THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF AND JAY

When my husband, Richard, began his senior year at New Brunswick Reformed Church seminary, I went back to teaching in Highland Park, New Jersey.
My first grade was a good mix of children. A few tried to skip the work I wanted them to do, but none were discipline problems. As I began breaking the class into reading groups, I found three or four girls, who after being introduced to the first reading book, seemed to say, “Oh, is that what reading is? I can do that. No problem!” I truly never had to teach them to read, they devoured books.
One of my favorite children in the class was a little boy. Jay was shorter than some of the boys, but stood straight. He looked like he was a professional fullback at age six. He was obvious bright and could easily do whatever work I asked for, but I had to cajole, encourage, and pick at him to get it done. At the end of one morning, all he’d done was to put his name on his writing paper. I wrote a note for him to take home at lunch time, and return to me, signed.
He didn’t bring it back. “I forgot.”
“Bring it in the morning.”
He didn’t bring in the note. “Mom didn’t have time.”
“Bring it back this noon, or I will send you back home to get it.”
His father appeared with him after the lunch hour.
“I didn’t know about the note before,” he said. “I’ve talked about it to Jay, but I didn’t want to discipline him because I was afraid I might hurt him. I will tell his mother tonight.”
That was the last time Jay didn’t finish his work. If he began to slough off, I only had to ask, “Should I call your father?”
He’d shake his head and cheerfully go to work.
Toward the end of the school year, it was our class’s turn to put on an assembly program. In the Ginn First Grade Music Book, teacher’s edition, there was a short musical play, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Jay took part of the bad troll seriously. As each of the three goats approached the bridge which would take them to the green pasture on the other side, Jay popped up onto the bridge to sing, “I will eat you….” The children watching loved it, and of course they cheered when the Big Billy Goat Gruff knocked the bad troll off the bridge. Jay was the star of the show.
The adults in the audience struggled not to burst out laughing as Jay jumped up to sing in his deep “bad troll voice” that often squeaked. What happened to Jay? I don’t know, but perhaps he did become a football star fullback somewhere, or perhaps an actor. I wish I knew.

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