. So when he pinched yet another time I said “That was great! You did it much better than last time; you will get it perfect the next lap.” He visibly straightened in his seat and he was back to hanging on my every word. Wow that was some kind of magic.

All in all my first day out as instructor was a success. I left the track without either student knowing my deep dark secret that it was my first time instructing. Now I am consciously waiting for my next adventure.

Warm regards,
Amy