Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dignity and Worth

Yesterday, a group of Wheaton alumni (they call themselves OneWheaton) distributed a letter on campus. As I understand it, it was a response to part of a recent chapel series, “Sexuality and Wholeness” (itself part of a larger series of lectures, “Sexual and Sanctified”), addressing homosexuality. If you have not already, I suggest you read the letter and some background on the group for context.

President Ryken issued a statement late yesterday afternoon responding positively to OneWheaton’s goal of affirming the worth and dignity of and ending any sort of negative disposition toward people who have suffered or are suffering at Wheaton because of their sexual identity, and at the same time affirming our Community Covenant’s relevant sections. I thought his comments were gracious and Christ honoring as well as fully reflecting the mission of the College.

As I pondered and reflected on OneWheaton’s letter and press release, I noticed a particular theme in the contents of the documents that I believe may be at the core of OneWheaton’s views. It concerns the source of the worth and dignity of all human beings that OneWheaton seeks to affirm. This article, by the way, is not a full response to OneWheaton, it is merely some thoughts I had after exploring their materials.

OneWheaton’s letter states, “As people of integrity we [OneWheaton] must affirm the full humanity and dignity of every human being regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” I agree that it is indeed a show of integrity to make such an affirmation. But why should we make this affirmation? Why would it be a strike against our integrity to do otherwise? After reading through OneWheaton’s materials several times, I found no answer to this question.

I personally believe that God is the source of the full humanity and dignity of every human being. Genesis affirms that God created male and female in His image, and called this grand finale of creation “very good.” To demean any person, any of the unique image-bearers of God, would be to put oneself in opposition to the Lord of creation.

Paul affirms in his letter to the Colossians that Christ is the Lord of creation. Given that each one of us is a part of creation, we are thus all subject to Christ as Lord (whether we acknowledge Him or not). Paul states that “all things were created…for him” (v. 16). “All things” includes the minds and bodies of men and women, which means that every thought, every action, every behavior is subject to Christ.

And every one of us, without exception, has thought, acted, and behaved in ways that are dishonoring to Christ. I am not here concerned with any particular thought, action, or behavior, but rather the general idea that it is a violation of our integrity to act in a way that dishonors Him whose image we bear.

OneWheaton’s letter directly addresses students who feel isolated and oppressed because of their sexual identity: “Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful.” I agree with the spirit of this statement. To tell someone that he or she is in error for having same-sex attraction is akin to telling someone that he or she is in error for being disorganized. Certainly, such tendencies may cause harm to oneself or others, but having the tendencies themselves is not itself a sin. We live in a fallen, broken world, and this is reflected in many ways.

The key is to surrender everything – our minds, our bodies, our thoughts, our actions, our behaviors, our tendencies – to Christ, our Lord. Only He can take them and transform them so that they honor and glorify Him. We are utterly powerless to do so. We must acknowledge our brokenness, surrender to Christ, and let Him do with us what He will.

To return to an earlier point: each one of us is guilty of demeaning our fellow men and women, for asserting our alleged superiority, whether noticeably or not. And we have all suffered from it, and thus we all know the terrible effects it has on our own perception of our worth.

But praise God, our dignity and worth does not come from the opinions of those who seek to tear us down! As I explained above, our dignity and worth come from Christ, and it is Him alone in whom we should put our identity. Not in our jobs, our education, our status, our possessions, our friends, our significant others, our sexuality, our heath, our wealth, our intellect – indeed, in nothing of this world. I have forgotten this so many times and found myself depressed because of having poor standing in one of these areas. But I – and you, and every other man and woman – can have high standing before the throne of God because of the blood that was shed on our behalf at the Cross. All we need to obtain this standing, that overrules our standing before any standard of this world, is to surrender all that we are to Christ.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I Still Choose Wheaton

My relationship with Wheaton College began in the fall of 2005, during my junior year of high school, when I submitted my first inquiry to undergraduate admissions. Though I was not sure at the time that I was qualified, God in His wisdom saw fit to have me admitted, and on August 23, 2007, my mom, brother, and I pulled up in front of Smith-Traber Hall – it was the first day of my freshman orientation.

And now I am in the final month my undergraduate years. Some people get to this point and never look back. Yet I have every intention of maintaining ties with the institution, even though I will no longer be in residence. Wheaton College is a place that I will be proud to call my alma mater, and I will seek to give back to and invest in the College for as long as the Lord enables me. Here are just a few reasons why I still choose Wheaton.

First, Wheaton College is, quite simply, a fun place to live and study. I have enjoyed semester after semester full of memorable, often spontaneous, fun times with my peers. In fact, if asked what regrets I have about my four years at Wheaton, I would say that I regret not having been more intentional about pursuing those quality interactions. And we have so much variety of fun things to do both on and off-campus, from the lounges of lower Beamer to the streets of Chicago.

The excellent faculty at this institution is another reason why I still choose Wheaton. They have degrees from the world’s best schools, portfolios full of scholarly accomplishments, and years and years of experience. These men and women additionally have a passion for our development as whole and effective Christians and a commitment to the preeminence of Christ in all things, and as such the faculty members are certainly the students’ most valuable resource here at the College.

And finally, I still choose Wheaton because my time here has been a time of incredible spiritual growth – and I am not an isolated case, because I have seen similar spiritual growth in many of my peers. I have had so many encounters and experiences during my time here that have challenged me to think through everything I believe, and made my faith that much stronger because of it. I have also learned to be content in my identity in Christ and to trust God to have a perfect plan for my life, regardless of how much of the plan has actually been revealed to me. God has used this place in so many ways to bring me closer to and make me more like Christ, as I believe has been the case for countless previous generations of students.

This last reason, by the way, is not something I could have anticipated during my pre-admission visits and application and decision process four or five years ago. Certainly, I had heard phrases like “life-changing experience” during that time, but I could never have predicted the magnitude of Wheaton’s effect on me – I was very pleasantly surprised.

To my fellow seniors: Wheaton College has done so much for us. Will you join me in committing to return the favor and support our alma mater? Wheaton College is a special place, the recipient of untold blessings, and an institution that does good work for Christ and His Kingdom. Let us commit to bringing the College regularly before the throne, that the Lord might put a shield around this place to guard against harm and grant wisdom and guidance in the pursuit of Christ’s truth and the proclamation of the gospel.

Founding president Jonathan Blanchard, when asked why he chose to come to Wheaton, replied, “I believed that the Lord had need of Wheaton College, to aid in preparing the way for His coming.” Generations of students, faculty, staff, and friends have chosen Wheaton College for similar reasons. I still choose Wheaton not because it is perfect, for it is not, but because it is indeed a special place, and I believe God has a special plan for this institution, and I would not miss a chance to continue to be a part of it.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reflections on Student Teaching

Earlier today, I completed my second of two student teaching assignments, the "clinical training" component of my bachelor's degree. One of my requirements is to submit a brief "reflection and self-evaluation" for each placement to my college supervisor. (I completed my middle school placement in January and early February, and my high school placement from mid-February through this week.) I have copied my responses to the prompts here.

What has this experience taught you about yourself as a teacher?


I have discovered many things about myself as a teacher through this first placement. I discovered that I am more flexible than I thought when it comes to actual instruction. I am quite good at developing highly structured and highly detailed plans, and I worried at first that I would not be able to respond appropriately to my students when they responded to my teaching in ways I had not anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I was able to use my plans more as an outline than a pair of handcuffs.

I also turned out better than I expected at classroom management. One of my large ensembles at this school, all sixth graders, was particularly prone to rowdiness. My cooperating teacher taught me a trick (refrain from saying anything until they stop talking, then wait that much time again before speaking), and I employed some of my own quick wit, and within a couple of weeks I was able to quickly put aside any distractions or interruptions and proceed with the lesson.


Though I still perceive myself as highly flexible in terms of instruction, I find that I still struggle in planning stages in anticipating how my students will respond – particularly students who have different learning styles than I did at their age. I often imagine how I would respond to a given lesson plan I am writing, which of course overlooks probably half of the students who will receive that lesson.

I also learned that, if I try hard enough, I can be very resourceful and creative in finding new ways to engage my students or get a point across. I found that I am especially resourceful in finding new ways to model or demonstrate ideas and in isolating the parts of an idea that are a particular challenge for students.

What has this experience taught you about your students and the process of learning?


This placement has taught me a lot about how students are best engaged – or at least these students in particular. The students I worked with responded best to me when I was serious about getting work done, highly confident of their abilities, complimentary of their achievements, demonstrably happy to be working with them, and happy in general about life.

I also found, in regard to the process of learning, how significant patterns are. Students always seemed to catch on to new material fastest when I would present it in a way that compared it to something they already new.


This placement has taught me that students need to be let in on my strategy for teaching material, at least to some degree. Simple explanations that begin with “the reason I’m asking you to try this…” often do wonders in helping the students focus their energies on the immediate challenge.

I have also seen first-hand the effect of positive reinforcement, namely in the simple acts of praise in front of peers. Finally, I have learned that varying from routine from time to time (while still maintaining order) has an incredibly motivating effect on students – something as simple as a new opening exercise to the class period seems to be very revitalizing.

How has your perception of the teaching profession changed as a result of your experience?


While I vaguely understood the concept beforehand, I realized during my time at my middle school just how many different hats at teacher has to wear, and how often a teacher must wear more than one hat simultaneously: lesson planning, curriculum design, and assessment (both as planned and when students need extra help); communicating with other teachers, parents, and administrators; keeping a neat and orderly office and classroom; various business-related duties; and, on occasion, supervising student teachers. Thankfully, multi-tasking and the like are strengths of mine.

I also have a better perspective now of the pressures teachers face from all sides – parents, administrators, and the students themselves, not to mention the personal pressures of family. Thankfully, my cooperating teacher was an excellent model of someone who has achieved a good balance.


One of the more difficult things for me to observe at this placement was the perpetually exhausted disposition of some veteran teachers (all three teachers in the department, including my cooperating teacher, were nearing the ends of their careers). While the still retain their skill and sharpness of mind from years of teaching the material, as well as professional development, many had attitudes of “I can’t wait to retire.” This was mildly discouraging to me. But it made me aware, as had my last placement, of the constant pressures teachers face, not only from students, but from parents and administrators, and how draining that can be if one is not careful to look after one’s own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.


In all, student teaching was an incredibly rewarding experience. It has been the clearest affirmation yet of the Lord's call for me to enter the teaching profession. I eagerly look forward to seeing how God might use me in the lives of young people.

I want to also publicly thank Dr. Tim Yontz, my college supervisor/advisor, and my two fantastic cooperating teachers, Mrs. Karisa Scheifele and Mr. Paul Loucas. Thank you also to everyone who prayed for me and encouraged me throughout my student teaching experience.

This is Rubio, over and out.