When I was growing up, my mother and several other adults told me never to put anything smaller than my elbow into my ears. I passed this bit of wisdom on to my children and my students, but apparently that advice is lost on more than a few brave and inquisitive youngsters.
During a recent and rather informal teacher meeting, my friend was asked about her sick child. “I took him to the doctor and it’s the normal stuff; sinus infection and cough.”
All the teachers nodded, as they were dealing with runny noses and all kinds of hacking and sniffling in their classrooms.
“But there was a really embarrassing moment,” she continued. “When the doctor looked in his ear, he kind of grimaced and then with a really thin forceps, he pulled out a small plastic piece of a toy.”
Every teacher reacted differently, but all the responses ended with a laugh. The interesting thing was that everyone had a similar story. Apparently children are fascinated with body cavities and what exactly fits in them. It seems that the only way to know, unequivocally, is to insert various objects. It must also be true that their curiosity is more highly developed than their memory because things inserted often stay inserted.
One teacher related a story about marbles in the nose. Yes, you read correctly. I’m talking in the plural, as in more than one marble in each nostril. And . . . this particular child plied his nose with many different items over the course of the school year. His curiosity was not satisfied by one experience. He needed several trials in his experiment, but now he can tell you, without question, that the tires from a matchbox car are the hardest to retrieve.
I had an experience many years ago when I was teaching kindergarten. Leah was an adorable little girl and when her mother came to pick her up for a doctor appointment she informed me that Leah probably had an ear infection and would be back at school after 24 hours. When she called that afternoon, I have to admit I was taken aback. Leah had put a bean in her ear and the doctor surmised that after several hair washings, the bean sprouted. That sprout was pushing on Leah’s eardrum and causing quite a bit of pain. I was a bit guilty on that count as I’m sure she got the bean from the measuring center in my classroom, but truly. . . . Would you have guessed that instead of measuring the beans and counting the beans, a little girl would be inserting beans . . . . IN HER EAR????
Another teacher turned around at lunch one day and saw several girls leaning over a little boy. Her immediate reaction was, “Oh no, someone is hurt?” As she neared the area, she heard one of the girls say, “Eeeww. . . ” NOT a good sign! However, when she got there, she realized that the situation was not life threatening, although oxygen must have been in short supply. The young man had taken several tiny pebbles from the garden and was counting them as he stuffed his nose and ears. That’s not the oddest thing. He told the teacher that he was trying to beat his record. We know the record was 7, but no one dared ask how they were divided. We called his parents and they were aware that he had done it before at a time when there was construction being done on his street and there was a lot of gravel around. His mother sighed and said, “I thought the emergency room doctor made an impression on him, but I guess not.”
A couple of years ago two middle school boys were having a contest to see who could get the most grapes in their mouth. We put a stop to that when we realized that although we all knew the Heimlich maneuver, no one wanted to use it. I asked, “What were you thinking?” The response was quick and matter of fact. “We wanted to know how much “mass” we could put in our mouths.” Was that evidence enough that we should not teach 6th grade students physics? Perhaps.
Some of our teachers decided to do more with health and biology in an effort to answer some of the questions the children have about their bodies, but I have to admit those lessons are lost on the child who needs to find out firsthand and frankly, that’s the way we teach. It’s all about discovery and hands-on and asking questions and finding answers. Unfortunately, when it comes to the human body, it’s not always politically correct or even appropriate, so what can you do? Well, you just have to laugh! The very thing they live with and inside of every day is a total mystery that requires years of exploration. Children continue on their quest of self discovery for many years and as their bodies change, new and unusual situations occur. It really is a never ending journey.
I recently spent some time with my parents in Florida. It was quite amusing when I saw my 80+ year-old mother talking into my father’s pants pocket. “Mom?” I asked. “What are you doing?”
“Well, your father puts his hearing aid in his pocket instead of in his ear, so I thought that maybe he could hear me if I talked into his pants. He certainly doesn’t hear me when I talk to his face.”
My father responded by saying, “What did you say? – I really think my ears are blocked”
“Maybe,” I yelled “. . . you have a foreign object in there.”
“That darn hearing aid is the only foreign object that’s been in there recently.”
So, in my father’s defense I said, “You know mom, the hearing aid is NOT bigger than his elbow.”