What’s in a Name?

My name is Jodi Lea Pflaumer.  My surname shows that my ancestors came from Germany.  My middle name is after my father who is Jerry Lee.  Regardless, I’m rarely called Jodi Lea Pflaumer.

My students call me “Ms. Pflaumer”.  Honestly, they more often call me “Mrs. Pflaumer”.  To them, the Ms. and Mrs. are interchangeable.  They just show I’m female.  I’ve never once been called Mr. Pflaumer.  However, I have been called Mom and Grandma.  Why?  When kids spend a good portion of their waking hours with you 180 days a year, they can accidentally call you by the name of the lady who cares for them the rest of the time.  It’s all good.

At church, I’m called “Miss Jodi”.  It teaches the kids to show respect to elders while allowing a more personal or intimate connection.  Plus, it keeps me from going into “teacher mode”.

A friend in college, actually it was the friend I mentioned in my previous post, always called me “Lea”.  I always thought it was just his nickname for me, but one day I asked if he knew my last name.  He told me he thought my name was “Jodi Lea”, which was why he had always called me “Lea”. Hmmm, two perspectives.  To this day, he’s the only friend to call me “Lea”, so it always makes me ponder my years in East Tennessee.

Another college friends referred to me as JOdI LEA PflAUmer, making all vowels but the last as long vowels.  It would make me chuckle, and I have no doubt if I ever take  a trip to Atlanta and I hear that being said…I will know exactly who was coming.

Names.  Why have I been pondering names?  Well, it seems that the current protests for Black Lives Matter and for fair treatment has stirred the pot of discord regarding the school where I teach.  I teach at Southwestern Elementary.  I have for 24 years.  I am proud of my school, and to me the “mascot” simply was a reminder to “stand up” and not to be afraid to go against the flow.  Why?  We are the Southwestern Rebels.

There’s currently a group of residents in our county and elsewhere who have deemed Rebels an exclusive term referring only to the Confederacy and all the ideals they believed in.  Yuck!  Who would want that as their mascot IF that was what it was referring to?  To be honest, if I believed that we were the Southwestern Confederate Rebels, then I never would have applied to teach here.  But that’s NOT what we are or who we are.

If you go back to the school’s history, instead of the country’s history, you would learn that the name Rebels was selected because the group that started the school was being a rebel by not joining with the other schools in the county.  They decided to stand up for what they believed and make their own school system.  They rebelled.  They went against what others believed.

Please understand me, the Confederate Rebels and I have nothing at all in common.  But…I am a rebel.

You see, society says that high school students tend to try “new habits” that I have never tried.  I rebelled against the expectation.

I was told that education majors in college really are just at school for their MRS degree.  Nope.  I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to learn who I was in order to be who I was created to be.  I rebelled against the stereotype.

Sadly, in the times we live in, it’s normal to be silent about your faith if you are a Christian, but….nope.  My friends, my family, my students, and the social media world know that I am a Christian.  I rebel against being a silent Christian.

Personally, I think being a lawful respectful rebel is a good thing.  I tell my students if they disagree with something I planned or do in class that they can respectfully state their case.  I can’t guarantee the stand will change the plans or practice, but it’s worth a shot.  I teach them to stand up and be heard.  I have read posts by friends who only focus on the negative definition of rebel.  Yet, I teach my students multiple meaning words every year.  Some words have both positive and negative meanings.  We are not the Confederate Rebels; we are the Southwestern Rebels.

As I do often when reading social media, I googled this question. “Is Rebel a negative word?”  The response: “Being a rebel or being branded as a rebel does not always warrant negative inferences. Strong willed people who are indisposed to comply with rules, standards, or laws are often branded rebels-just because they don’t fall in with a situation – often a prejudiced or unfair or unjust or discriminatory situation.”

Maybe I have a Pollyanna view of life, but that’s with what I’ve always associated our mascot. I will admit that in the midst of the heated and sometimes hateful/disrespectful debate I’ve read on Facebook that I cringe whenever a Confederate Soldier or Confederate flag appear.  Please know, I’m all about learning from our history.  I teach my kiddos history, both the positive and the ugly.  We discuss how we’ve learned and can still learn and change.  Yet, the visual of those two things don’t cause me any joy.  But, I admit, the little old guy with the beard, he just reminds me of a crotchety old man…angry old men are still around, but I don’t want that to be our mascot.  That little man doesn’t look one bit joyful.  Hmm, I need to refocus and forget about that little man.

One of my friends posted a survey on whether the school should change “Rebels”.  I picked “no”.  The money involved with the change is a big deterrent for me agreeing when we’re hard-pressed to be able to fund teacher’s salary and various student activities.  It seems like a lot of money for “rebranding”.  I became curious as to whether this was only occurring here or everywhere.  From what I garnered from a quick search, it seems Old Miss and UNLV as well as high schools throughout the nation have faced the same debate.  In most (if not all) cases, the “old man mascot” was given the boot.  Some replaced him with a bear or dog, but the name remained.

What will happen?  I know not.  Names are powerful.  Words…are what you make them.

Yet, this morning as I was once again overwhelmed by the FB posts on this subject, I tried to think of words that get me “worked up”.

The first that came to mind was the N word.  That to me is more foul than any curse word.  When I hear it, it makes my heart sad.  Many moons ago or possibly decades, I had a student who said the word in passing.  Our lesson was quickly interrupted and a history lesson and a lesson on respecting others took over.  To be honest, the only way this 8-year-old would be able to use the word so haphazardly was if he heard it frequently.  I always wondered what he told his parents happened in school that day.  Did he tell them that I corrected him and taught the class how inappropriate it was?  Did his parents see me as a self-righteous teacher?  Or….did they realize that their habit hurts others?

Then, I was reminded of a word that hurts me personally.  It hurts my spirit and makes my heart cry.  It is a name that my entire being is grounded in and my world revolves around.  It’s the name of my Creator.  My Savior.  God.

Just saying the name prompts a feeling of admiration and adoration to my being.  Yet, I remember back during my masters program having to endure a professor who used it as often as others say “um” as he taught us.  Each time he uttered the word, my entire being wanted to scream.  However, you can tell by a person’s speech and attitude whether a dialogue can take place, and it was evident that this professor’s self-identify would not take well to a student offering constructive criticism.  So, each week of his course….I would become irritated, which prompted anger, which prompted prayer.  Sometimes for him.  Often times for my attitude check.  At the conclusion of each course in my graduate program, associated with an evangelical Protestant university, the university had us complete an evaluation.  To be honest, I would rank this professor as second in most effective, but I respectfully shared how his habit, which had no intent on hurting others, affected me.  I’d like to say our evaluations (I wasn’t the only one who shared it.) helped him to alter his habit, and perhaps it did.  Yet, I do know that it colored his view of our co-hort.  Our advising professor told us in one of the courses she taught, “I don’t know what happened in Dr. X’s  class, but he does not hold a positive regard for your group.  He said nothing positive about the course just that you were ‘whiny’.”  Ah, we whined when we reported his offensive habit.  Lesson learned.  Sometimes, people don’t understand your problem with something.  You shake it off and move on.

Why did I share that?  I keep asking myself….is calling ourselves Rebel like speaking God’s name without reverence?  Does it cause stomach-punching emotional pain to those who hear it?  I don’t know.

As I wrapped up my ponderings and prepared to put my thoughts into word format…I again read posts from friends.  I have friends on both sides of the debate.  These are people I respect.  The perspective of both sides deserves attention, and then let the decree be made.  Regardless of how this current debate plays out….whether we remain the Southwestern Rebels, change to the Southwestern Survivors, revert to the Southwestern Bulldogs, I will always be a rebel.  A person who does what I think is right even when the world doesn’t agree.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s