By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
In this ever-evolving world of public education we are awash with data. Far more often than not, the data is used to convey the success of an individual school, a school district, a state or a nation. But let us always remember and acknowledge that these large data cells are a culmination of individual student effort. I do my best to stay in touch with what students are learning on an individual basis, thanks to my family. Between my wife’s side of the family and mine, we share 20 second-generation nieces and nephews ranging in age from 1 to 20.
Sawyer, the newest of the clan, is still learning all that he can at home from his mom and dad and his three older siblings. Cooper and Caleb are just getting their feet wet in preschool – Cooper in Kentucky and Caleb in Virginia; Caleb attends a preschool that embraces the Montessori method. Zoe is attending kindergarten. I understand she recently completed her 100-word sight-word list with 100 percent accuracy, and brought home her first Accelerated Reader book. She is modeling behavior she has seen her brother Brady exhibit. Owen is a first-grader who, when he last sat in my lap to read, was making real strides with his reading.
Our second-grade group is represented by Brady, Gabe, and twins Andrew and Hannah. They all exhibit an early love of reading and a real appreciation of technology (for both learning and personal enjoyment). When Brady lost his at-home technology privileges via the discipline process, he enlightened his parents with “but Dad, don’t you know you can’t live without electronics?!” Vivian is a third-grade student in Holly Springs, N.C. Our fourth-grade “outfield” is made-up of Chloe, Isabella and Mia. These three are evidently setting the education bar very, very high.
The middle school students include Eva (seventh grade in Virginia) and Harrison (eighth grade in North Carolina). Both are engaged in traditional middle school extracurricular activities.
The high school students represent the all-guy team: Hayden and Rockwell (twins) are ninth-graders, also in Virginia. They had to wrestle each other during last year’s school wrestling tournament. Hayden shared with me that he knew what to say to divert his brother’s attention, and he thus pinned Rockwell for the win. (Out of respect for their male teenage sense of humor, I did not ask exactly what Hayden told Rocky.) The remaining high school students are Austin, a 12th-grader in Charlotte, N.C., who was just accepted to the University of Kentucky; and Jake, a senior (and Governor’s Scholar) at Lawrence County High School. Their parents, representing our first generation of learners, are suffering from college cost “sticker shock!”
Topping off our second-generation learners is Jessie, a sophomore at UPike. She grew up on a farm and loves animals, so I suspect a future career related to biology and/or the sciences.
With fondness I remember Austin sitting in my lap 18 years ago while I read aloud Horton Hatches The Egg. Fast forward to 2015 and the opportunity still presents itself, thanks to his younger cousins, to enjoy one of life’s true blessings: having a child read aloud to you.
I hope that each of you takes the time and effort to purposefully and intentionally replicate this opportunity and have a child read aloud to you. It doesn’t get much better than that! I am so proud of all of my second-generation learners!