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She was cold, stone-faced and indifferent. No matter what I did or said, I could not get through to her. So when I look at the student roster for the adult computer class I’m scheduled to teach that day and see the name “Rebecca,” my heart sinks. I want to go home and climb back into bed.
You see, I’ve had Rebecca in class before. She’s probably in her 50s, has a round, pumpkin-like face, light brown hair with a sprig of pink sticking out the top of her head. It looks so odd I have to wonder if she knows it’s there. But even more importantly, she has no facial expression whatsoever. She is stone-faced cold, like granite.
I first met her in a class I’d taught a week earlier. I had tried connecting with her (as I do with all my students), making eye contact, talking directly to her, asking her general conversational-type questions. She doesn’t respond. She just stares. It was very unnerving.
During that first class, she sat next to a guy who had absolutely no experience with computers. His name was Jim and he was a laid off truck driver. He didn’t even know how to use the mouse and would move it way over into Rebecca’s work area, not realizing he could simply reposition it by picking it up.
At one point during that class, I was helping Jim with his computer when he moved his mouse way over into Rebecca’s space again accidentally bumping her workbook. She said to him in a rather harsh tone:
“Move your mouse.”
Jim shoots back a defiant “No.”
She repeated, more loudly now, “Move your mouse!”
Again he said, “No!”
I think to myself, things are starting to get out of control. What about the others in the class? What could they be thinking?
Jim and Rebecca continue bickering back and forth, getting louder and louder and more impatient with each other. I thought, “I’m going to have a fight on my hands. I must do something. I’m supposed to be in control here.”
Finally, I said, trying to make a joke out of the whole thing, “I’m going to put someone in the time-out chair.”
They stopped arguing and class resumed without further incident. Shortly afterward, we adjourned for lunch. Unfortunately, Jim didn’t come back after lunch. Maybe he was so upset, he chose to stay away. Another satisfied customer!
Rebecca had also previously been in a different class with another instructor. After this incident, the other instructor and I were talking. She proceeded to tell me about something that happened during her class with Rebecca. As part of the lesson for this other class, students were required to set up a fictional appointment using MS Outlook, the computer calendar program. The instructor said that Rebecca had set up an appointment with “Death” in “Hell.” Freaky! My skin starts to crawl. Is Rebecca a she-devil? A witch? A demon? Maybe she was just a very unhappy woman. In any case, I didn’t want to find out. I hoped I’d never see her again.
But there she was, on my class roster - the class that’s scheduled to start in just 15 minutes. There’s no escape. I will have to face her.
So I trudge off to the classroom and begin getting the computers ready for class when in she walks. I look at her; she stares back at me. And, without thinking, I start singing:
- "Good morning to you.
- Good morning to you.
- We’re all in our places with bright smiling faces.
- Good morning to you.”
She just sat continuing to stare at me – never saying a word. I’m done for. And I ask myself, “What did you just do?” It’s gonna be a long day.
The other students arrive and we begin our class. Later in the day, and much to my surprise, Rebecca turned to me and said, “Why do I learn more from you than from the other instructors?” I was speechless and flattered. Suddenly, her stone-faced indifference had vanished. As the class came to a close, she had become a pleasant student, one I looked forward to seeing again.
Did I finally get through to her? Maybe my silly, little song changed her.
Or maybe, just maybe, it changed me.