Bitter Struggles

I failed the test.

Oregon wants me to get a 226. I got an even 150. For anyone knowledgeable in the Oregon teacher testing world– gaining 76 points is like hoping to compete on the Olympic track team when you got cut from your high school one.

My dad tells me I can do it. I believe I can. But it would mean giving up months of my life in constant study of a subject I don’t really enjoy teaching. When he tells me this, I deflate. I don’t want to spend the next months of my life studying so I can have the privilege of teaching 35 kids dead-set against learning.

I did the math on Paul’s and my student loans. We’ve been paying on them for 14 years. Essentially, we’ve more than paid off the debt. Guess how much it’s down? Eight thousand. We’ve been renting our education for 14 years. We’ve paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege of taking tests so we can prove we’re bona fide teachers. Then, we pay hundreds more for the privilege of getting the piece of paper that says we’re bona fide teachers. Then, we get laid off. Called in. Laid off again.

And if we get hired, we get the privilege of daily going into a battlefield, trying to convince these kids that what we do in the classroom is important. That someday, they might need to know how to describe the items in the classroom in Spanish, or discuss breakfast and lunch in Spanish, or have a conversation about maintaining your health in Spanish. Sometimes, I tell them straight — you don’t have to know this in life. Just keep your heart open to learning. But we have to teach these state standards. And that’s what the state has mandated we teach. So you get to learn how to discuss school activities in Spanish because you don’t pay us, the state does.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe it’s important to learn another language. I just don’t think that teaching according to state standards is the best way to go about it. But who am I to opine in such a way? I failed the state test and I’m not certified to speak on such issues. So I’ll stop.

I’ll go home and the girls and I will read Spanish stories together. I can’t guarantee fluency, but their hearts will be open and their interest piqued. Getting them to speak Spanish won’t be a spoil of war.

Dad says I should march into the superintendent’s office and show them the improvement in the students’ learning. I argue, Dad, you don’t realize that in the public school system, the kids aren’t the clients. Nor are the parents or the teachers. In the public school system, Oregon state is the client, because that is where the money comes from. And Oregon state doesn’t give a … hoot about me and my teaching. Sadly, I don’t really think they give a hoot about the kids either — otherwise they wouldn’t feed them the food they do, or hand down standards that mean much teaching and little learning, or do half the things they do to kids. If Oregon state cared about kids, they wouldn’t force these freshmen to get used to another teacher, make another adjustment. They’d let the kids finish the year as is — with me.

Dad says I should tell them I’ve got mouths to feed. I think, who doesn’t? Probably this replacement has hopes to feed his or her family. Perhaps he’s been praying for a job. And he’s done the dance to be a certified, bona fide Spanish teacher. Why shouldn’t he get it?

It mortifies my pride to picture myself begging for a job. But now is not the time to be too proud to beg. I feel like my soul would shrivel if I bent. But it would shrivel if I found my pride cost my family hurt. Perhaps I’ll visit him tomorrow? I can’t. I won’t. He can kiss my … But maybe I should. Humble pie is good for a girl like me. You’re too proud. Too over-confident. Too smug. I feel like I’ve eaten my share, considering the ridiculous score I got. I don’t think it will do any good. The superintendent has his mind made up. Dad says, nothing  ventured, nothing gained.

Yes. You’re right Dad. But this is not where I want to venture. I want to venture toward home. I don’t want to ever set foot in that system again. It has rejected me, bankrupted me in more ways than one, and done very little to help me. Moreover, I hate its existence. I find it evil, disgusting, and filthy. I find it hard to find anything positive. Every good thing I said about it was forced, because I should. And everything cutting I said about it came free and easy, like butterflies from a branch to a flower.  I loved and respected the kids. The teachers I see as the blind leading the blind. The people are lovely. But the system is destined to fall.

Those are the thoughts I squelch in my mind. I filter. I thank my dad. I say I’ll try and visit the superintendent. I’ll continue to do what I’m supposed to, I guess, because I fear a bad conscience more than my feelings. I’ll continue to live a lie, because that’s where all my past money has gone and since we’ve $52,000 more to go, most of our future money will go. Because they own me. They’ve given me a farcical education — one I completely reject. But I have to keep bettering their blasted system so I can pay them back.

Paul’s been talking about escaping to the woods. He’s on a Louie L’Amour kick right now.

I’ve just rolled my eyes and folded laundry.

I’m not rolling my eyes anymore. Paul is always right. I should listen sooner. I’m wondering where did we put the tent?



  1. I feel so responsible for all this caos in your lives. I suggested they send you into that classroom because I knew what a good teacher you were and because I knew it would be best for the kids to have some stability. But as you say, even the state could care less about stability!!!

    I know that I have been praying that you and Paul would be guided to go where you needed to go and do what you needed to do. I still pray that. God wants us to trust him to do big things in our lives. I struggle with that immensely almost daily. But I know it to be true because I have lived it. My boys are the perfect example of God bringing me through the dark in order to embrace a light ten times brighter than I could have imagined. I pray that happens for you and Paul.

    Cling to what is good and honest. That is your husband and family. Schools are dishonest naturally. They promise things that cannot be delivered in our current environment.

    God will tell you whether you should fight or not, Danielle. He may tell you through Paul so be sure you are listening.

    Love you.


  2. I know that this is not the purpose of this particular blog but thought the idea may be useful to you. Kevin and I pay and extra $20 a month on each of our student loans. It is only $240 a year, but the extra goes directly to the principle. In the end it takes a few years off of the amount that you will be paying for. I know that money is tight, but even with Kevin out of a job for a significant amount of time now, we still just do it. We will have one of mine, and one of Kevin’s paid off in the next 2 years by doing this. Then we will continue to work Dave Ramsay’s debt snowball until the others are gone too.


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