Friday, December 23, 2016

The Sophie Stare

As many of you know, I taught adult education for 23 years. One of my favorite students was Sophie, a woman who had returned to academia in her sixties to finish her high school diploma. She had had to quit school as a teenager to work to help her family, and wanted the achievement of a diploma. She worked diligently and earned her sheepskin.

But perhaps the best thing she ever did for me as my student was help me maintain discipline. You see, while we catered to adult students we took in regular high school students who needed to make up credits to graduate on time. They didn't necessarily have the best academic ethic (they would not have been making up credits if they had) and could at times be as disruptive as high schoolers could be.

One evening two young men were sitting at the back of the classroom while Sophie had taken her usual seat front and center. The guys began to whisper to each other and chuckle lowly, and soon become enough of a distraction that I had decided to say something to them. Yet right before I could, Sophie set down her pen and turned around to glare at the guys. It took a few seconds, but when they noticed her staring them down they picked up their pens and got back to their schoolwork.

This pattern repeated itself two more times that night. The guys would get a bit rambunctious and Sophie would turn to face them, whereupon they'd sheepishly return to task. And after that night they never gave me any more trouble.

I had to ask Sophie how she did it. The elderly Polish matron squinted her eyes at me and said, "I give them the grandma stare."

I had never actually faced the Sophie Stare myself. Judging by its effect on those two lads, I'm glad I never did.

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