Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seasons of change

Kicking and screaming, I have been vaulted into the jubilation and sorrow of life in the past four months. I have always proclaimed with eager anticipation that the next five years of my life will be full of changes whether I like it or not. And I have not been disappointed. Here is a rundown of the events that have shaped my life recently:
Wifes pregnant: My wife and I have attempted to buck the local West Bend trend and put off the prospect of motherhood/fatherhood until recently. Five years of wedded bliss with each other, combined with daily doses of the magic pill have made for one helluva ride. It's time to welcome new life. Michelle's due date is July 9th, which makes her 17 weeks along this week. She has had a wonderful time so far with no sickness.
Out with student teaching/In with teaching: After eight and a half years of school, I am finally nearing the end (for now). I am 8 credits short of my Masters after finishing my student teaching at West Bend West High School and have been blessed to be offered a position at West (which I took of course). I started last week teaching 5 sections of 9th grade global studies. I will be getting my first paycheck in seven days which will be hastily deposited to pay bills that have piled up (small pile, closer to Sunburst than Everest). I consider this my first real job from the standpoint that I have just about arrived at where I want to be career-wise (for now). I truly enjoy teaching and spending time with students. I am confident that this type of 'profession' (scratch that.....teaching is a 'calling') is what God has made me for; has set upon my heart. I am praying that somehow, someway, a position will open up at West or East for next year.
Tragedy: I had the pleasure of knowing a young man named Matthew Murray who passed away a couple of months ago in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If the name sounds familiar, it may be because of his involvement in the shootings at YWAM in Arvada and the church in Colorado Springs. Memories of Matthew and I on the Indian Reservation in Montana crepted through my mind as I sat in front of television programs while criminal profilers dissected Matthew's behavior and questioned his motives; memories of his green fleece worn religiously and his love of Nut Rolls. Unfortunately (as is often the case), all discussions of Matthew's state of mind were null and void of any reference to his spiritual condition. Matthew's evil impulses and desires were perpetuated by ill-timed rejections aimed at his already fragile personality without consideration or afterthought as to the potentially horrific ramifications. Instead of embracing Matthew in his brokenness, he was allowed to wallow in a loneliness that cannot be explained or described, seeking solace oftentimes in front of a computer to share his hurts and pains. I loved Matthew and know many others who did as well. I don't believe I have properly grieved the lives which Matthew took or the hurt of all the parents involved, and anticipate that one day, in quiet reflection, waves of sorrow and grief will crash upon me in remembrance of what hurt and loneliness can do to ones self as well as others. May this serve as a gentle yet stern reminder of the responsibility (command) we have to love as we are loved by our heavenly Father; to forgive as we are forgiven by our heavenly Father.

I would love to write more and perhaps some day I might have the privilege to do so.
Until then,
grace and peace,
Andy and Michelle

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The last 9 weeks have been a whirlwind of highs and lows, of triumphs and defeats in the classroom. The first half of the quarter everything is new and the learning curve is quite steep.

But then it plateaus... its flat up here.....

Progression is slow......

Some days become grinding......

Cynicism towards students seeps in.....

The waves of self-doubt crash in.....

I believe these are the times that separate good teachers from great teachers. The good teachers get in a routine with no room for innovation and creativity. They stay on the plateau. The great teachers take more risks, allow themselves to become even more vulnerable in front of the class and push through the monotony of the plateau. Its a challenge I am coming to believe every new teacher goes through.

Oftentimes it is easy to blame students on the plateau, to point the finger.

"Commit yourself to a new approach to being together; when you hear difficult things, mysterious things, or perhaps ideas that seem to fly in the face of your usual way of looking at things, let your first response be that of wonder rather than harsh judgment or criticism:
"I wonder what brought her/him to this place"
"I wonder what my reaction teachers me?"
"I wonder what he/she's feeling right now?"
Switch from saying to asking, from advocating for your opinion, to inquiry about the
other's . . . move from knowing to wondering. Thus we are open to learning from one another."

--Parker J. Palmer

andy Christo

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Full Swing!

School is in full swing and things couldn't be going better. I have a great mentor and great students which is making student teaching a very valuable experience. I have a much deeper appreciation for what teachers do on a day to day basis. So much goes into separating a good teacher from a great teacher and only when sitting on the inside can one see the differences. Student teaching has become a rather large time commitment. The reason being that for myself, content still has to be learned as well as what questions to ask about content. I believe the questions asked of students is as essential as being a master of content. For without the proper questions a teacher cannot 'massage' the student's mind to produce a sincere, thoughtful response.
Things have been so stellar due to the great attitude of my cooperating teacher who exemplifies in every way what it means to be all about the students. He is a professional in every sense of the word, and thankfully, I believe its starting to rub off on my; the passion, the desire, the joy.
It is a deep and resounding peace that lingers within my soul knowing that the steps I am taking now are steps that will lay the foundation to fullfill the passions I have in my heart for me and my family; a passion for my wife, my students, and my God.

Thanks everyone,
Mr. C

"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our Attitudes." --Charles Swindoll

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ready or Not, Here I Teach!

The day has finally arrived. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The school year starts tomorrow with yours truly in the classroom as a student teacher. I have the wonderful opportunity to be under the tutelage of a great social studies teacher and am truly thrilled. Student teaching doesn't come without its apprehensions though. The voices of doubt and fear rear their ugly heads in the quiet moments. Will students like me? Will they learn? Can I really teach? Will my colleagues like and affirm me? Can I handle this? You'd think the self doubt would have subsided after high school or college. Yet we all want to do well in our vocation; to excel at what we are called to do in our lives. A book that spoke volumes to me this summer as I have attempted to prepare my heart and mind for teaching is Parker J. Palmer's The Courage to Teach. Parker's take on teaching is so much more than lesson plans, best practice, and classroom management. Parker reminds us that the core of our being is where we teach from. And if our 'insides' are at an imbalance, we will teach out of that, profoundly effecting the students. Parker's book is so encouraging because he connects teaching with the spiritual and ties it into something so otherworldly. Thank you Mr. Palmer.

"There are no formulas for good teaching, and the advice of experts has but marginal utility. If we want to grow in our practice, we have two primary places to go: to the inner ground from which good teaching comes and to the community of fellow teachers from whom we can learn more about ourselves and our craft" -- Parker J. Palmer

Monday, August 06, 2007

Blood Water Mission

Michelle and I had an awesome time volunteering for Blood Water Mission at Lifest in Oshkosh some weeks ago. For those of you who don't know, Blood Water Mission is an organization started by the band Jars of Clay to address the urgent need for access to clean water in Africa. BWM operates on the premise that 1$ will provide clean water for 1 African for 1 year. Its a hard statement to wrap your head around. We met some wonderful people named Matt and Kelsey who are passionate about making a difference in Africa.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We're back!
Michelle and I had a great trip with a number of stories to share and remember for a lifetime. The trip was slightly different this year because we stayed in a town we rarely stay in and brought some young people with us. But nonetheless, relationships were strengthened, progress was made on the construction of a foster home, and the love Michelle and I have for the Crow people has continued to grow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Urgency
What if I were to give you appalling statistics of a people group in the world today that are victimized at an alarming rate?
  • The female demographic of this people group is raped and sexually assaulted at 2.5x the rate of the country they are found in.
  • Of the reported rapes and sexual assaults, 86% of the perpetrators are outside of the women's people group.
You would probably announce this as an atrocity, comment that it could only be happening in a war-torn, impoverished, 3rd world country, and then cut the conversation short so you could go to Starbucks before your PTA meeting.

Do you want the answer? I don't know if you do.

These figures pertain to Native American and Alaskan Native women.

Yep, that's right, in our own back yard.

If that weren't enough....

34.1% -- one in three Native American and Alaskan Native women -- will be raped in their lifetime.

thanks for reading,

andy Christo

p.s. source(s) available upon request