But I didn't like the idea at first. I thought it would rob our individual schools of their identities, their personalities, their individual pride. I thought we were turning into cookie-cutter schools. Every school would look the same, every teacher would act the same, and every kid would be...well, a cookie. No sprinkles or icing - just a cookie that looked and became like all the others.
At the same time this change was occurring, another change came along - the design of the official Joplin Eagle. Yes, I think we all see the similarities in our local eagle and one from Philadelphia, but the Joplin Eagle is now iconic in our region. Before, businesses did not tout our schools in their windows. Real estate ads did not promote housing as being in Joplin Schools as they did the surrounding communities. But that changed, and it gave us, again, unity.
And from that moment, the eagles - the Joplin Eagles - began to soar.
Nowadays we talk extensively about soaring, flying, gliding along the air currents well above our prey. We think of the eagle as a predator, diving to the surface of the sea and plucking a plump fish to rip up and swallow. We imagine soaring above this terrestrial ball, looking down on people, and rooftops, and mountains majesty. Indeed, the eagle is our national symbol, a resplendent and powerful representation of an entity with which others must contend and respect.
Our little Eagles are taught much of this from the beginning, in kindergarten. They are encouraged to soar.
But I wonder...
I'm happy to say that we are all Eagles today, sharing a single icon.
That being said, I respectfully disagree with the manner in many schools in this great nation are depicted as "poverty schools", or "low-income schools". In fact many in the educational system would subconsciously desire to be labels as Title One - an indication that a threshold number of students are not capable of paying full price for their hot lunch from the school cafeteria. School officials at all levels tend to lament the day they lose that distinction, because it means losing some federal funding.
But isn't that the goal? Isn't it our goal to lift our children out of "poverty"? Isn't that a noble goal?
Must we continually refer to our patrons as poor? Must we constantly talk about our schools as social programs accommodating people who are incapable of providing for themselves. I don't mean that they are really incapable, that they are truly helpless, because they absolutely are not; I mean, by constantly degrading our patrons, by repeatedly calling them poor, lazy, disengaged, and even apathetic, we are painting with very broad brush. And it is a brush that paints false picture.
I believe that I can and do influence the world around me. I believe that the children in my class can grow and positively change. I believe they can take things from our classroom and apply them to improve their personal and professional lives in the future.
I believe that repeatedly calling people idiots produces idiots. Seriously calling someone stupid produces stupidity, just as taunting people with the terms of victim, bully, racist, poor, and lazy - even with the best of intentions - only promotes those feelings! I would rather we think differently about ourselves. If we are any of these, if we truly are disengaged from our community and apathetic to community standards and achievement, we must check ourselves and change.
Instead, because we have torn people down so long by telling them that they are hungry or shoeless, they have come to expect us to feed and shoe them. After all is said and done, we haven't done them a favor by calling them names or identifying their problems for them.
Together, we will soar...because we can.