A Game Of Two Halves

As part of my community volunteering, I have just spent the last two weeks training Cycling Proficiency courses, at the local school. The first group was ten in number, the second thirteen. I should have given credit to the second, unlucky number.

It involves four sessions, amounting to just under 25 hours a week, including preparation time. Like me, they are all volunteers, with no compulsion to attend; each group is aged 10-11 years, soon to leave for secondary school, after the summer break. These were my first full groups with me in charge, with the assistance of parents, monitoring safety. They have to turn left, turn right, and show a reasonable knowledge of road signs, safety, and the curriculum. Bikes have to be roadworthy, helmets worn, and some element of discipline adhered to.

My part in this process involves a lot of shouting. I have to ask the children to keep quiet, and fend of lots of irrelevant questions. They are obsessed with who passes, and who fails. I have to assure them that all participate, and that is the most important aspect of the course. They are not fooled. They understand the concept of pass and fail, and are completely aware of the reality. I check their consent forms, and make sure that they all have serviceable bikes, safety helmets, and a basic understanding of what is expected. A practice session in the playground initiates me into who needs work, and who has already got the idea.

Once on the road, in real traffic conditions, I am soon exhausted. I spend my time running backwards and sideways, making sure that no child kills themselves, or endangers or confuses other road users. I go over the requirements time and again, eventually watching each candidate perform the same element time after time, until am happy. I quickly tire of shouting, and of trying to get them to be quiet, and behave. After all, they are very young, and excited as well as being somewhat nervous. We repeat the parts of the test over and over, until I am satisfied that they all understand what is expected of them. I fend off questions, some relevant, most pointless, and plug away about what is required, over what is usually done.

Two weeks later, and their assessments have arrived. The first session goes well this morning. There is time to go over old ground, and the man from the Council is firm but fair. Out of ten candidates, seven pass well, and the three that fail have made glaring safety errors, which they accept with good grace. The afternoon session arrives, with the larger group of thirteen. I had expected that three, maybe four, might not reach the required standard. But it all goes wrong from the start. In a light drizzle, most of them make errors immediately. The assessor has changed from this morning, to a much more serious female examiner. She is taking no prisoners, and is adamant that even the tiniest protocols must be adhered to. I am rebuked for allowing talking, and sitting on the grass, and she berates the group for their lack of attention, and constant chattering.

By the time it is over,and we return to the school for the results, it is obvious that is has gone badly. I have apparently missed many salient points of instruction, and they have all decided to more or less throw the match. Few of the group pass, and I become frustrated, leaving the process as soon as I can, as I have other plans for late afternoon anyway. The resolution is that a second chance will be offered to those that did not make the grade. Time and place to be arranged.

It is Cycling Proficiency. Not much, in the grand scheme of things. Small children, trying their best to get a mediocre certificate. Are you with me? Is it any wonder that I am a bit miffed this evening?

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9 thoughts on “A Game Of Two Halves

      1. Chat does wear you down though when it is constant. I think of all the time wasted while I waited for kids to stop chatting, absolutely no point trying to teach when no-one is listening.

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  1. This totally baffles me. We’re talking bicycles, right? At that age, I was biking everywhere imaginable (and often without my hands on the handlebars). I’m not aware of any bicycle safety courses ever being offered by any public organization or private individual when/where I grew up. As for dealing with children, I had my fill of that as an elementary school teacher!

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  2. I remember my cycling proficiency test at that age too – on the same roads no less! But as I remember it we were much less concerned with ‘pass and fail’ – I suggest this is a testament to the garing failures of our current education system, and certainly not your instruction! Plus it sounds like the woman from the Council had it all wrong – why can 10/11 year olds not sit on the grass for goodness sake… Just madness. I think you’re right to feel hard done by here, particularly as the weather (and, it seems, some of the kids) weren’t on your side.

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    1. Thanks Lucy. Elmham Road is unchanged from your time, and perfectly safe. It is very much a testament to modern ideas about passing and failing, despite my (unsuccessful) efforts to imply that it wasn’t important. I have offered my resignation, should the Council desire it.
      Your sensible and considered comment is much appreciated. Pete. x

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