Each year our first graders work on a unit of persuasive writing. As we work through the unit we ask each child to choose a topic that he is passionate about and then to write a letter stating his position and then trying to persuade the reader to come around to his Point of view. We actually mail the letter that is chosen as a final polished copy. The children often write to their parents asking for a pet or video game or some other "thing" that they desire. They promise to clean for weeks, to do chores and even not to hit their little brothers and sisters anymore if their parents will just consider their most earnest request. Often a few children will break our hearts. One child this year asked for a house with a backyard so he would have a place for his little brother to play and another child asked for more food because he is often hungry and his refrigerator is empty. A few children always write to the Dining Room manager to ask for a change in our Dining Room's food and many children write to the Principal asking for everything from a water park on the playground to shorter school days. They must think she is a Superhero with unlimited powers! Occasionally a child will want to write the President or the Humane Society or some other popular person or agency. We never discourage the children, even though we are often doubtful that the party will reply. Our little writers believe that they can change the world (and so do we!) I pray each year as we mail out the letters that the parents will listen and value what their children say, even if their response is "No!" I always hope that the Dining Room Manager will reply in some way although that hasn't happened yet and that the Principal and school personnel will value the childrens' words and will show them, by responding to them, that their words matter.
"This year the most remarkable thing happened. Jardale decided that he wanted to write the Mayor. He decided that we need to go to school for six days instead of five to keep children out of trouble. His "P.S." was that he would like to be Mayor one day. Much to our surprise, Jardale received a reply from Mayor Peyton. It included everything that we would ever want in a response. The Mayor valued Jardale's thoughts and ideas and then gave him some reasons why he didn't think six days of school a week was the best idea. He closed by acknowledging Jardale's dream of some day becoming Mayor. How does it get any better than that?
I am totally impressed with a Mayor or any public figure that would take the time to read and then thoughtfully respond to the ideas of anyone - much less a first grader. This is a powerful lesson in our little classroom. Our children realize that their words really do make a difference. Look out world!