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Use Daily 'School Pledge'
To Build Community


While discussing morning rituals that would be meaningful for teachers and students, the staff at the Adams School in Castine, Maine, decided to introduce five daily pledges -- a different one each day. They got their inspiration from literature, history, and pop culture. Included: Examples of daily pledges.

Starting off the school day pledging to the fruit bats of Borneo might catch a few people off guard, but it's all part of the Adams School's lesson on pledges and what they say about individuals and the community.

The K-8 school opens every day of the week with a different pledge, one of them being the Pledge of Allegiance, during the school-wide Morning Meeting. The Castine, Maine, school with only 59 students, is a close-knit group of students and educators with a wealth of community support, and mindful of the importance of rituals, said principal Todd R. Nelson.

The idea of reciting pledges besides the Pledge of Allegiance came about last year when the staff was searching for another meaningful morning ritual, according to Nelson.

While intending no disrespect for the Pledge of Allegiance, "if you say the same thing over and over, 275 times, it loses its meaning," Nelson said. "It becomes rote."

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, schools have been under pressure to have students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but Nelson said he did not even think about the controversy when he proposed the idea of rotating pledges. Maine's state school law does not require students to recite the Pledge every day.

"The school board likes it [rotating pledges]," he told Education World. "I assure them that whatever we do, we do in a mindful way."


One parent last year said he objected to students reciting different pledges, but when Nelson invited him to talk about the issue, the man did not follow up.

The school's pledges include Native American prayers, quotes from famous individuals, snippets from pop culture, and a pledge composed in-house.

The one involving fruit bats from Borneo is the Stargirl Pledge, taken from the novel Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli:

I pledge allegiance to United Turtles of America and to the fruit bats of Borneo, one planet in the Milky Way, incredible, with justice and black bean burritos for all.

"'Stargirl'" is reserved for special occasions requiring whimsy and a special humor for the day," Nelson said.

Overall, the pledges cover a range of universal issues. "They talk about tolerance, the environment, the communityit's a kind of global sense of pledging," said Nelson. "My hope is that these give kids memorable pieces of language and give the school something to aspire to. These are nice things to learn. I hope kids will remember them."

Some of the pledges tie in with classroom lessons. On Fridays, the school recites the Adams School Pledge, which was written last year by the second and third graders. They wrote the pledge while they were studying the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"I think the idea of rights and responsibilities was in the backs of their minds as they put together a pledge about the school," Nelson said.


The pledges are part of Nelson's emphasis on creating rituals for the school and for its role in community.

One of the school's other rituals involves all the eighth graders, the school's "senior" class. On the first day of school, each eighth grader rings the school bell one time for each year he or she has been in the school, to "ring in" the final year. At the end of the year, graduating students again ring the bell, adding one ring.

"I think it's good for schools to create meaningful rituals and to talk about what you believe about yourself and to yourself," Nelson said. "It's a way to have the community speak to itself. I think every community should decide what's right for their community."

And in doing that, everyone needs to "look at the things you need to keep things fun, safe, and fair."


Monday: The Pledge of Allegiance

Tuesday: Marva Collins (American educator, 1936-)
"This day has been given to me fresh and clear.
I can either use it or throw it away.
I promise to use this day to the fullest, realizing it can never
come back again.
I realize this is my life, to use or to throw away."

Wednesday: Edward Everett Hale (American author, 1822-1909)
"Look up, not down;
Look forward, not back;
Look out, not in...
And lend a hand."

Thursday: Iroquois prayer
"Let us know peace:
For as long as the moon shall rise,
For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun will shine,
For as long as the grass shall grow,
Let us know peace."

Friday: Adams School Pledge, Grades 2 and 3
"I pledge to do my best for Adams School.
I will show respect for my school and community.
I will help to keep it clean and obey the rules.
I will work hard in class. I will be kind at all times.
I will do my best to make Adams School a happy place,
even if it takes all I have."

Other Assorted, Timely, Thoughtful Things to Say at Morning Meetings

American Girl Pledge:
"I can be myself, follow my dreams, and always do my best.
I can reach for the stars, lend a hand to others, and be a good friend.
I can make a difference! I promise to try."

Margaret Mead (American cultural anthropologist, 1901-1978)
"Never doubt that a small group
of thoughtful, committed people
can change the world. Indeed,
it's the only thing that ever has."

Chief Seattle (leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes, 1786-1866)
"This we know: earth does not belong to man,
man belongs to the earth. All things are connected
like the blood that unites us all.
Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political leader, 1869-1948)
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."


Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Originally published 03/13/2006
Last updated 07/14/2010