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First-grader's answer to his teacher's riddle stuns class and Twitter

California elementary school teacher Bret Turner finds that sometimes none of us are smarter than a first-grader.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

When elementary school teacher Bret Turner asked his first-graders an especially tricky riddle on their first day back from winter break, he didn't expect their responses to take Twitter by storm. But as his class shows, sometimes kids really do have all the answers.

Turner, a 37-year-old father of two in the San Francisco Bay area of California, has been teaching second and first grades for seven years. He tries to start each week with a riddle for his class. This week, he asked them, "I am the beginning of everything, the end of everywhere. I'm the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space. What am I?"

The first student to guess knocked it out of the park with an answer that was not the one Turner was looking for, but shows a lot of wisdom all the same: "death."

"This was a very typical first grade moment; guesses to riddles are always great, and often the 'wrong' answers are better than the correct ones," Turner told TODAY Parents." When the student said 'death,' there was a subdued silence that fell over the room."

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Turner asked his students if they had any other guesses, and they did not disappoint, giving answers such as "NOT everything," "all stuff," "the end," and Turner's favorite, "nothingthing."

When Turner finally revealed that the correct and, as he admitted, more banal answer to the riddle was actually "the letter E," his students were "largely unimpressed," he tweeted. But when he shared the moment with Twitter, people were very impressed with his students. The tweet has since been retweeted more than 91,000 times.

This riddle was just an example of the way first-graders' minds think, Turner said. "Young kids talk about death all the time — grandparents, relatives, especially pets," he said. "It's fascinating to them, and also normal. A day in first grade is filled with funny, curious, bizarre, extremely deep, introspective, existential, eyebrow-raising quotes. It's one of the best parts of the job, and rolling with it is a blast."

And as he wrote on Twitter, not even going viral impresses kids much. "I’m considering telling the kids tomorrow that a tweet about them went viral," he later tweeted, "and given their facility with the internets, I expect their response will be, 'Sure, but did it go SUPERviral?' and, 'Just how many retweets are we talking about here?' and, 'Can I go to the bathroom?'"

This story was first published on January 4, 2018.