• In the late 1950s, Eileen Birin taught at a parochial school in Dallas, Texas, when she had an unmotivated 7th-grade student named Scott, who received all F’s on his report card. He even received a lecture from Monsignor John because of his grades. The next day Scott went to school with his face a mess of black, purple and black bruises. He also wore a bloody bandage on his head. One of the students told Ms. Birin that Scott’s father had beaten him because of all the F’s on his report card. Ms. Birin felt awful, of course, but she began teaching and assigned the students some math problems to do in class. While working on the math problems, Scott rubbed his face, and part of a bruise disappeared from his face and appeared on his hand! Ms. Birin looked closely at the “bruises” and discovered that they were really made of make-up. She told Scott, “You’d better go to the washroom and get that gunk off your face.” Scott washed his face, and over time his grades improved, and although Ms. Birin has not seen him for a while, when the credits roll after she sees a movie, she looks for his name among all the make-up artists.
• Children are interested in and remember the details of exciting stories. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien used to tell the stories that eventually became his fantasy novel “The Hobbit” to his young son, Christopher, who would listen to a story, then say, “Last time, you said Bilbo’s front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a silver tassel on his hood, but you’ve just said that Bilbo’s front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin’s hood was silver.” When this happened, Mr. Tolkien would say, “Damn the boy,” but he would take notes on what Christopher had said so that he could make the stories consistent.
• Child actors in theater sometimes do things that they are not allowed to do at home — for example, use profanity. Matilda, the young daughter of Jackie Castrey, said the word “f***” while performing in the play “The City,” something for which Jackie was criticized in a review. However, Jackie defends herself by saying, “It’s not something you go into lightly. We read the script before the auditions.
When she was learning the lines at home, we would miss out the swear word: she knew she was only allowed to say it on stage.”
• Syndicated columnist Connie Schultz remembers when she was in the fifth grade and her mother told her how babies are made. Connie, of course, was a baby once, and she had parents like other babies, and she shrieked at her mother, “With dad?” When her father arrived home later, he noticed that Connie was behaving strangely, and so he asked, “What’s wrong with Connie?” Connie mother whispered to him, and he chuckled. Connie says, “[T]hat was the only time I got away with not speaking to my father at the dinner table.”
• When Sarah Dash was in the second or third grade, she sang for the first time in front of people: a Thanksgiving song. She had been ordered not to scratch, but little Sarah was itchy, so before singing, she told her audience, “They told me not to scratch, but before I start to sing, I’m gonna scratch.” Her audience laughed, and she says, “I’ve been a clown ever since.” Later, she sang in the group LaBelle.
• In the fifth grade, his teacher asked future author Jon Scieszka, “What’s so funny?” Jon replied with a story about a man who had no arms but made his living as a bell-ringer by hitting the bell with his head. Someone asked, “What’s that guy’s name?” Someone else answered, “I don’t know, but his face sure rings a bell.” The students laughed; the teacher didn’t.