St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/02/2011 : 11:18 AM
I'm baaaccckkkkkk and the folks in Illinois have changed my life.
I thought I knew about state programs and rider educators. After all, I know many rider instructors, I've talked to and corresponded with so other rider educators that I thought I "got it". And, in a way, I did. But I didn't understand it as I do now.
First of all THANK YOU to everyone who came. Everyone was so kind and nice to both me and my daughter Rose and that touched me very deeply. Both of us felt so welcome and were treated like a queen and princess respectively. THANK YOU.
And thank you for laughing and laughing. It was such a joy to speak to people who aren't listening to me because they have to in order to get a good grade. : ) I had fun relating the story and I hope you all had fun listening to it.
But that's not really first. This is:
The best part of the evening for me was watching the Awards part. As so many instructors came forward to receive pins or plaques for all their service from 100 all the way up to 3,600 something began to happen inside me. Gratitude for their service turned to awe and I was humbled. I have to get the exact numbers from John, but, folks, there were lots and lots of awards handed out that night. Kerry who graciously sat by me and explained the various regions and so forth helped me understand just how many hours and weekends were involved for so many of those educators. And these aren't full time instructors, either. Instead, they are people who are out there teaching every single weekend the whole training season. EVERY weekend. There were others who are teaching almost every weekend. And this was just the banquet for just one of the regions in IL - there's a whole heck of a lot of other instructors and support personnel serving in the IL program I didn't have a chance to meet.
It made me feel so very humble and made me want all the more to continue adding whatever I can to help them deliver the best training possible.
And they're such wonderful people, too, as I found out as I talked with so many during the evening and with those who stayed afterward and the next morning. People I would be proud to call my friends, people I'd love to know better. And those I got to know even a little bit it wasn't about the money they earned from instructing. It was about the commitment to teaching people to ride safely and the joy that came from doing that.
Another thing that amazed me was the connections between instructors and those behind the scenes: Gil works full time for the program and his wife Barb teaches in it. Charlie who just completed the IP is Frank's brother who has taught for years. Jay and John (Jon?) work together up in Chicago - and on and on. So many couples - like a very special one I'll talk about in a future post - and so many friends who came to teach and brought others along with them.
But it wasn't just that - it was how they related to each other that impressed me so much that evening. This is what I hadn't realized from knowing individual trainers and talking or corresponding individually with rider educator and it's best illustrated with something that happened that evening.
At one point, a get well card was circulated for people to sign and then John presented the card to her husband Jim who is an instructor. MJ, who had taught first aid to instructors, was too ill with MS to continue and the situation is very grave. It was clear to me - an outsider - how much everyone cared about her and Jim and the situation. It was also clear that MJ was just as important to the program and those there as those who were or those who handled field operations or those who maintained the bikes or those that ran the administration of the program.
And this is the single most important thing I realized from this weekend: There are no Rock Stars in rider education and every single person's contribution is not only valued but seen as essential. They aren't just rider educators putting in their time, training students, going home to their lives, coming back to train some more. Well, they are that - but more.
MJ is Rider Education though she never taught a class. Each and every one of those who were there - and the thousands across the country who do the same things in every state program are Rider Education as individuals, but even more so, as a site, a region, a state.
They are a community. They ARE the program. They care about each other and the program itself and rider education. And it wasn't just the UIUC people - there were folks there from almost all the other regions in IL, too - and they cared just as much about each other and the program as a whole and rider training as something they dedicate their lives to.
Suddenly things that state administrators had said, things other instructors or site owners had said in the past took on new meaning. As great as the Illinois program is and as great as those people are, that's the way it is in other states, too. Maybe to that degree or a greater one or a lesser one but that's what happens in rider education; community is formed. It's the community that makes it possible for folks like me to learn to ride.
So hold that thought for a moment.
My son Daniel, the in-line skater, came with Rose and I. He wanted to hear me talk (oh, I love that kid) but he was going to spend the evening with some friends he had in the area. So after the talk, as he was leaving, he overheard some people talking and it went something like this, "I never got a sense of who she was from the blog, but I did from hearing her talk. I never realized she's so funny." Someone else had commented to Rose about not realizing I was funny, too.
I understood immediately what they meant. And it was good too because that's one of the things that had been bugging me about the blog - I had been feeling I was just presenting one side of me and was always so serious and sometimes sarcastic and while that's a part of me, that's not all of me. So it felt good that some people out there got to see a different side of me. A slightly ribald side of me, true, but hey...
I thought about that as Daniel, Rose and I drove back to St. Louis. I realized I didn't talk so much differently as I write but writing is just writing. What came across in person was tone and emphasis and all that sort of thing. It was the delivery that made the difference and having real people there to respond to.
But this was the second biggest insight from this weekend: It was in the delivery.
And that's where this little anecdote fits in with the very important thing I learned about how essential state programs are and what rider education is really about.
Sure, there's the M$F logo on the workbooks and video. Sure the M$F new RERP agreement says that all the good that rider educators do belongs to them. Sure M$F developed the curriculum and made the videos. But that's the same difference as me in print and me in person.
Like my speech, what's written is far less, only a tiny part, of what happens in person.
Rider Education isn't in the words. Isn't in the Updates. Isn't in the QAVs. It's in the delivery.
And the delivery is in the MJ's and the newest instructors like Charlie and his brother Frank who's been teaching for years and the office staff like Laurie and administrators like John and Kerry and Bob and on and on.
And, frankly, if you gave them a crappy curriculum - oh, right...M$F did - students will still be trained and learn to ride and learn to ride better than the printed curriculum, better than the videos and far, far better than any simulator could do.
Because it's the people who are the heart and soul and feet on the range of rider education.
And that kind of love and dedication, that kind of commitment doesn't come because some barely rides in Irvine decides what they should teach or how they should teach it or assigns them a RERP number or manipulates behind the scenes. Industry may have funded the print version, but what rider ed really is don't have nothin' to do with rider ed, which is as far from Industry - and corporate models - as you can get.
Real rider ed comes from training together, teaching together, being there in the thick of it. It comes from dealing with the problems together, of having REAL input into the program that they actually teach. It comes from knowing names and what people ride and kicking tires and sharing a beer at the end of season and knowing who MJ and Jim are and who's who and where they teach. It comes from driving from way down south in Illinois to help out with a course in Chicago.
Rider education IS in the state, in the people who live there, the people who ride there. The people, not the curriculum.
Without these men and women - and their spouses or significant others who let them spend their weekends this way - there would be no rider education no matter how much you plaster a logo over a workbook or how fancy a simulator is. Rider to new rider.
M$F did rider education a disservice to make it seem to be about footprints painted on the range vs. instructors seeming to have more freedom. Because rider education isn't just the instructors. And any instructor or site owner who fancies themselves a Rock Star needs to get a reality check. You're all in this together. There would be no rider education without all of you - and the SMROs, too.
That's what M$F doesn't get - and that's what they try so hard to make us motorcyclists forget. It's not rider education and can never, ever be. It's print, not speech. M$F is the footprints printed on the range. The people in the state program are the feet.
Tim and Ray and Sherry and Charlie talk about delivery systems as if they were souless business constructs as they are in corporations around the country. But rider education isn't a corporation. PEOPLE are the heart and, like in the body, it's the heart that pumps life.
They ARE the delivery system and that's what they do no matter what curriculum they're handed. No matter how the range is painted. With footprints or without them. They will go on teaching weekend after weekend and sometimes during the week. They will go on working for less pay than they could make in other jobs as administrators. Because they are the Heart.
And that's the thing - things ARE different now. The M$F could disappear tomorrow and rider education will still go on now because riders believe in training. But if the state programs or the people that ARE the state programs disappeared tomorrow it wouldn't.
It really IS in the delivery. It's in the community. It's in the commitment. And that can't and won't happen if Rider Education becomes just another business unless one wants to suggest that Blockbuster employees have a real community amongst themselves. Change the delivery system to people working for a franchise of one kind or another and you won't have that going on, Tim.
So I return to LA a changed woman and I thank the great program in IL for showing me what I didn't really understand and changing my life. Blessings on you each and every one of you in IL and every other state. Blessings on the SMROs that are also part of keeping the heart in rider education - the soul of what we all know motorcycling is all about - a unique community that begins in training.
And THANK YOU each and every one of you. THANK YOU