Three Different Junes, All the Same Test
by Jane Tawel
June 22, 2017
I posted the following on Facebook June 12, 2012 – five years ago when Verity was transferring as a sophomore to Monrovia High School and needed to take some summer courses:
Ok, so I was filling out a scantron for Verity to take summer classes at the Monrovia Adult School so she does not have to take them during the year. First, it is absolutely heartbreaking when some young kid comes in and needs to take classes to finish high school and because of budget cuts he has to go somewhere else or wait until fall. I gave him my best little teacher pep talk and just pray he keeps his chin up and finishes high school. Oh, these poor, poor kids. But on a lighter note, there are at least thirty little things you can bubble in about “what you are”, ie why you are taking the classes and of course, Verity was a “concurrent high school student”, but you could be “out of jail”, or “lost a job”, but it was so hard for me not to bubble in “displaced home maker”. I’m not kidding– that was a choice! and I forgot to ask, what exactly IS a displaced home maker. Did he/ she wander into the wrong house and start cleaning some other family’s house, or did the family vote on getting a new serf, I mean homemaker, thereby displacing this one? Is it someone who thought they were cleaning the bathroom, but they were “displaced” and really in the den? Does he/ she lives in a mobile home?? I guess I am a displaced home maker because as you can see I am not really probably from this planet.
–Posted on Facebook June 12, 2012
June 22, 2017: On the morning of June 14, 2017, I took the CBEST. This is the educator’s test that anyone who wants to teach or substitute teach in California needs to take. It was instituted to make sure the people teaching the children knew some basic things about English, Math and Writing. I took it years and years ago and although I didn’t have to retake it, I was in need of a new teaching job and so I wanted to take the test. Weird, right? I am still waiting for my results. If I don’t pass the Writing section though, I’m packing it in – just saying.
I took the test this time online – something new since the first time I took it when I traveled to the downtown LAUSD headquarters. That building is no longer there. That was back in a time when you still had your fingers inked for fingerprint clearance and I suppose we were mostly still using typewriters then. We were definitely still using pay phones. Gone are the days when a parent or spouse, called out the front door, “Do you have enough quarters?”
After taking the CBEST test that first June in 1988 I spent a lot of time traveling for jobs to just about every LAUSD high school and middle school in Southern California. My fiancée at the time, now husband Raoul, and I joked that he and I lived in completely different worlds, although technically living only a few miles apart. As I worked in culturally, racially diverse and economically struggling schools and neighborhoods, he enjoyed the environs of the privileged, educated world of JPL and rich homogenous suburbia.
This June when retaking the CBEST, what remained the same for me in life I guess, were two somewhat ironic truths. The first is that I had test anxiety for days before the test. It actually didn’t matter whether I even passed the test since I didn’t need it. Having test anxiety was perhaps a very useful thing for me, a teacher. You can mentally understand that some students don’t test well and are overwhelmed by anxiety, but you have a lot more empathy if recently you experienced it yourself. Boy oh boy, were my math skills rusty after years of not really giving two hoots about ratios or perimeters! And why in the world would they form every math question as a word problem?!? That is just plain devilry!
Secondly, ironically, just like when I as a parental “displaced homemaker” was looking at Scantrons with Verity for her test in 2012, I was taking the CBEST at an Adult School. At 7:30 am I was driving to an Adult School Facility, not through downtown Los Angeles but through a suburb which shall remain nameless because it was so utterly depressing. As an empath I was taking in the “humanity, oh the humanity” and by the time I found the Adult School I was deeply, deeply sad. I was back in the “completely different world” I had first experienced years ago when I started teaching for LAUSD. Although these people lived technically just a few miles from where I live, it is in fact a very different view from the windows of their world. This city is chockablock full of people without “enough quarters”.
I sat in the waiting area of the Adult School listening to various “languaged” adults, various future-seeking young folks, various hard working, undervalued adult school professors– and I felt the weightedness of my privileged life put in the scales against the weightiness of their various struggles. And the balance felt all wrong. The thumbs of the world are weighting down the scales unjustly on the side of People Like Me. One can understand this on an intellectual level, but sitting in an adult school feeling anxious about a test that will determine one’s future job market possibilities, gives one something more than intellectual assent. It can — if embraced willingly –give one a worldview paradigm shift that becomes truly empathetic. And that empathy can — if embraced willingly — lead to a change of heart, actions, words, and life. Heart understanding is always more life-changing than head understanding.
I have for the past several years felt that we need to read more of what Gentiles call The Old Testament. The Jews call it more rightly: “The Teachings, The Prophets, and The Writings”. I have been reading Isaiah again, a book I feel is a prophetic voice for our time. But the Proverbs contained in The Writings come to mind when thinking of the scales of justice and the scales on our eyes. Proverbs 11 begins:
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealtha perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
And the first part of Proverbs 16:
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
A just balance and scales are the LORD’s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
So Three Separate Junes, Three Separate Tests: 30 years ago….. 5 years ago….. last week. All so very different times in my temporal life. Ironically, they were all the same in eternity timelessness. They were all tests of my spiritual life. While I was looking at percentile weights, The Lord was “weighing my spirit”. As I journeyed through various SoCal cities feeling the tensions in which we live, God was speaking to the tensions of my heart nudging me to accept that, “by the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted”. Or as the Messiah in a sometimes too unheard, well -worn simile said to those who would truly desire to follow The Lord, “You must embrace your inner spiritual city on a hill. Let your light shine in the world out there.”
In 2012 I was joking about being displaced. In 2017, as I am yet again feeling a bit displaced and looking for a new job, I feel more sincerely the weightiness of the truly displaced people in this world. In 1988, I was taking the CBEST in my maiden name. My name has changed since then along with so much else. But the God of Ages never has changed. Throughout our history with His Story, He tests those whom He loves. Someday I will know my “real name” – the name written on a white stone by my Savior. That will be on the day when all the tests are all turned in and when all the scores we got in this life will be revealed for what they are truly worth. Talk about test anxiety! And yet the Proverb assures that “a just balance and scales are the Lord’s” and that “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for.” It is The Christ’s steadfast faithfulness and the steadfast love of God that tip the scales and score the tests.
Driving to my CBEST last week, I felt the unbearable heaviness of a world that is trashed in trouble, awash in pain, struggling in sorrow, with a rampant poverty of material and spiritual belongingness. And yet the Proverb assures that the God of the Israelites has “all the weights in His bag” and that throughout history, God has continued to make the offer that our brokenness can be put back together into wholeness and holiness. The Creator of All can and is and will make all things new.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelations 21)
In God’s city, everyone will have enough quarters and no one will ever be anxious about future tests. And we will all live together as God’s people.
Everyone needs the same things and what we all need is heart changing Good News — The Gospel of a Testament that is never “Old” – For God so loved this world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Jehovah sent the only righteous One to take on the weighted yokes of our lives – personal, social, political, financial, relational, emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual lives. God came to deliver us from the unjustly weighted scales we have purposely chosen through whatever sins we prefer. We are all called to live boldly this good news with oxymoronic irony –with weighted freedom and serious joy.
Isaiah 58:6 has The Lord saying to those who would live justly and righteously: “Is not this the sacrifice that I want: to break the chains of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free, and to break apart every enslaving yoke.” As The Messiah spoken of by Isaiah said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.
I need my heart to know that if Christ walked with a cross towards eternity for me – He is calling me to follow Him by walking with a cross for my own neighbor and yes, my own enemy. And in that way, I am taking my thumb off the scales in my own favor, and piercing my hands with the weighted balances of God’s preferential love for the whole world. It may seem weird, but I’m submitting and with fear and trepidation willing to be tested again — and again –in order to be loved, to love, and be with in eternity, the God who has all the weights in His bag.