I think The Pledge of Allegiance is important and so on my Student Questionnaire this year I asked, “Do you know The Pledge of Allegiance?” Just about half of my students answered, “I don’t know.” I was more than a little horrified.
And so, like any other teacher who is slightly-neurotic-and-minimally-anal-about-certain-things, like grammar and the Pledge, I had them memorize it for a quiz the following week. I didn’t realize the trauma this would instill. I told them the quiz would be written, which almost all of them were happy to hear…almost.
Middle school boys are an interesting bunch. Outwardly, they come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen some that are almost six feet tall and others that are barely four. I’ve had some with voices in the deepest depths and others who still squeak. Some look like toothpicks in danger of disappearing when they turn sideways, others are still shedding their baby fat. But, inside they’re all pretty much the same…unsure of themselves, slightly silly sometimes, and more than a little bit scared of some things.
My request that they learn The Pledge revealed quite a lot in one of my boys. He’s young, quite a bit younger than most of his classmates, a little on the skinny side, with eyes that his face might never grow big enough for. It was requested that this little guy have permission to recite the Pledge to me, which was fine.
On the day of class I handed out the quiz (an easy fill-in-the-blanks) to everyone but him. I confirmed that he would be taking the quiz “orally”. He didn’t know what that meant, but readily followed me outside the classroom so he could recite the Pledge to me. He was nervous and took so many loud deep breaths I thought he was either going to pass out or throw up. Fortunately for me he did neither, though I did see his eyelids flutter once or twice.
Are you okay?
Yes…I think so.
Whenever you’re ready go ahead and start.
Okay…His deep breaths were now shuddering and he began in his somewhat squeaky, little boy voice…
“I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America…(eyelid flutters) And to the Republic for which…for which it…for which it…STANDS. (loud exhale) One nation, under God, indiv…indiv…This is a really big word, Mrs. Chin…in-di-vis-ible. With…with…with…(I could tell by his look of horror that the last line was gone. He looked at his sneakers hoping they’d somehow offer support for more than just his feet. He looked at me with those over-sized Disney character eyes. I knew I couldn’t help him, though I desperately wanted to. I encouraged him. “Come on, Buddy! You’re almost there!” And then it exploded out of him.) WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!
I was so excited for him I applauded, loudly! He smiled so big, I could see his baby molars! He did it and he was proud, not necessarily to be an American, but proud of his accomplishment, which is just fine. I have all year to teach him about being an American. I hope it will make him just as proud as he was to remember his Pledge. Because, after all, it’s a very big deal!