Like typical, I sought for clarification. “In what way would someone in a different town say the pledge, Justin?”
“Well, we say ‘to the Republic’ for which it stands because we live in Republic,” he muttered.
“Let me explain why “to the Republic” is for the whole country,” I replied, placing my arm around his shoulders (and giving the gigglers of the group my “hush look”).
Justin was a proud 2nd grade Republic Tiger in Republic, Missouri. Me? I was a proud mom and teacher. This was my 5th year teaching and I was feeling more settled in my roles.
“Hurry up and draw the stick Mrs. Snook!” Oh boy! The lucky one would be our pledge leader as we joined the entire school body for the morning pledge (heard over a loud intercom). Echoes of the voices in nearby classes would be heard. This morning routine continued in my career for many years.
Typical days in the classroom, immediately following the pledge, would begin with a morning message on the board (“Wheel of Fortune” style). Hands would go up to guess the letters to reveal my message of what they would learn that day (objectives in my paragraph form). For at least seven years this strategy worked in teaching kids the parts of a letter, the spelling of greetings and endings (back in the days of spelling instruction and actual letter writing), and most importantly, my love for them (“I love you” was always my closing).
Proudly during the course of a day I’d present lessons of our history. It wasn’t just the good stuff. And I’d share of its people and its grandeur (and I was young; barely had I experienced all the beauty and wonder I’d later enjoy). Later in my career, I could share stories of visiting many beautiful and wonderful states. Rubbing my curiosity off on the kids (not germs) was a daily goal; especially with knock-your-socks-off science experiments. We read as if our lives depended on it-and soaked in books all around! I’d encourage questioning, researching, and awareness. The days would end with class meetings to confirm our collaboration and tighten our tiny community. We didn’t have to agree or even understand what someone was sharing, but we were all respectful and active listeners (with eye contact too!).
There’s a clipping, tucked safely in my large tub of memorabilia, of an article I wrote published in the Springfield News-Leader (titled “Respect”) fall of ’97. I’m pictured kneeling on the carpet with a book in my hand, and Justin and the class scattered around me. We read and sang to the precious residents of a nearby senior center. They loved hearing the kids recite the pledge. It meant something. This was a cherished monthly event.
By the end of that school year Justin understood the words of the pledge. He continued to ask so many spectacular questions that year. He, and the others, taught me as much as I taught them about respect, community, problem-solving, understanding, hard work,…and love. Many revolutions have occurred since that year. The world keeps spinning and adding movements. I wonder what questions Justin might ask today.