A faculty blog by Dr. Beth Ackerman
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
As the debates seem to continue about Common Core Standards, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the matter here. This discussion is an attempt to explain the controversy rather than to push a point of view. I prefer that our students and others think critically about these ideas and be able to form their own opinions based off key elements such as a biblical perspective and Christian principles.
The debate seems to be centered around standards that are nationally driven or top/down agenda, which is not typically seen as a conservative point of view. It’s also my understanding that the major teacher unions have gotten behind them which is sometimes seen as a liberal group of stakeholders. While common core can be seen as controversial, most school systems have already adopted the standards.
ACSI, Association of Christian Schools International (the leading Christian education organization), has begun to develop materials to address the standards in our Christian schools. Christian schools are now utilizing the common core, because many states that house these schools are now requiring the common core. ACSI is offering workshops and aligning curriculum to these standards as states have already endorsed them. They have some information on their views at this article - http://pubs.royle.com/article/Christian+Schools+and+the+Common+Core/1497092/173903/article.html
Virginia Department of Education, who approves Liberty University's programs, has decided to not utilize the common core standards. Instead they have demonstrated how our State Standards Of Learning align to the common core standards, but at this time VA would prefer to maintain control of their own standards. So this is also state’s rights type issue, which is seen as a conservative view point. See VA DOE's statement at - http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/index.shtml and http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/common_core/index.shtml
However, the biggest fear of conservative organizations is that national standards can be agenda driven. Once the Federal government or any entity starts requiring them, then it is possible for agendas to become part of the standards. Some conservatives are claiming that the agenda is already there. Speaking in very general terms, conservative states and organizations have been the last to “sign off” on common core. The fear is if that though they are currently voluntary, they may not stay voluntary. And some conservatives and conservative organizations have said that states are already applying pressure to home schoolers and Christian education institutions. Regardless of whether they are volontary or if your state has endorsed the standards, they are probably here to stay whether we want them to be or not, at least for a political season.
With that said, there are benefits to common core standards, just as there are any “standards” for holding accountability. As Christians, we don’t want ever want to shy away from accountability. As Jerry Falwell, Sr. often said, “If it’s Christian, it ought to better”. Our concern should be focused rather on who and what is driving the standards and are our religious rights being impacted by these decisions. The link above to the ACSI's thoughts on the Common Core, express nicely how Christians should be engaging the culture, to include common core standards with biblical truths and princples. Perhaps they don't need to be something to run away from confronting.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 8:45 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I started becoming aware of this when I decided in my teen years that I needed to escape my family and four sisters fighting for a single bathroom and I moved myself to the basement bedroom. It was next to the stairs and it sometimes seemed an earthquake was coming when people galloped down the stairs. In adjusting to the new sounds of my bedroom and in the solitude I was seeking, I became very aware of my family’s movement. I could tell when sisters were fighting, Dad was mad, and when my family was being active or peaceful. When Jhon and I got our first apartment together, it was a basement apartment. The sounds above were foreign to him, but to me, it felt like home.
I’d begun to forget about those days when we bought our own home. It was 11 years before Jhon and I had Johnny, our first child. A couple years after this, I remember when I became aware of his little pattering toddler feet, whatever I was doing I stopped and listened and I cried. I get teary eyed now to still think about it. I now had my family and our own beautiful sounds of children feet.
Yesterday, I returned from a trip. I was just so happy to be at home and with my family. And I was listening intently to our home. The kids were playing on their Kinect and I heard their feet dancing, running in place, and jumping. And then one that just made me laugh, a clickity, click of paws on the hardwood floor. (I can’t believe we have a puppy!)
When times are stressed, when we are arguing, looking for lost shoes, trying to get out the door. I just exhale, briefly close my eyes, and just listen to feet, and now add the clickity, click of paws, and I know, all is good and blessed!Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Friday, July 19, 2013
It’s hard to not be sentimental when I see the various machinery and barriers closing in on the School of Education. I imagine most of us from the School of Education would agree that it is a bitter sweet ending of an era.
My family left Miami, FL and moved to Lynchburg, Virginia in 1986 so that my Mom could teach at Liberty University. She had just completed her doctorate at UM and it sparked a series of changes for our family. I remember her first office in the hallway they are prepping for destruction. She shared it with her friend and colleague, Dr. Rebecca Carwile. I remember hanging out in what was already a small office to share. At age 13, I would play with Dr. Carwile’s paper cranes until I figured out how to make one. My Mom, Dr. Parker, later became the Chair and Dean of the School of Education. Dr. Carwile was her Associate Dean for a time before losing a battle to cancer.
My Mom had the same office in the School of Education for about 20 years. To the best of my knowledge and because of much construction and growth, I imagine that no one currently at Liberty University has stayed in the same office longer. There are many memories of times spent visiting my Mom in her office, tears because of grades and frustration with school, memories of visits from my sisters there. And then the more recent memories of holding what I call “marathon meetings” with her in her office.
Of course, I was also a graduate of the School of Education, where I did my bachelor’s degrees. I had my colleagues as professors, Dr. Carwile, Dr. Pantana, and Dr. Black just to name a few. I still struggle to call them by their first name. I sat as a student in what used to be desks now replaced by tables, I recorded my first lesson plan and delivered presentations to my classmates in that building in the early 90s.
So as I walk the halls and see the white boards being removed, boxes being packed, I imagine that there all precious memories for all of us being stored until the School of Education finds a new home to fill up with new memories.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I should start that folks are often shocked that I’m introverted. When they think about it, I think it makes sense to them. There’s a reason I’m always hard to find in person, why I’m fast on email and slow to the phone, why I don’t frequent the office lunches, and then there is my obvious love for meetings, ;). My colleagues have learned it’s not that I’m not available; it’s that I’m available to them in different ways.
I also used to be EXTREMELY shy. As a child, I wouldn’t/couldn’t talk to strangers, and they often would even make me cry when they spoke to me. My students always love this example. When I was an undergraduate student, I DREADED speeches or presentations with the sick stomach and all. No, it’s worse than that, I was pitiful. I was one of those folks the audience even felt sorry for…with my voice and hands shaking. On a few occasions in my early college years, I even walked out of the middle of my speeches in tears. And I still get sick to my stomach on the first day of a new class or if I know I have to use a microphone at a speaking engagement. Though finding a sense of humor helps me recover from these more quickly.
There are times when being an introvert is great. When I have the right confidants and trusted friends lined up, it actually makes life easier being an introvert as I can escape much drama and enjoy a simpler life. But it’s hardest when people don’t recognize that this is how I am. I can do the parties and politics, have fun, hang out, talk to different people, etc. And it’s not even that I don’t enjoy it. I love hearing people's stories and hearing about their life. And anyone can tell you that I do love to talk :), it’s just that it makes me VERY tired. It burns energy from me to the point where I feel that my mind becomes unable to function.
Also, some of my long-time friends know that it can take years before they really got to know me. One of the reasons these blogs stretch me in interesting ways. :)
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 7:59 PM | Comments (1) | Permalink
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I write monthly devotional blogs for Women of Faith. Because of the quotes that have been dear to me in my walk in faith, this one has been my personal favorite. I wrote it a few weeks before the passing of Brennan Manning and it was published a couple weeks after his passing. If you are not familiar with his writings, I suggest you begin with Ragamuffin Gospel.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Thursday, April 4, 2013
It was 2005, and I had already paid my $200 deposit for my first overseas trip to an orphanage in Kazakhstan. But I had found out a couple months later that I was pregnant and I would be unable to go. So I went to this meeting about the trip in hopes of getting my deposit back. At this meeting, I find myself sitting next to Ember, who I met for the first time. Ember and I talked about her doing her Master’s degree and at some point in the conversation she stated that there was no way she could have the deposit which was due the next day. So she wouldn’t do the trip on this go around. Before I could give it any thought, I told her she could have my deposit. I don’t say this arrogantly, because I was having a baby and I really wanted to keep that money. Had I given it any thought, she would not have received the deposit.
Ember went on that trip and then went every summer until 2008 where she stayed for a year. That year she met Kiikzhan who she married in 2010. They now have 2 beautiful children, the newest one born last week that sparked this blog. They may even return with their family to Kazakhstan someday. I occasionally see them around town and pictures of their beautiful family on Facebook, and I just think… a $200 deposit I hoped to get back. Ember would also tell you all the other people that got her there that day and later on the different trips to Kazakhstan. My role was very small and really the role of many others. Ember made the true sacrifice. But my point is that we may never be used in the ways we had thought we might. But we are all used in beautiful ways. If you open your eyes to what is happening around you, you will see it.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Throughout my life there are those images left frozen on my mind. Mental pictures that can always spark instant emotion. Some are funny, well hysterical actually, others are pure joy, and then there is this one - one that leaves me with the rawest of emotions - sadness, frustration, anger, and doubt – all in one picture. Every time I’ve thought of it, it ends with - WHY? Why doesn’t God protect us and keep us safe? The thing about these mental pictures is that no words can do it justice. But I’ll try.
It was almost 2 years ago and I was attending a double funeral of my colleague and friend’s daughter and son-in-law. It was a tragic death of a beautiful young couple killed in a fire. I was watching the family procession into the church. Behind the shared single casket which held this young couple; there was my friend, Dr. Kathie Morgan. She seemed barely able to walk with 2 men supporting and guiding her along; one man, her first husband, who she had grown to forgive and continue to love, and the other man, her new husband who walked with her through her recent battle with cancer to include a mastectomy. Just behind her walked her only surviving daughter, and when I see her I know instantly the world of hurt that she is facing in losing a sister. There was my snap shot and mental picture of Kathie bearing all of life’s possible pains.
I also have to say here that Kathie Morgan is one of those amazing, kind women, who I imagine has very few, if any, grudges against her. So with this mental picture, I’m often left wondering – Why? Why does it storm so hard on some people? And good people? Where is our protection?
Yesterday, Kathie shared her story in our School of Education Convocation, I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. I knew it would hurt to hear her story again. But then sometimes it seems the least we can do is to listen to her story. I also knew that underneath the pain, perhaps she would offer me some wisdom. That raw wisdom discovered through life’s pain. She told her stories of pain, heartbreak, and loss to include others, like losing her sister to cancer. She didn’t even have time to share her husband’s recent heart problems and her Mom not doing well and other struggles I know she faces. While we are all left crying and emotionally drained, she closed with these thoughts. She gave us five things to do –
1. Love those people God put in your life in grace. Allow them to be free. And don’t allow any regrets.
2. Choose people over things
3. Choose your friends, mentors, and colleagues wisely, as through the hard times, they are your support.
4. Listen to your heart
Being true to teaching and her love of literacy, Kathie ended it with a quote from C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia referring to Aslan.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
Here is a picture of Kathie and her daughter. Because this is much her story, Kathie read this and gave permission to share. It's been an honor to learn from her and I hope you feel this as well.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Sunday, February 24, 2013
This weekend Mom wanted to get Dad out of the house a little more as it's now been a few weeks since his open heart surgery. Yesterday, at a middle school play where his granddaughter had a leading role, he seemed to be struggling a little and felt he was going to faint. I jokingly told him that “you’re just trying to get out of the Carousel play tonight”. He said, “That’s one of my favorites. I love the music to that one”. He rested for the afternoon and was able to attend the play.
So last night, while waiting for the start of Carousel with my parents and extended family, who traveled to see my cousin perform, I looked at the Playbill wondering why I don’t know what music was even in Carousel. I turned to Dad who was sitting behind me and asked, is this THE “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. And he said “yes, but it won’t be as good as the Lettermen singing it” (Though we all now agree the performers last night DID do better, particularly the closing number was very moving).
But I grew up listening to Lettermen tapes - or could it have even been 8 tracks? :). As a kid, I never realized they were a "cover band" of sorts. So it’s always funny to me when I find out where these songs originated from. But as a child and as a family, we would belt out songs like this in the car, and songs like "Yesterday", never fully understanding the meaning and emotions of the lyrics, songs about life's storms or of loss.
So at the end of Carousel, sitting with some of the extended family, family who've traveled to funerals, to include my Sister’s (their cousin and neice), as well as Grandma’s and Grandpa’s funeral, family who travel to each other’s weddings, family who vacation together…and with more weddings and life to come. And also sitting with my Dad, who is still pulling through on a difficult and scary time. Through all these family memories, we arrive at a part in the play when the characters attempt to move beyond a death and the struggle of life...there was the childhood song and the lyrics to You’ll Never Walk Alone –
When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.
When the play was over, I saw Mom’s eyes filled with tears as we were probably sharing similar thoughts. What a blessing, to be raised with such strength and determination, "Walk on, walk on" through difficult times, to be taught such "hope in your heart", and most importantly to be taught undying family loyalty that - “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions as my Dad had congestive heart failure that led to a four bypass heart surgery. Thankfully, he is now home recovering. I spent much of my time in the hospital contemplating my time with Dad, remembering good times and wondering if he knows how much we love him.
Now that he’s recovering, I’ve become aware that I’m at an amazing and beautiful time in my life where I have three Valentines, my first one – my Dad, the obvious one - Jhon, and my son (who at 7 years old says we will NOT do a date this year, because that is weird). Not to boast, as of course, all relationships have their challenges and no one can escape heartbreak, loneliness, or loss. But it occurred to me this week that I’ve ALWAYS had a valentine. I remember all through school Dad sending a flower and/or a valentine card delivered to me in class, along with delivering them to my three sisters. While studying at Liberty University and still living at home, I met Jhon, my true Valentine.
I’m often asked which parent I am the most like. This is probably because many people know all three of us. And honestly, I’m very close to both my parents. But of my sisters, I probably was the closest to a “Daddy’s girl”. Growing up, Dad and I would wake up before the rest of the house. I actually only did this because I shared a bathroom with 3 sisters and this is the only way to get ready in peace. But sitting in the hospital watching Dad struggle and sleep and then struggle again, I would get teary eyed thinking about those many mornings of sharing the newspaper, mostly in silence while the rest of the household got ready.
Dad taught us all to face life with a laugh… sometimes it’s hard to even imagine him being serious about anything. Just today, I asked how he was feeling, and he said “with my hands”. He also taught us to have a zeal for life, an ability to have happy and sad tears and feel all of life’s beauty, both in joy and pain, even at the same time! But the biggest thing I got from him was to marry well.
I remember in one of my bitter teenager days that I got upset with Dad for something and refused to come to the table for dinner. Dad was trying to talk to me to get me to come to dinner, but I had my headphones on and music up loud and was quite disrespectfully, ignoring him. He grabbed my hand and mouthed the words to me, “I love you”. Dad handled being surrounded by women so well. At the time these events happened or when this special silence was shared with my Dad, I never realized the power of these memories and the joy they will hold over my life.
I love you, Dad! Glad your heart has been healed in time for another Valentine’s Day!Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 8:28 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Jeanie, my 5 year old, sat next to me drawing a picture while I worked on the computer. She was actually being needy and I “had” to finish this project by a deadline. So I sat her next to me with a paper and pen and asked her to draw me a picture. She was so intent on her drawing making tight little boxes on a piece of paper. When she was done, she held it up and exclaimed, “look, what I have!” As anyone who works with or has young children can understand, I had to ask Jeanie, “tell me about your picture”… as I had no idea what she had drawn. : ) Her response, “now I have a computer like you, Mommy”. And she sets it down next to me and my computer and starts typing on her drawing. I shut my computer and snuggled with her the rest of the evening. I now keep her drawing next to my computer to remind me to try to limit my time on the computer when the kids are around. And anyone who knows Jeanie, knows she is also just that “good”. : )
Johnny, my 7 year old, has been having nightmares for months. With the helpful advice of a friend, we’ve gotten him to go to sleep at a regular time and we’ve gotten our evenings back. However, for about a month he wakes up at around midnight, like clock-work, needing someone to sleep in the bed with him. On Sunday, I was sharing this frustration with another Mom. She said that her 9 year old often does this as well. But that she also has a teenager now. She shared that whenever she gets frustrated about the 9 year old - she remembers her teenager and how she just wished she could go back and have those moments of him needing her again. The last few nights I’ve been excited about Johnny waking me up and me getting to spend “time” with him.
So much beauty…so much to be thankful for. To me thanksgiving shouldn’t just be an event, a day, a person, it’s a state of mind and awareness…sometimes it is even a struggle to see and be aware of life’s beauty… but it should be a constant state of gratitude.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink