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The One Thing I Wish They Didn’t Teach My Son in First Grade

Place of the shooting: Brooklyn,NY
Image has Model Release&Property Release
Model Age:29 Years old
Photograph by Getty Images

I really blame Mrs. Kelly for all this.

Sure, she was a great first-grade teacher. Sure, she taught my son the basics of math, how to tell time and how to read at a higher reading level than he’d achieved in kindergarten.

And, as a writer, I love that she gave the kids a real love of storytelling this year. My son was encouraged to make up his own stories, and they created “books” that came complete with sweet illustrations, title pages and even an author page.

So, there’s no question that Mrs. Kelly is an awesome first-grade teacher. But there was one thing that I really wish she’d kept to herself: the lesson on how to write a persuasive letter.

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The assignment seemed simple enough; it was the last part in a unit on how to write a letter. My son knew how to date his letter, use the correct salutation and even how to sign off. Things were going great. But then came the persuasive letter.

The assignment was this: Write a letter to someone, and persuade them to do something. The kids learned how to use transition words and phrases, such as to begin with and additionally and finally. They learned how to lay out an argument in multiple steps and how to express a thought-out opinion.

Seems like a great assignment, right?

My 6-year-old wrote my husband and me a persuasive letter about his heart’s greatest desire: getting a hamster. (Who knew this was his heart’s greatest desire? Not me! I can assure you.) He used his transition words correctly: to begin with, he wanted one so badly, and additionally, he would take care of it, and finally, he’d be the one to clean out its cage weekly (ha!).

So, basically, it was the cutest thing I ever read. I was so proud of his accomplishment, laying out his thought-out argument, and it was just too adorable how he thought through all of the things I’d be concerned about (did I mention the cleaning out of the cage weekly?). And to boot, his handwriting was the best I’d ever seen it. He’d taken his time with his assignment and I was so incredibly proud.

So me? Sucker that I am, I let him have one. How could my husband and I deny him? We were so proud of the work that he’d put in, and we could see in his beaming face that he was proud of himself, too. We told my 6-year-old that he could have a hamster for his seventh birthday.

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And now, we have a real, live rodent living under our roof. (My husband has been cleaning the cage out weekly. But my now-7-year-old totally supervises.)

At parent-teacher conference, I told Mrs. Kelly about the hamster and she laughed out loud.

“What?” I asked. “It was a really good letter!”

Mrs. Kelly laughed again. “Oh, it’s just that my daughter wrote a persuasive letter asking for a pet, but I told her no!”

Now, why didn’t I think of that?!

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