Jul 30, 2006

observing...

well, in order to get this motorcycle instructing thing kick started, i decided to observe a class yesterday. to most of you, observing probably implies something like watching - most likely from the edges of the range, not interfering with the course or the students... yeah - i was kinda thinking the same thing. the most i was expecting was to kick the cones around...

the day started as expected - getting up early and getting ready for the hour ride to johnston community college. i had gathered a lot of the stuff i needed the night before - so the morning mostly involved trying to wake up and packing up the bike. i wasn't sure what time to leave - thinking an hour should be enough time. knowing that, i left about ten minutes later than i wanted. one of these days i'm going to get my act together and leave on time - or maybe early...

the ride there was nice. cooler than i expected. which was a nice surprise, especially considering it was supposed to be a hot, humid, nasty day. they were also calling for thunderstorms, but i figured i could be out of there before those hit... ride was two lane roads the whole way. although there wasn't much traffic - a few cars - there was more than i expected. i was figuring for 0630 on a saturday morning, more people would be sleeping. but it didn't matter, i would get there when i got there...

and get there i did. so i pulled up to the college and started driving down the strip - trying to figure out where the class/range was. after riding the length of the college and not seeing it, i rode back to the entrance, pulled in front of a building and called doug. doug is one of the guys from my motorcycle prep class. this was his first time teaching, so i decided to come out and give him some support by observing. little did i know i was parked right next to the range. doug and bob pulled around with the wagons full of cones and other course materials. since i was there, i helped set the range up for the first exercise. technically it's the second exercise, but it's the first one that actually uses the range. the first exercise is motorcycle familiarization - which is exactly as it sounds. johnston community college (heretoforeverafter known as jcc) runs two classes a weekend, which means they have two classrooms and two ranges - double the fun!!!

once the range was set up, we headed back to the shed to pull the bikes out and warm them up... some of the bikes wouldn't start - a sign of things to come for the day!! luckily we ended up with enough bikes for each class plus a spare - although the spare had to be bump started!!! no big deal, that's what spares are for.

finally the students arrive and class begins. students are becoming more familiar with the motorcycle they have chosen. i notice a couple students struggling a little, so i jump in to help - trying to assist but stay out of the way. this seems to work pretty well. the familiarization exercise seems to go a little longer than expected - but i guess that's okay since it's fairly important the new riders feel comfortable and confident in the operation of the motorcycle.

have i mentioned how hot it's already getting?? well, it is...

now it's time to move on to the second exercise. speaking of move, we have to move the bikes from the shed to the range. how is this done?? by having the students push the bikes. normally this wouldn't be so bad because it seems to make sense someone operating a motorcycle should know how to push it around. however, in this case, it's quite a distance. and did i mention it's getting hot?? one student couldn't push their bike all the way - the heat was getting to her and she couldn't handle the bike very well. doug ended up pushing the bike to the range for her. it ended up that she wasn't handling the heat very well and dropped out of the class halfway through the second exercise. it's a shame to see someone drop, but probably the best for everyone involved.

the rest of the day had its share of mishaps... the extra bike we had eventually died, leaving no spares. the heat was starting to get to the students. the exercises were taking longer to run than they should have. i attribute this not so much to the learning of the students but poor time management by one of the instructors. i ended up helping run the exercises and participating in the teaching more than i expected. i didn't mind, of course, but i didn't want the instructors to think i was over-stepping the bounds. actually, i don't think this was the case - i know doug was thankful i was helping out - it seemed the other guy, to protect his identity, let's call him cool, wasn't taking as much charge of the class as he should have been. with the heat, mishaps and poor time management, we were ready for the lunch break...

we had a chance to cool off, get something into our tummies and prepare for the afternoon. one of the students was a little late in getting back from lunch - which holds up the rest of the class... as he approaches the range, we tell everyone to gear up and get ready for the exercise. he approaches his bike and starts fumbling around with his keys. then he announces that he can't find the key to his bike. he asks if he has time to run back to the restaurant to look for the keys. sure, but he has to hurry. what a way to start the afternoon... again, we can't start the exercises without all the students. we decide to give him some time, but if he's not back, we'll start the class and he'll be forced to drop.

now let me just say that i don't think it was fair to give the students the responsibility for the keys. this is something the instructors should take care of. however, he should have taken better care of the key. i do feel bad for him, though... and the worst part is we're now down a bike.

lost-key dood is gone, looking for the key and the class is getting anxious to start - especially with the heat. we decide the class needs to get going. and as we tell the students to gear up, he pulls back into the parking lot. cool... but he's not jumping out of his van so fast. turns out he didn't find the key at the restaurant. in fact, he's fairly sure he didn't even take it in to the restaurant. damn. i help him strip search his van. then we retrace his steps returning after lunch. he's obviously concerned and upset he lost the key. his primary concern is making sure we can do something with the bike - like use the spare key. since this is my first time here, i don't know what provisions are made for the spare key. and by the end of the day i learn there are no spare keys for the bikes. his second concern was having to drop from the class - which i could fully understand.

doug had taken charge for the afternoon sessions, which was probably a good thing. being the quick thinker doug is, he decided to run split exercises for the afternoon. this did two things - first it gave the students a break from the heat as they could spend less time geared up and on the bikes. next, it allowed the students to share bikes, which meant there was enough for everyone and lost-key dood didn't have to drop.

in vain, i tried to bump start one of the bikes, thinking i might be able to get it going. lost-key dood even offered to push the bike in order to help me get it started - i know he felt very bad about the mishap with the key. and i have to give him credit for trying to help out. but no matter what we tried, the bike wouldn't start...

the rest of the afternoon went okay. cool effectively bowed out of teaching, which left doug and me to do most of the instructing. the heat left a couple students feeling ill. by the time we ran the last exercise, everyone was ready to get inside and cooled off. thankfully, the students get to ride the bikes back to the shed instead of pushing them. i was really impressed when lost-key dood offered to push his bike back to the shed - of course we let him!!

once all the bikes were at the shed, we told the students to head into the classroom and cool off. cool, doug and i put the bikes into the shed. cool wasn't too pleased to learn we sent the students to the room without giving them their next assignment. hmmmmm - how were we supposed to know?? this was doug's first time and, heck, i'm just helping out. oh well... we'll get them started when we get to the classroom.

ohhhhhh and getting to the classroom felt soooooo good... nice and cool. a chance to sit down. i never thought the inside of a modular trailer would be so nice. the rest of the day would be downhill from here. excellent... i don't know if it was because i was there or what, but cool pretty much disappeared for the rest of the day - leaving doug on his own. the problem wasn't that doug was left alone, it was that cool didn't say anything to him about it... again, doug handled it and i helped out as i could...

about forty-five minutes before the end of class, the skies opened up with thunder, lightening and rain. as long as it passed before we were ready to ride, no problem. and with the way the storms blow in and out, it would probably be dry when it was time to ride home. and indeed that's what happened. it rained for about thirty minutes and was pretty much dry when it came time to ride.

the ride home was excellent. the rain and cooled the temps and there was actually a nice breeze riding home - much like the one riding in. traffic on the road wasn't bad - only one or two bozo cages. although i was exhausted, it was nice to be heading home... i enjoyed the road and will make the ride again. but that ride will be for pleasure...

peace...