Thursday, May 24, 2018

Kermit Has a Chipper Now, Ready For Summer Water Sports After a Few Crazy Deals

For a few summers, I've thought to myself, I'd really like to have a kayak to take to the beach and to have on hand for summer adventures. I've been pricing them for years and around Mother's Day, Ocean State Job Lot had a deal where if you spent $100, you got a $30 gift card. Knowing I eventually wanted I kayak, I bough $300 in gift cards so I'd have $390 to spend.

A few weeks passed, and Ocean State Job Lot had a new deal: if you bought a kayak at full price, they'd give you a paddle and a mount for the car, plus give a $150 gift card. I thought, "Hmmm, I can pay for the kayak with my gift cards, then get even more gift cards afterwards."

The trouble was that the original gift cards were not all activated. For the last couple of days I've been working with management and customer service to solve the problem. It turns out that not all the gift cards were properly recorded and I'm thankful I saved receipts. Yesterday, I was able to get the kayak, plus they had a deal where the purchase of a lifejacket also provided another $20 gift card. That resulted in $360 in gift cards. In short, I have a kayak, a paddle, a lifejacket, and now many gift cards to spend.

I feel like I got a great deal through the hassle. The kayak and accessories ended up costing a lot less because of this....like $300 less. It was a confusing occasion, but I now have a green kayak, Chipper (named after Kermit the Frog's nephew) that will ride nicely atop my hybrid CrossTrek (also green and named Kermit).

Perfect.

Now I have to think about what I want to purchase with all my other gift cards. Ocean State Job Lot calls these Crazy Deals, and although I went crazy trying to actually get the kayak, I believe I won tremendously. Of course, I couldn't figure out the car-mount directions, so I just stuck Chipper in Kermit and drove it to Pam's beach condo to store.

This way, Chitunga, Abu, and Ali will have a summer boat at the beach. Confusing post, I know, but anyone who knows me knows I'm always looking for the best deal.

I definitely got one. I need Chitunga to do the math for me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

As a FAN of a Goognight's Sleep, I Admit I Have My Eccentricities

Monday night, I had a bit of a p.m. emergency and tragedy. My sleeping fan died and it no longer spun. I'm a fan of air blowing on me as I sleep, but I also like the hum the motor makes. I'm not sure when the addiction occurred, but I've slept with a fan well over 25 years. I went into a bit of a panic, put on my ceiling fan, but that hangs from a very high ceiling and makes all sorts of strange noises. Lying underneath it, I was sure it was going to fall on me in the night and not only wake me up, but cut me in half.

So, with Michael in Philly, I thought, his room has the best ceiling fan in the house, so I packed my pillows and moved down the hall.

It worked. I slept.

Yesterday, I went on a shopping hunt to replace the fan. Lucky for me Ocean State Job Lot had exactly the right one. It looks like the cartoon above, but stands much higher on a pole with a foundation.

Phew.

For years, the only nights I've slept without a fan have been in hotel rooms (where I crank the air-condition so I'm cold and there's noise) or at my old bedroom at my parents, where I simply endure the lack of the humming. It takes me forever to fall asleep there, but I eventually do it.

Research shows I'm not the only one with this fetish. I love to be cold while sleeping and almost 365 days a year I have my windows open (only to close them when it's too cold or super humid.

Fresh air and breezes matter and I'm glad I was able to quickly fix what could have been a more enduring tragedy.

Rest easy. That's my goal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

End-of-the-Semester Dirt Therapy: Soil, The Outdoors, and Landscaping

The weather was finally cooperative after a week of steady, if not heavy, rains. I took the murkier days to head to Home Depot with my gift cards (I trade in credit card points to get them) and made my purchases which were stored in the garage. Knowing that I was having a pavement company coming in the morning to give me an estimate on redoing my driveway, I took the first couple hours of yesterday simply to get dirty on Mt. Pleasant.

I am hoping the lupine will grow. I never had success with it in Kentucky, but had a few take off when I lived on Eastman in Cicero during my doctorate. So, I spent part of yesterday getting grimy from head to toe to add more color around the house, relocating hostas here and there, and rethinking where my perennials are located.

Of course, now they'll need watering, which is okay because today is supposed to be another washout, and I'm heading tot he office to get pack into summer planning and grant world (plus a couple of advisees).

I managed to walk the dog, notify teachers of their summer invitational acceptance, and even run, which is always great. It added somewhat to the sunburned face I acquired at graduation sitting in the direct sun for back-to-back commencements.

Before I went to bed last night, I had to shut the windows, too, because we're at the period where it is warm during the day and pretty cold in the evening (the best sleeping weather). Of course, doing all the outdoor work translates to the fact that I sludge the dirt inside and now the internal dwelling needs attention.

And I'm sneezing. The pollen, also the color of my car, is everywhere. It's like lime chalk covering windows, walkways and vehicles. Good for the bugs, but not so good for human nasal passages.

The April showers didn't bring May flowers, but the May and June ones are making up for the lost time.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Ubuntu, @FairfieldU Class of 2018! May The Togetherness Michael J. Harding Spoke About Last Forever

I've known for a couple Fridays that Michael J. Harding was selected to be the 2018 Fairfield University Valedictorian speaker, but he's kept his plan of action completely a secret. I knew he was being coached by Yohuru Williams and that he also received advice from colleagues in the Communication department. He keeps a tight schedule of studying for the LSAT, going to the gym, working in the community, and saying last goodbyes to his friends and mentors on campus, so I was simply excited about two things: (1) he was selected and (2) The Great Whatever gave me the perfect seat for this year's commencement. I was able to capture his words on video. Hoops4Hope, Ubuntu Academy, Young Adult Literacy Labs, CWP-Fairfield, Fairfield University Men's Basketball program, and Taylor Sharp, producer of Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters loved everything this young man had to say. Why? Ubuntu does matter.

Michael is poised, articulate, extremely intelligent, and full of integrity. He made yesterday's commencement extra-special and even though he mentioned the rain in the beginning of his address, his words were heard above and the clouds quickly parted to bring sunshine for the rest of the ceremony (and for the graduate commencement that followed). Phew.

Graduations are always powerful, but when you have close relationships with young people like Michael and so many of his classmates, the experience becomes extra special. Meeting families, too, helps faculty to see all the magic that was invested into these kids to help them to success toward this moment before they arrived. Many of the students will be departing Fairfield University for good, while others are returning to do a 5th-year masters. They love their school, are dedicated to what is invested upon them, and deserve the celebration of their hard work.

Congratulations to all the undergraduate and graduate students. A special round of applause, too, for Dr. Mary Frances Malone who pulled off another spectacular ceremony - her dedication to Fairfield University is simply amazing and she should be thrilled that her last graduation was, indeed, hosted on Bellarmine Lawn. She is one-of-a-kind and we will miss her when she retires next year.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

My 7th, And #68 for @FairfieldU. Reflecting on the Pomp and Circumstance Once Again

My first year, 2012, I left my own doctoral graduation at Syracuse University, to return to Connecticut to take part in the beautiful commencement on Bellarmine lawn. I bypassed ceremonies for my Masters degrees from Louisville and left Bread Loaf School of English right before I finished my last two classes for a 3rd (so obviously missed that one, too).

Today, however, Fairfield University will host its 68th commencement and I am delighted to take part in both undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, 1st as a faculty matter, then as a marshal to usher in Masters students from our own programs.

In 2014, I had the pleasure of working with Jessica Baldizon (left) and that summer I asked if she would like to be part of a Young Adult Literacy Lab called Ubuntu Academy, a two-week summer camp for immigrant and refugee youth and a vision I carried from my dissertation to provide more writing opportunities for young people across the nation. Jessica graduated in 2016 and at the procession she showed me her cap she decorated with the signatures of the students. Jessica continues to lead Ubuntu Academy every summer and also teaches at Cesar Batalla K-8 where she also runs an enrichment program for the same population called Hope Club. She remains VIP in my Connecticut life and I cherished her as a student, but now I love having her as a colleague and fellow visionary.

This year, 2018, a brilliant young man who I've never taught but who has been alongside my professional journey since we both received MLK Vision Awards (and I with his), introduced me to his parents when his mother presented him with his own decorated cap. Today, at the 68th commencement, Michael J. Harding will be presenting the valedictory student address to kick the celebration off. I'm so happy for this kid because he is intelligent, passionate, political, and caring. I never had the privilege of teaching Michael (as I don't often get opportunities with undergraduates as much as I'd like), but I've been blessed to work with him on his intellectual pursuits, including work with author Kwame Alexander in Ghana. The two of us traveled to NYC for his interview during the premiere of Solo.

Ah, but now Michael, like Jessica did, will be heading beyond the academic life of Fairfield University to carry forth his own journey towards a law degree and, more likely than not, into politics. This is a young man with a keen eye for what it will take to be a change-agent for the next generation of voters (and I look forward to the time when they inherit our nation).

In my own sojourn, it has been the embrace of many who have allowed me to achieve what I have: family, friends, mentors, colleagues, and especially the young people who I continue to work with. I include Michael J. Harding in this mix because, also like Jessica, he has become a very important human to me. I am, because we are.

Here's to the graduating classes of 2018. While to set out to turn the tassel and move onto greater things, we'll be in Stag-country prepping for next year's incoming crews.

I wish each and everyone a spectacular day and enviable future. You deserve it all.

PS: I want everyone to know that even though it has been a swamp in the sky for the last week (and yesterday I even had to run in a toboggan, I'm working with Maude and the Great Whatever so we can have the ceremony outdoors. For the week that just was, optimism arrived that Sunday was going to finally see a halt in the rain - at least for the day. I understand this has changed, but I'm hoping this will be like several other weather predictions in the area and become a total miscalculation. There is nothing like a Fairfield graduation and I'm putting all my prayers into sunshine and a dry morning and afternoon. Fingers crossed.

You got this.

We got this.

Great Whatever, you'd better get this!



Saturday, May 19, 2018

It May Not Be Beautiful, But I Do Value an Organized Mind

Since January, I have had on my agenda that I needed to get into a room with all my grants and programs, sit with all the paperwork and revenue, and simply map out where the year was and now where it is to go next. Yesterday, I found myself in room 108 once again (yes, this was my dissertation space for organizing and where I lived for arranging my dossier last August). This is where I went spastic on all the white boards with color dry-erase markers and organization. Colleagues who passed by to say hi asked me what I was doing and said,
"This is freaking me out. What does all this mean?"

I can only reply, "Well, our campus's grant officer understands and I'm doing this for her....well, us." We were working through local, state, and federal funding to cover actions of the past year, but also to position funding for this summer and the year to come. Every line item on a grant needs to be accounted for (receipts, payments, supplies, transportation, etc.) and there's no room for errors. Of course, state grants are granted early, but the funding never arrives until the month before final reports are due, so much of the work is charge revision and moving funds from one account to the next.

If it was my check book it would be easy. The work at the university is a checkbook shared by many across campus and these need to align with reporting to those giving grants. T's need to be dotted and my i's are definitely crossed (that was intentional).

I'm forever grateful to my grant officer, however, as we've been doing this together for 7 years and both of us are down with assistants -- the trend where workers are expected to do more and more with less and less support.

As sad as it is, I'm heading to the office again for another day of grinding, because everything I do with these accounts is for teachers and kids. The money was awarded for them and in support of best practices in school.

I keep saying that one day I want to run for office with the intention of making the whole process sane. I'm 110% appreciative of the grants when I get them, but the exchange could be smoother (especially with the State of Connecticut - it is maddening how the system works...there are no words, but we do our best with making it work). Then, of course, there's the fact that federal, state, and university accounting practices are completely different, especially as all work is coded numerically and they all have different numbers. A box of pencils can be 6532311 in one account and 9u342 in another.

It all has to match.

And that is why my mind is so ugly.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Shouting Out to @Villab17 & @StagsMensBball Representing @FairfieldU with @Hoops4HopeZim

As I transition into summer programs at Fairfield University, including teacher institutes and Young Adult Literacy Labs, I have to applaud Aidas Kavaliauskas #5 (Lithuanian athlete playing for Fairfield University Men's Basketball team) and Vilia Baumilaite (Class of 2021, Fairfield University, also with Lithuanian roots) who have ventured to Zimbabwe to work with Hoops4Hope. Both are making our campus proud. The two of them, with support from the Kazickas Family Foundation, are working with youth populations and coaches to promote basketball skills and encouraging Literacy4Life: one of integrity, focus, self-esteem, self awareness, responsibility, a sense of humor, and Ubuntu. They are traveling throughout Zimbabwe learning more about youth cultures and working with Director Ngoni Mukukula to carry out the Hoops4Hope vision of youth development in the country. It is Basketball Power, indeed.


Vilia, a freshman at Fairfield University, introduced herself to me in my office during her freshman year and instantly began volunteering with CWP-Fairfield activities. She is a phenomenon with kids. Later, she introduced me to Aidas, who like her, has roots in Lithuania. The men's basketball team has players from nine different countries and are dedicated to both local and global outreach. This is because of the leadership that Coach Sydney Johnson provides; he was most recently applauded for  his tearful hug of this year's senior, Tyler Nelson, after he walked off the court as a Stag for the first time. Coach Johnson is a man for others and he brings to our campus joy, devotion, faith, spirituality, and mentoring. In 2016, he received the MLK vision staff award, alongside Michael J. Harding (student) and me (faculty).

This spring, the opportunity presented itself for Vilia and Aidas to represent Lithuania for collaborative work with the Hoops4Hope program (a program also recently recognized by the NBA, producer Taylor Sharp and Director Dan Hedges in the film documentary, Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters, that will be screened at Fairfield University in the fall as part of the Saugatuck Story Fest).

For the last week, Aidas and Vilia's have been working with Hoops4Hope, and I've been thrilled to receive photographs of their experience. This summer, too, CWP-Fairfield will host the 5th year of Ubuntu Academy, a young adult literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth - many of whom who play sports at their high schools and have origins from African nations such as Congo, Sudan, Benin, Zambia, Tanzania, and Eritrea. The work on campus extends to work around the world. I'm extremely proud of their leadership and focus.

The work, as Sydney Johnson recognizes, transcends the court and classroom. Fairfield University seeks to encourage students to have local and global awareness with empathy and a sense of purpose.

I look forward to the photographs to come!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Congratuations To Jayné Penn, Dean's Award for Student Excellence, @FairfieldGSEAP @FairfieldPrep @fairfeildU

Last night, I had the privilege of presenting the Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation selection for the Dean's Award for Outstanding Student to Ms. Jayné Penn, English Educator at Fairfield College Preparatory School.  The following are my remarks. I'm applauding Jayné  and her tremendous accomplishments. 

DEAN’S AWARD – ESTP

Good evening, and thank you, Dr. Hannafin. First off, I wish to congratulate all members of GSEAP’s Class of 2018 for their incredible accomplishments. I’m sure many of us in here couldn’t wait to party like it was 1999, but that was 19 years ago. Sometimes I really miss the 80s. So, Today, we should be partying like it’s 2018.

It is an absolute pleasure and honor to introduce the recipient of the 2018 Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, Ms. Jayné Penn (accent on the the e, and I know this because every time I’ve typed her name I’ve had to find the accented e on my keyboard). She is an English Educator from Fairfield College Preparatory School who is graduating from the Master of Arts in Teaching and Foundations this spring. When I contacted now-retired Dr. Patricia Calderwood with the announcement that an advisee, Jayné, was selected to receive this year’s award, she replied, “It doesn’t surprise me. I told you she was a force to be reckoned with.” 

Actually, I have a vivid memory of the first time Jayné sat in Dr. Calderwood’s office discussing her future in education. “Bryan, this is Jayné. I’m sure you’ll have her in one of your classes in the next two years.” Actually, I was fortunate to have Jayné in four courses and that is why it is such an honor to be at the podium tonight introducing her to you: first for Developmental Reading in Secondary Schools, then for Teaching of Writing, followed by The Literate Learner, and completing this semester with an independent study. 

Jayné is a delight to have in class. My colleague, and now Associate Dean in GSEAP, Dr. Burrell Storms, says “Jayné Penn was an exceptional student: mature, confident and always professional. Having her in my classroom reminded me of why I chose this profession: She’s an activist, as well as an educator.”

I feel the same way. In the Fall of 2016, Jayné reflectively began seeing herself as a writer, crafting her own narrative to share with students, recognizing the value of writing processes, and focusing intently on improving the way she used writing as a way of knowing. In spring of 2017, she did a project on using sports stories and narratives to engage her students as they read Fences, and the next fall, she continued this direction, by researching empathy and looking towards supplemental materials to use with the boys in her classroom. Once again, she began to use sports stories as a vehicle to engage her kids and recognized that out-of-school athleticism offers many tools English educators can tap to bring excellence to their own classrooms.

This spring, I challenged Jayné to think big. Why? Because I think what she’s been doing at Fairfield Prep is enormous. Her undergraduate years taught her the discipline needed as she ran track at the varsity level and first began engaging as a community scholar. Now, at Prep, she works with the young men as part of a Haitian Immigrant Social Justice Project, guest speaks for their Dr. Martin Luther King Assemblies, leads diversity training workshops, proposes curriculum to her department chair, and develops all-inclusive poetry and short story units for Global Studies. 

What intrigues me most, however, is the way Jayné brings sports into the classroom to promote, cura personalis, and care for the whole person. Internalizing the mission of doing better for others, she has incorporated sports stories to build empathy by reading narratives from diverse athletes who are changing the world. In short, she is promoting integrity, self-awareness, responsibility, focus, self-esteem, a sense of humor, and community (which I often refer to as Ubuntu, the philosophy that every individual becomes who they are in relation to others). This is Literacy4Life and what my cousin, Mark Crandall promotes with youth in S. Africa and Zimbabwe.

This January, I’m proud to say, we learned that Jayné will be representing Fairfield University as she presents her research at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Houston, Texas. Her talk, Interrogating Sports Films: Helping Students Find Agency and Voice, arrived at the confluence of studies at Fairfield University. It is work, too, that will be published later this summer, where she is sharing how she uses sports narratives to teach compassion and to build community at her school. 

I am sure that her family, like all of us in Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation, are extremely proud of Jayné. Please welcome me in congratulation Jayné Penn, our 2018 recipient.

 I continue to be amazed at the intellect, vision, and passion of this young woman. I am extremely proud to be chosen to give her the award on behalf of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.




Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Well, Wolfe, I'm Not a Scholar of Your Work, But Have Always Been a Tremendous Fan. R.I.P.

When I finally exited the undergraduate strain of being assigned books and needing to fulfill course obligations, I found time to read work that seemed more intriguing to me. Actually, it was a film class with one of the craziest humans I've ever studied with, who assigned Bonfire of the Vanities to us. I was mesmerized by the story, the depth, and the detail. Of course, that man never discussed the book and it was just assigned.

That is why, upon reaching Louisville, where fellow gonzo-journalist Hunter Thompson resided once-upon-a-time, I picked up more and more of your books (not them all, but ones that intrigued me). I was fascinated by how much prose you could get to page while still maintaining my interest. When I Am Charlotte Simmons came out, I devoured it. It became one of those books that I read, loaned, and it never returned. So I bought it again, loaned it, and it never returned. I now keep two or three copies on my shelf because I know I will find a reader interested in story, sports, college life and class. I simply say, "Read this." They say, "Do you see the size of that thing?" and I respond, "You'll love every page."

They do.

I've never been one of those readers who goes ga-ga for authorial fanaticism and look to the work, rather than the writer. I caught documentaries from time to time on your eccentrics and brilliance, but I've never jumped on the bandwagon of getting into intellectual debates about your contributions to writing.

No, I simply read you. And I will continue to read you.

I hope the Great Whatever is ready for the way you interpret the afterlife and detail all its glory. I simply wish we could all read it while we're here.

Be at peace, sir. Be at peace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Okay, Shaw...Youth Is Wasted On The Young...But Some of Us Were Still Lucky

Geez. I can't even remember the year it was when I was selected as an English Speaking Union Scholar to study at Cambridge University - a summer program for teachers. I know that I was around 27 years old and I recall the trip as being "the last hoorah of my youth." It was outrageous, because we got enough support that I also had time to travel to Denmark, to drive the perimeter of England, Wales, and Ireland, and then arrived to study the Bard for a month. We rented two cars: fist Princess Diana, but she was too big, so we moved to Fergie, who was smaller and easier to control while driving on the wrong side of the road.

Amy Partin, now Ritchie, was my date for the summer. She was celebrating her 30th and I was right behind her (when we returned, she'd find her husband and start a family). We were kids that summer, though, and had a blast.

Nothing meant more, however, than the mixed tapes (remember those?) that we made for one another to listen to as we drove everywhere. We must have listened to them a 1,000 times as we moved from town to town and place to place.

Yesterday, I was looking for photos of when we visited Hamlet's castle in Helsingor, Denmark, when I came across my book that documented the entire experience.

Um, that's not normal. We had a miraculous time and most of it was funded by our scholarship. I look through the album and think, "How the heck can any one ever capture the summer that was that year?" I tried to do so poetically and in a scrapbook (which dons my international driver's license above), but there's no way words could do it justice.

Two English teachers from Kentucky graced with the first generation of Teacher Scholarships to attend classes at Cambridge University with the best of England's Shakespearean Scholars. Hello? Is that a thing? Is it real? And do others travel to Denmark and Ireland, too?

We were young. We were crazy. We were joyful. We were alive.

I look at this now and say, "It is fuel for life."

I could look at that album forever!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Heading Into Monday Like....Okay, Grading At The End of the Semester Does Me In

It is the same at the end of a collegiate academic semester as it is for a high school calendar. At the end, everyone schedules more meetings, students demand more attention, administrators come forward with more initiatives, and everyone wants (and deserves) recognition for all the hard work.

Days begin early and end late. But grades are due, too.

The prize is that it will soon end...not that I get summer's off, but at least I don't have to deal with the assessment bugaboo of grading and scoring and offering feedback. CWP-Fairfield's summer work is just as invigorating (if not more), but there's a shared understanding that everyone will achieve and do awesome without the need to measure, justify, explain, and report. We just learn and celebrate it professionally.

Literally, at 7 p.m. last night when I submitted my last grade, my ambitious self with plans of cleaning, putting away laundry, and grocery shopping, ended up yawning. The exhaustion from the entire semester just overtook me and I thought, uh-oh, I won't make it until 8.

I did, however, talking with my mom and then Chitunga. Another wave came over me and I got some energy back.

I think that it's the grading part of teaching that is what exhausts us most. We work all day, but the scoring has to occur during off hours, because it's impossible to get done with there are so many demands during the day. That is why we all love summers so much! At least we get the evenings and weekends off....finally. Yes, most work just as hard, but we don't have to offer so many of our evening ours and Saturdays and Sundays with the assessing monster.

So, I'm crawling into Monday relieved I got it all done another year. I am also in panic for all the work that has had to be put off to complete the end of the semester traditions.

There are big and fun items on the horizon and I can't wait. But, to get these accomplished, I can't be distracted by scoring scoring scoring.

That's my Monday whine. I'm good now.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Guest Post from @pamelaMarieKell on Mother's Day - Follow Up From Yesterday's Post

Once again it is a day of celebrating motherhood. I sadly can't be in Syracuse to celebrate Mimi Rip! but my heart is with her and the pizza they will eat later today. I'm hoping, too, that my package arrived. I never trust mail services - when I am not in a rush it gets there in 24 hours...when I plan it out and send it early, it takes a week.
I am wishing my mom a spectacular Mother's Day and hoping that everyone who can be with her gathers to surround her with love. This is a day, every year, that I wished I lived much closer to my childhood home.
In the meantime, my twin sister, separated at birth, and raised by a different mother, wanted to follow up on the Bird story from yesterday and asked if she could write her own post about living in harmony with nature. I said sure, and she sent me an essay to post here (which I totally understand. I'm hoping I can help build the birdhouse for her friends - after all, it would be the best compromise. As a homeowner who has been taken over by nature this year - critters everywhere - I know there has to be alternative solutions.
Happy Mother's Day, too, to Pam, my sisters, and everyone else out there who have nurtured their families with joy, support, and protection. It doesn't go unnoticed (and that's why chocolate and flowers are sent). 
Bye Bye Birdie
Pamela Kelly
Last year I was finally able to move to my little slice of paradise after four years of trying to sell my sister’s house in Stratford and then mine in Monroe.  It felt like forever and there were many prayers that the day would come. I finally arrived.  
And so did the birds. 
I honestly was so happy and grateful to be done with all that house stuff and find a place with no yard work, no shoveling snow, a pool and, best of all, a two -minute walk to the beach. During my first year I coexisted with them – the home is very near state conservation sites.  The birds, swallows, stayed most of the summer above my garage and made themselves known because every time I left my how they dive bombed me and screamed at me when I opened the garage door. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see them go at the end of their nesting season.
Everyone told me you better put up chicken wire or something to keep them from coming back. Once they find a good spot to nest they return.  I didn’t listen and two weeks ago there they were again.  Slinging their mud (I hope it is mud) above the light under the garage eave where they were building another masterpiece home.  
I wasn’t feeling so welcoming this year, however.  I warned them every day I went out.  “I’m going to knock it down!  You better find another place to nest!  There’s loads of trees right next door at Silver Sands!”  
They laughed at me and mocked me with their building skills.  They ignored my warnings and took their chances. Last night, having drinks with Bryan, Leo, Kaitlyn and Bev, I decided it was time to get rid of their construction  After all, I was only asserting my right to eminent domain.  Right?  Leo said, “Let’s do it!” Kaitlyn pleaded with me not to.  “They are God’s creatures! They spent two weeks building that nest, where will they go?”  I honestly don’t care.  I’m not killing the birds or their babies, just asking them to move to another location. Did anyone care when Mary and Joseph got turned away at the Inn and the poor lady had to go give birth to Jesus in a manger?  If a hay cradle is good enough for our Lord and Savior then those birds can go nest in a tree.  
This morning I went out early to walk the dog and I looked up at the painters tape and ribbon we put up to keep them from rebuilding.  On the wall ledge that separates my condo from my neighbor’s, there was one of them.  Glaring at me from above and probably plotting to attack me in some way at some point this summer.  I say we call it even.  They left a nice mess on the ground and the side of my car that will turn to bird poop cement and I’ll have a fun time scrubbing it away.  
Today I will go buy the chicken wire or something like it to wrap around that light.  I don’t want to have to destroy another nest. I’m a big fan of all animals but want the wild ones to keep their distance.  I don’t climb trees and build stuff where they’re supposed to live. Pray for me that I don’t get Tippy Hedrened this summer.  (Alfred Hitchcock-The Birds)  I’ve already asked for forgiveness and hopefully it’s been granted.  I will be wearing headgear when leaving the house until I’m sure those pea brains have forgotten my indiscretion.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"It's Unjust. Bird Lives Matter" - Wisdom from the Kid in CNY (Making Me Feel Worse Than I Already Do)

I often think fondly of the month I spent in Rochester, Vermont, in a farm house while studying at the Bread Loaf School of English. I was given a teacher scholarship and with my funds, I invested in a summer home - a huge space set in the remote landscape of Vermont mountains - where my best friends quickly became a nesting pair of Swallows who attacked me as I moved my laundry baskets into the home.

I was all alone, so their nesting rituals became my own and I was mesmerized by the labor, dedication, and incessant love of the mother swallow as she laid her eggs and fed her young. The male simply protected the territory from the phone wires that led to the house.

That mother was fierce. She never stopped and she lived her life to first lay the eggs and then to find bugs and worms to feed her young. I watched over a series of weeks as they grew bigger and, eventually, she invested her time in teaching them to fly. I remember she had one negligent fledgling who didn't want to leave the next. I watched he coach the last bird, encourage it to fly, and eventually she was successful. When she realized it wasn't going to return, she eventually climbed into the mud nest and slept for 3 days. I thought she was dead, but she merely rested to catch up on much necessary sleep from feeding her young.

Last night, a friend asked me to remove a nest from a light outside her home. It was year two and she simply couldn't take another year of being attacked as she exited her home and all the bird crap on her car. I was reluctant. I love swallows, but I read online that the best time is to remove the mud nest before the eggs are actually laid. With help, I was able to get the nest down, but there were no birds around, so I felt like it was okay. I hung ribbons and duct tape on the light fixture in hope the birds wouldn't return. As I did, however, the mother came back and she flew by to see what I was doing.

I felt terrible and like I betrayed my naturalist tendencies. I promised The Great Whatever that I would build a pole with a nesting area on it somewhere near the house so the swallows might reconsider their abode. Currently, my own abode - Mt. Pleasant - has its share of sparrow nests, mice caves, ant hills, and Carpenter Bee holes. I share my space with Mother Nature and I understand that at some point, we humans have to take charge.

Still, I'm feeling somewhat bad. Nature is beautiful and we should learn to live side by side with the beautiful creatures that grace our homes. But I get it.

I'm sure my dreams are going to be frantic for some time now. I will try to listen to what they're telling me.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Professor Jake To the Rescue - Therapy Dogs Aren't Just For The Students.

Glamis's best friend, Jake, comes to work in the GSEAP office twice a week to bring serenity, bliss, comfort and licks to students who need a small respite from the grind of it all.

Most of the students are gone now, but there are many of us in our offices trying to find time to grade our final projects and exams, so when Jake comes by to say hello we can't help but get a smile on our face - especially when he puts your grading glasses on and doesn't shake them off.

He simply wants a bite of your roast beef sandwich and some chips.

I don't know what life would be like without the comfort of our canine friends and although I'm cooked and ready to sleep for weeks now, a friendly paw and nudge against the side of the leg makes the work that much more enjoyable.

He truly is a special dog. I see why Glamis gets excited when I announce it's a play date kind-of day.

Happy Friday. Time to head into the work of Graduate students.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hard To Believe It's Been Five Years. So Much Has Happened Since, And I Think of You All The Time

Every year, I open up my Lois file and simply start laughing. I also tear up. We only had two short years together and, to be honest, when I first arrived to Fairfield I didn't know what I was doing. Even so, you were assigned to assist me. You inherited the job from a woman on her way out, as did I, from another woman on her way out (trust me, the files are dense).

You and I had crazy struggles with state budgets and support that first year, especially because the program was $18,000 in debt, and we always were on pins and needles whether your position would be funded for another year. Because we were trying to make sense of it all, we turned to humor and I have all the videos you made me to catch my attention (because I was busy and you needed me to attend to the needs of CWP), so you'd email these clips. I loved them all (even the ones you sent from home)

The other day, I was at an event in the Dolan School of Business and I remember the night we were told we had to host a retirement party there, even though we didn't know we were supposed we. We did the party, but we didn't know any of the people there so we created a roast together while improvising off one another. I only had been there months and everyone was sending us requests and somehow we pulled it off. That's when we started laughing.

We had two years of laughing together.

Funny, I now live around the corner from your old house. You were my first friend in Connecticut and you took me under your wing (actually, you'd say I wouldn't leave you alone). I always stopped by and would take you and Luis out for Pizza on Fridays. Eventually I would rent nearby and then, wola!, looked for homes near yours.

5 years ago today, when Pam called, I went forward, full charge, to help out where I could. You went way too soon. It was such a shock.

It's also funny, Lois, when I think about who that guy was back then and who he is now. I can't believe how much has changed in 5 years and it all has happened so fast. We still live on pins and needles about state funding (it gets harder and harder every year), but we have figured out alternative plans to support kids and teachers. Your sister, Pam, adopted me as a brother right away and ever since this date, we became family (as has her kids). You were the catalyst for that (and I can only imagine what life would be like if you were still with us). You probably wouldn't even be talking to me anymore, frustrated by what a #$@ I can be.

I am thinking of you today as always. Every year when I look through the pictures and watch the videos of you I am reminded of how you initiated by time in Connecticut with joy and laughter. Watching them now makes me extremely sad, but also hopeful. The humor was always amazing and something I grew to love every day. We knew one another briefly - I can only imagine how this anniversary is for your loving sisters and mother who had a lifetime with you.

Tonight, I will eat a roast beef sandwich in your honor and I'll probably run by your old house.

Love you, Lois. Still hate that you're gone. But I am thinking of you today. Watch over us.

Well be listening to Michael Jackson's Rock With Me, I'm sure, as we did when we gook you our for a final beer (and steak dinner). 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sometimes Paradise Does Arrive While Grading and You Think, "Hmmm. Wonder What the Magic Was."

For years, scoring portfolios in Kentucky and then again at schools in Connecticut, I get into a batch of student work and I simply forget I am assessing, and I enjoy what I'm reading - getting into the flow that Csikszentmihalyi discusses. I actually lose the fact that I'm supposed to be an authority and I ride along with the intention of the writer as if I'm reading on the beach for total enjoyment.

This is rarer when assessing philosophical statements, lesson plans, and theories for teaching writing, but last night I got into a batch of undergraduate writing that simply amazed me. In their submitted portfolios I recognized that they've been paying attention not only in my course, but in several courses taught by my colleagues in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and those in the College of Arts and Sciences. They write fluidly, sincerely, with ingenuity and originality. The voice pops from the page and the decisions they make are sound, logical and research-based.

I woke up this morning thinking about this and whether or not I could capture and/or name exactly what it is they are doing. The promote-of-models-in-me wants to label the parts to explain to myself (and perhaps others) why their written work is so effective.

Then I bite my nails, "Wait! Would others feel the same way? I wonder if we might do a Consultant LASW template with the results so we can talk about student work?"

I'm far from finishing my grading and hope to, today, finish at least one of my courses before I dive into the other one (after all, the undergraduates need my grade so they can graduate).

With only a few left to go, I open each with trepidation wondering if I'm about to get a clunker. It's always interesting when you get through a batch that follows the direction, dots their i's and crosses their t's. It's more amazing when they do so and you think, "Oh, they get it. I'd love to teach and work with this kid."

Then, with those that are off-mark, and not hitting the standards set by the course, I wish their was a period of re-doing the work (because the explanation for why they are not hitting the mark and revision would be the true, authentic learning).

Alas. Semesters aren't set up this way and there's a mad-dash to the end.  When I can go to bed, however, with tranquil waters and serenity on my mind, I know it was a good grading bout. Yes, the stress remains that I'm far from finished, but those I made time for today simply put a smile on my face, making me think, "Maybe you do know what you're doing."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

With Thanks To Shaun Mitchell, @_Mitchellaneous, Keynote For Celebration of Teachers and Teaching @FairfieldGSEAP

For the 7th year in a row, I was lucky to coordinate an end of the year Celebration of Teachers and Teaching for Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation in the Graduate School of Education and Allie Professions. This year, Shaun Mitchell, a 2017 Lawrence A. O'Toole Teacher Leadership Award recipient, was our special guest and Keynote. In addition to summer bulbs for planting and little gems for inspiration (The Story of the Boy and the Starfish, Moonbeams/All Stars, and carrying the world on the backs of our shells), I offer Mr. Mitchell's incredible talk. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, too. We offer one another praises for to little.

Student Teacher Celebration
Fairfield University
May 7th, 2018
         Thank you, Dr. Crandall and thank you to the Fairfield University community for having me here today.  And more importantly, congratulations to all of our new educators!            What an interesting time to become a teacher.  It seems as though we are needed more than ever in our society.  We are also on the edge of evolution in our profession and that will require new, innovative minds like those that are in this room.  In the last nine years of my own career, I’ve seen teacher evaluation get coupled with test scores, then dismantled; I’ve seen the coming and going of a little thing called SBAC; I’ve seen the economic disparities between the suburban school where I student taught and the urban school in which I currently teach.  And last year, we saw the rise of an anti-public school advocate buying her way into heading the US Department of Education.             And yet, I’m not discouraged.  We may be going through troubling times, but the institution of public education in America has endured many struggles before this and will endure a great many struggles in the future.  This, too, shall pass, but not without the work of dedicated professionals like yourselves.              To be here today, you all have gone through your student teaching and have seen firsthand the trials and tribulations of what it takes to be a teacher in the 21st century.  It’s very different from when our parents were in school and it’s even changed quite a bit from when we were in school.  In a decade from now it will be all the more different.  But then I’m reminded of the old saying: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”              This idea has been on my mind quite a bit this year as I started my work with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation after I received the Lawrence O’Toole Leadership Award in November.  I won it for my student-centered practices in the classroom, but as much as education has changed over the last few decades, students have always been the heart of why we do what we do.  Student-centered learning is a new buzz word, but it’s hardly a new concept.            By and large, students have remained the same at their core over time, regardless of the technology that has invaded our classrooms.  They still depend on great teachers to show them the joys of learning and living; they still are highly social creatures just as they’ve always been; and they still have stories to tell - maybe even more so now than in the past.             Education in general has also remained the same at its core - which could be part of our current identity crisis.  Content is taught, learning is assessed, and relationships are formed. Whether you use Socratic seminars, exit tickets, or Do Nows, none of it matters if you don’t build relationships with your students.  That has always been the one constant in an ever-changing educational landscape.  And so, regardless of what new trends in pedagogy are invading our classrooms in the future, if we remain focused on the students, our path forward will always be clear.            And so on that note of building relationships with your students, I want to impart some take-home value in this and give you some student-centered advice for your upcoming first years as educators.  These are some student-centered tips I wish I was told when I was in your position.  They are hard-won knowledge from my first years in education and they have helped lead me to where I am today, a champion of student-centered classrooms.                        (1) Tip #1: relationships with your students are everything - it’s the keystone to student-centered learning.  It’s the only thing that got me through my first year of teaching.  You see, I grew up in a small New Jersey town very similar to Fairfield; in a word: suburban.  When I was propelled into my first week of teaching at Central High School in Bridgeport I was a fish out of water.  To say I was culture shocked is an understatement.  On top of that, I was drowning in curricula - African-American Literature - which I knew nothing about, and that I’d soon have to teach over the course of the next year. I vividly remember calling my mom every night that first week saying I was going to quit.  I actually wrote 3 different versions of my resignation letter.  Then, in a moment of clarity, in the middle of my classroom, having a real moment with my students - complete with trust and understanding - and that’s when I remembered why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.  We all have our own reasons.  Mine was to change lives the way my teachers changed mine - they turned an apathetic and scared little boy into a confident, academic young man.  They accomplished this by forming relationships with me. Trust and understanding are two crucial and reciprocated parts of the teacher-student relationship.  Looking back to my own teachers for inspiration, I knew what I had to do that first year.            I started trusting my students.  And I took time to understand my students.  Like magic, something you can’t quit explain, I was teaching as a stranger in a strange land and I was surviving.  I no longer cried in my car before walking into the building.  My confidence grew along side my students that year.  My lessons got better and more involved with each passing week.  By May of my first year, I was a completely different person than I was 8 months prior.  I was a certainly a different teacher, but I think it’s important to note the distinction that I felt like a completely different human being as well.  Being a teacher changed me for the better.  I’m the teacher I am today because of the relationships I formed with my students then as I still do now, 9 years into the game.    Take the time to understand your students.  Curriculum be damned - it will always be there.  And it will be that much harder to teach if your students cannot have a good relationship with you.  (Slide with my first classes ever.)  These were the first students I ever taught.  I will never forget them.  They changed my life even more than I may have changed theirs.  I took the time to understand them and in turn, they took time to understand me.  Trust was created.  And I’m happy to say that I still keep in touch with many of them today.              (2) TIP #2: Speaking of keeping up with former students, technology plays a big part in that.  So my next piece of student-centered advice is to utilize technology as a tool to differentiate and engage students in their own learning.  The second tenement of student-centered learning is that education should be accessible everywhere, not just within the four walls of your classroom.            The thing about technology and schools is that both environments are in constant flux, so it can be daunting to keep up with it all.  Technology comes with many different uses and with many different modes of delivery.  There are some days I want to banish the creator of the smart phone to a remote planet in the Star Wars galaxy.  And then there are days when I wonder how my teachers lived without them in their classrooms. Between my phone, my laptop, my BluRay player, my iPad, and my desktop, technology is everywhere and I have to use it to keep up with my students who are being raised on it.              One of my favorite projects that I did with my students revolved around an essay they wrote about their struggles and how struggle is part of our identity. We took student voice to a new level when we recorded students’ 2 favorite lines from their essays and edited them together using Garageband and iTunes, ultimately weaving a narrative of Bridgeport youth in their struggle to find the meaning of life and identity. What a project!  It was such an inspirational experience for my students and I to share together. I even recorded my own struggles alongside them. And without technology, a mere 10 years ago, this project wouldn't have been possible to make in a classroom. Now it’s on YouTube for the whole world to enjoy and for my students to revisit anytime they need to remember how far they’ve come and how much they’re worth.  They don’t need to be in my classroom for that, and it’s a lesson that’s available 24/7.            In addition to Garageband, I want to share a few other technological aides that I use to encourage student-centered learning and may make your teaching more efficient next year.  Classroom websites require a lot of work upfront, but the long term payoff is worth it for student achievement and for your students who like to work at their own pace.  I personally enjoy the ease of Google Classroom which has allowed me to upload and interact with my AP students even when we had snow days to ensure we didn’t miss any days of instruction.  We broke down the four walls of my classroom and it was awesome.  School continued outside the traditional school setting, even as we were snowed in, and with more technologies emerging, we are starting to see what learning might be like in the decades to come.            Not forgetting parents, the Remind App for your phone has been an amazing tool for keeping an open line of communication with my students and their parents together.  Whether it be homework reminders, school announcements, or requesting a conference, this has changed with way I communicate with my students and their families.  As the director of our school plays, I also can keep in touch with my cast and keep them updated with rehearsal changes.  Often, students writing essays will ask me questions via Remind and help is virtually only a text-message away.  I know that may sound like a huge commitment to some of you, but you use technology how you like it.  We all know communication is another key to success and this app makes it very possible.            My challenge to you for next year is to incorporate some kind of technology into your classroom.  Whatever makes you comfortable.  As with anything new, you’ll be putting yourself out of your comfort zone at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be a pro - and you’ll be planting the seeds of a student-centered classroom.             (3) TIP #3: The last tenement of student-centered learning is allowing students to take ownership over their learning.  What that looks like is going to be different in every classroom, but it does require one thing from all educators: faith in letting go of the power. In a student-centered classroom, the teacher retains control, but shifts the power of learning from themselves to the student.  We often default to think that everyone learns the same way we do, even though we are well aware that is not the case.  It’s human nature that we must fight as educators.  There are many ways to get to a destination and our students will take every which way they can.  All we can do is support them and find ways to make sure they succeed.            With this last bit of student-centered learning, it comes with many caveats, and may in fact, ask us to think about our traditional schools in different ways than we previously have.  For example, I’ve been thinking lately about the role of grades in school and whether they allow students to fully take ownership of their learning.   It holds them accountable, but does it allow them to take ownership?  I have too many students who will only do an assignment for a grade.  And when they get it back, they only look at the grade they get, rather than the feedback which took me 10 minutes to write.              When students only value the grade, or rather, the reward of getting a good grade, students miss the idea of learning to reallylearn, embedding that idea of life-long learning.  We also run the risk of having students psychologically correlating bad grades with worthlessness, regardless of whether learning has taken place.  I understand accountability must remain a factor, but this is a perfect example of how we need new, innovative minds like yourselves to look at the issues of education and find creative ways to update an antiquated system with a student-centered approach, rather than the teacher-centered classrooms that have dominated our profession for decades.              As I start to wrap this up, my last bit of advice is teacher-centered, rather than student-centered.  Seek out mentors.  Mentors come in a variety of places within your professional and personal life, and they come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders.  Everyone’s experience is valuable.            Nothing makes this job easier than finding those few colleagues in your building you can look to for guidance, help, and the occasional venting session. These are the people at the base of your support group - your day-to-day colleagues.  In a career that can differ from district to district and building to building, they are the only people who know what it’s like to work in your school. They get you.  You get them.  You both know what teaching and learning look like in your building.  Make sure you seek them out and build the base of your support group.            Adding onto your building colleagues, it’s also good to have a regional perspective of what education looks like.  To help you there, seek out colleagues in other districts.  This room is a good starting point - you all will be teaching in many different districts throughout the area and beyond.  Gain the insight of what it looks like to teach elsewhere.  You know through your student teaching seminar that everyone’s experience in the classroom is different and each experience is valuable learning for other educators - sometimes even more so than PD workshops.            Another place to find out-of-district colleagues is by seeking out professional organizations in your area.  I was lucky enough to participate in one right here at Fairfield University following my second year of teaching.  The Connecticut Writing Project brought Bryan Ripley Crandall into my life and since then my career has never been the same.  Through CWP and the encouragement of Dr. Crandall I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country giving workshops on literacy and writing - next up is presenting in Houston in November!  And we have a book Chapter coming out on the 31st, too!  I’ve met with colleagues across the country to hear what teaching looks like in all 50 states; and most importantly, I’ve sharpened my teacher leader skills by working with teachers and students throughout Fairfield County. Without CWP, I wouldn't have been a finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year in 2016 and I certainly wouldn’t have been awarded this year’s O’Toole Leadership Award.              Professional education organizations bring together like-minded individuals to elevate and celebrate our profession.  They develop the teacher leaders who are going to drive education into the next century.  There are many organizations to fit the myriad of interests in education, so find the one that suits your needs and being making change on a larger scale.                        To conclude, I’ll say this: all teachers are superheroes, but student-centered teachers are the real change agents in education.            No, teaching isn't always the glamorous depiction we see in the movies. And no matter how hard I try to be Michelle Pfiefer from Dangerous Minds, I know my students are real people with real needs and there are no cameras to catch my triumphant and vulnerable moments in the classroom.  We are student-centered teachers because we know the future of our society is dependent on the education of our students.  We are student-centered teachers because we know the future of our society is also dependent on developing life long learners who value knowledge throughout their lives.            You will have hard days - it’s just the nature of the job.  But for every bad day, there will be a million good reasons to keep your head up and get the job done.  It’s also important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.  Yes, our profession is very serious.  But you have a responsibility to feed and nourish your mind, body, and soul. Recognize your breaking points and have an exit strategy.  Humor and laughter certainly help in that department.               And then it happens out of nowhere.  You get a letter from a student who you changed forever when you were just doing your job.  Or you get an unexpected hug from a student because you noticed something about them nobody else did that day.  Or you simply gain a students’ respect because you gave them respect first.  And you swell up with emotion and remember why you got into this profession in the first place.              You are all remarkable people for wanting to dedicate your lives and careers to the betterment of our students and by default, the betterment our collective future.  I want to thank you personally for being my colleagues, whom I hope to learn from in the future.              This really is the best job in the world.  You are embarking on a journey that will last the remainder of your lifetime in ways that will surprise you and inspire you.  I wish you all success in your careers and I hope you find as much joy in this job as I have.  And on behalf of every life you will change, I say thank you.              And thank you for your time.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Thinking About Perseverance As So Many of Us Are Trying To Persevere at This Time of Year

Sundays in academic land, both for students and educators, are an act of digging our nails into the blanket and hoping we can achieve our goals, especially at the end of the semester. We are simply hanging on and hoping for the best.

I set a goal yesterday to accomplish more than was physically possible (only getting halfway there). Then, before sleep, I called Chitunga to check on him and we talked about this rough road ahead, finishing this week, having to move his stuff out, only to move back in next week for his May course. He's also applying for an internship for next summer - an eye always looking ahead.

Whenever I tell him, "Dude. It's okay to chill out. Take a break," I'm hearing 30 years of advice given to me by friends, family, mentors and colleagues. It's just not in my DNA and, I'm guessing, he doesn't have it either.

It was an interesting conversation, though, because he's on the climb up towards a career and I'm already there - not always sure what the best answer is (should he continue working hard so he has options when he gets there or should I encourage him to relax because when he gets there, there will be few options for chilling out). I told him I simply want him to be happy, to enjoy his world, and to always have his mind alive.

We then talked economics, global realities, the future, and if he will have his bedroom to himself this summer (of course he will. What is he thinking?).

This all brought me back to the idea of perseverance and hanging on, which I typically associate with the Sisyphus myth. Actually, Alice sent me a video from a Chinese game show, where the equipment starts beating up on the contestant to the point that he lays down yelling STOP, but the machine continues beating him in his most sensitive location. It looked like it hurt and I responded to her, "Actually, this gameshow is a better metaphor for teaching than Sisyphus."

This is all to say, "If you're grading or studying to get the grade," I feel you. It does pay off, but in the process of it, it is a totally mind-@#$#!

We got this.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Another Derby on Mt. Pleasant: Food, Bets, Cornhole, and Winners (Not Me, Of Course)

The festivities began about four: chickens, vegetables, hot dogs, salad, mac n cheese, potato salad, crackers, cheeses, and $10 bets. We had a  rather large pot and warded 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and last place winner (okay, Ken, Glamis's Vet, you win the grand prize).

Any two-minute race is a great excuse for an evening of fun, even if your horse isn't the one who wins, places, or shows. The screaming is the same nonetheless (and the cleanup is a hell of a lot longer than the two-minute race).

So much crazy.

We debuted lawn games: volleyball, corn hole, and badminton. The dogs had the best time of all.
But in truth it is happy B'Derby Day De Mayo for Pam whose birthday always falls on the Kentucky celebration.

Pam had the 3rd place horse. I have no clue where my horse was. Kris Sealy had horse #2, and Beverly had the last pace horse.

The food was delicious, but the whirlwind is a blur as I cooked, prepped, hosted, cleaned, picked up, played games and entertained. I have no idea what just happened.

I do know, however, that I nailed the mint Juleps and also figured out a recipe for the Cinco de Mayo Julep with tequila and mint (everyone seemed to love those).

One of these years, I will win the grand prize and make back some of the moolah for what it costs to have such a party.

The barbecue cauliflower and broccoli, a total yum. Congratulations to the winners. I'm now in a need of a total day of grading. I have leftovers, so I shouldn't have to cook today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAM!

Enjoy the dinner with your family.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Special Evening With My Counselor Educator Friends - They Know How to Celebrate Their Graduates

Every year, as the trees begin to bloom on campus, I'm invited by Drs. Diana Hulse, Tracey Robert, Virginia Kelly, and (now) Stephanie Morrison to attend their end-of-the-year celebration for graduates in their programs. The Counselor Education faculty continue to be tremendous supporters of my work and phenomenal colleagues to work with. It has always been clear that they are individuals with a passion for what they, a love for their students, an expertise in their field, with tremendous standards for themselves, one another, and the individuals who take their classes.

They listen. They coach. The collaborate. They strategize. They feel. They hug. They show empathy. They bring community. And they love.

Last night I attended another evening for them to shout out about each of their graduates and, along with fellow faculty and families, offer them a round of applause. It was a tremendous ceremony with the Provost and University President in attendance, alumni, and tremendous adjunct faculty who collaborate to make the program successful.

What I loved most is hearing the comments from supervisors and school collaborators about all of the students, a genuine touch of sincere individuality and appreciation.

It was great seeing graduate assistants like Jill (who has been a tremendous support to all faculty, including me, during their work in GSEAP) achiever their graduate goals.

It was also great to see Jennifer Johnson, a friend, a mother, a CWP supporter, and a stupendous student also reach her graduate degree goal (after having tremendous success at Discovery Magnet with Ellen Rosoff and at Staples High School where she interned this year). The Johnsons arrived to Fairfield the same year I came (summer of 2011) and we've simply bonded along the journey. Hard for me to believe that Mr. J., the oldest, will be heading to high school next year! Ah, but he is going to my favorite high school in Connecticut (who has a standing-ovation-worthy writing program).

Grades are do in a week, my own department's celebration (hosted by me) will be on Monday, and then comes the Graduation ceremonies.

I'd place toothpicks in my eyelids to keep them open, but I always thought that would really hurt. So, instead, I'm going to try to get a little more sleep and, well, work on my coffee game some more.