Teacher Bret Turner thought he’d kick off the morning with his first-grade students utilizing a little riddle.
On the whiteboard in the front of the class, he scrawled it out in black marker 😛 TAGEND
“I am the beginning of everything, the end of everywhere. I’m the beginning of infinity, the end of day& space.”
One student created their hand, the first to venture a guess.
Now, the answer, of course, is the letter “E.”( Get it !?) But the student had a different idea.
Turner subsequently described the incident on Twitter in a post that’s now gone massively viral. “Such an frighten, somber, reflective hush fell over the class that I didn’t want to tell them that actually the answer is the letter ‘E’, which just seemed so banal in the moment, ” he wrote.
The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the class that I didn’t want to tell them that actually the answer is the letter e, which just seemed so banal in the moment pic.twitter.com/ 7sYFxHNcZk
— Bret Turner (@ bretjturner) January 2, 2018
People on Twitter got a huge kick out of the somewhat dark, existential moment. But there might just be an important lesson buried in this story somewhere about how to process “the end.”
Many users who replied to the Tweet were impressed by the unnamed kid’s thoughtfulness and ability to understand the concept of death at such a young age.( How many first graders would peg demise as “the beginning of eternity? “)
But it turns out that children are becoming more perceptive than we give them credit for.
An article in National Geographic breaks down the three key truths that children must eventually learn about demise. First, that it’s irreversible ( people who die aren’t only on vacation ). Second, it makes your body non-functional ( people who are dead aren’t just asleep ). And third, it’s universal ( everything and everybody dies eventually ).
Some analyzes have shown that kids start to understand the concept as young as 3 years old and gradually learn to accept the many layers of it in the years that follow.
It takes time for anyone to fully comprehend the gravity and foreverness of demise. But we ought to learn to appreciate the whimsical, partial recognizing also that young children have.
Some Twitter users who read Turner’s account of the riddle accused the student in question of having a morbid personality or an unusual fascination with the macabre. After all, few adults would be brave enough to blurt out something so dark.
It’s a lot more likely the kid just hasn’t been conditioned to fear demise yet, to speak about it in hushed tones — if at all. This might be the same kind of kid who receives out his grandmother has died and says, casually, “Oh, OK. Bye, grandma! See you soon! “
When you think about it, that’s actually a pretty sweet and remarkably peaceful way of thinking about demise. So let’s stop rushing kids into having adult-sized worries about the world and let them detect it at their own pace.
As long as it devotes us funny moments like this one, anyway.
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