I thought I had seen it all. The boy who races through the pledge and makes it impossible for the rest of the class to keep up. The girl who doesn’t say it, she isn’t required to for whatever reason, and she slouches in her seat while I press my lips together holding back a reprimand. The kid who fidgets, finds his nose with his finger, but can’t seem to find his heart with his hand. He looks around the room aimlessly, his eyes darting to and fro, studying everything but the flag.
Yes, I thought I had seen it all until I subbed in Mrs. Hadley’s room. Sarah, the pledge leader, took her place in front of the class, but instead of saying the words “I pledge,” she lifted her hands and began to sign the words.
She held an index finger to her mouth and then raised her hand like she was taking a vow. One fist supported the other for “allegiance” then her fingers demonstrated a flagpole and flag while her classmates mirrored the motions. The room was quiet, nearly silent with the sound of children concentrating hard, and showing utter devotion. Their expressions and their movements stirred something deep inside of me. The sight of all those students pledging their loyalty to our United States in such a visual way–well it wrecked me.
By the time they got to “liberty and justice for all” a cotton lump had grown in the back of my throat. I just stared at them through a thick pane of tears. I will never forget “seeing” the pledge.
When they had finished and all had taken their seats, I cleared my throat and walked to the front of the classroom. “Okay then,” I said, in a voice not quite my own, and we started our day.
I believe our future is walking around us in pint-sized bodies, circling in and preparing to take leadership roles. The best thing we can do is teach the children like Mrs. Hadley did, allegiance to our country is something to be expressed passionately and celebrated.