Thursday, November 15, 2018

#NCTE18 - Ready to Bloom with @CWPFairfield Teachers @NCTE with @WritingProject Friends

Here we go! In January we sent proposals, and by summer we knew what was selected. For the last few months we've looked at data and prepped our presentations. Our CWP-Fairfield crew of 10 has 6 presentations over the next four days, plus a much needed brunch with the National Writing Project family. Somehow, I got all the goods packed into a carry-on (I've cooked for my house/dog-sitters so they will have food, I cleaned so I am not embarrassed for them to live here, and I've stuffed folders for handouts for all the sessions).

Ah, but before I had time to focus on my travels from Connecticut to Houston, I needed to finish a giant project with my undergraduate students during a turbo-course Wednesday. They have no idea what I'm up to, but they will on December 5th when their hard work is presented to the Principal of Columbus K-8 with the artwork I devised in my head. I teach Philosophy of Education and, cough-cough, my philosophy should be obvious from the project.

Truth: The undergraduates folded almost 300 paper- flowers as part of class today. I didn't anticipate the joy, but they got totally ZEN with the labor. When I said, "We have enough flowers," they grew disgruntled. I think they needed the hands-on artistry - expressing themselves in a way that is different than text proved to be very therapeutic. It's flu season at Fairfield University and many of them had sniffles. I now look forward to the final product - for now, let's just say that my office is loaded with tissue paper love that I will return to after NCTE.

Speaking of love - it's my favorite time of year. I'm looking forward to meeting with CT friends in Texas to present on yearlong work, as well as to present with national literacy leaders. I'm also looking forward to the new friends that will be with us this year: K-12 literacy educators who gain brilliant expertise from NCTE and who have opportunity to meet stellar writers and dreamers. They are the ones who understand that teaching is a profession.

Our schedule is above. It's not that I'm presenting - it's that WE'RE presenting. I am very proud to have 10 others from the CWP-Fairfield site doing their thing this year deep in the heart of Texas. I'm also applauding the two newbies coming with our crew who recently graduated from Fairfield University with Masters in Elementary Education and Teacher Education Foundations. We are stronger together.

But, it's time to hit the road, to the plane, to the connection flight, and to the destination. With luck, we'll get to the hotel in a decent hour and pick up our materials before heading to bed Then, on Friday, at 9:30 a.m. - it begins! Love that this year's kick-off is with Dr. Alan Brown and the afternoon is with two of my favorite literacy gurus, Dr. Shelbie Witte and Dr. Jennifer Dail.

It will be a love fest, indeed.

I'm so ready for the love. Here comes Crandall and his crew.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

And On This Wednesday, I Am Contemplating Fruit & Nut Bites. Um, Okay

Perhaps it's the latest craze to hit Fairfield County, but a graduate student brought a snack to share with the class (trying to stay healthy and on top of every-more-stressful lifestyles) called Fruit and Nut Bites. It was a packaged nugget of condensed something that tasted good and, well, offered a flavor, but not much substance.

That's what I had for dinner last night. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be filling, or healthy, or purposeful, but it is what is now being carried in snack-bags of my students.

I ate it, and felt like I was teased with 1/20th of a real fruit. I kept wondering, "What's the use of this? It took more calories to open the package than I actually consumed."

Onward. No clue. But onward.

Oka, Wednesday, there's just a 2.5 hour turbo course between you and packing and getting groceries and making sure Glamis has dog sitters and submitting a grant report and then resting for a 4-day stint in Houston.

Last night, when I went to bed, I simply shook my head to declare, "I'm exhausted."


I'm exhausted.

For me, Fruit & Nut Bites are gelled nothingness. I need more. Oh, 21st century. What the hell was that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"But You Need The Rain," He Says. "How Else Will You Get the FWOWERS?"

Typically on a Tuesday morning, I drink my coffee and head to the streets for a long run. Why? Because I'm on campus until late at night.

Today, however, I'm likely to head indoors to the gym for my run because it looks like a total wash.

That is the way of water. It must fall, so it can move upon land to reach streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, only to be evaporated and recycled again.

Woot Woot! To the clouds.

I'm channeling all this because my graduate students read a little Moje in Smagorinsky's Content Area Literacy text and, tapping my environmental days, I am doing a mini-literacy project in the sciences to make the case for reading, writing, speaking, and thinking across the disciplines.

Let it rain. It will prove my case.

And, speaking of cycles (as the work-week is definitely a cycle), this week is pre-NCTE departure week and the stress, organizing, worry, and answering questions has circled my way once again. In January propose. In June, hear if accepted. In September, work with collaborators locally and nationally on conference sessions. In November, rampantly put the ideas into place. Then present.
Repeat in January.

It is amazing to predict where one's thinking will be so many months in advance, but it is always wonderful once at the conference location - so many wonder NCTE people in one location discussing literacy. Then, we'll evaporate back into the clouds until January when our first drops will trickle back down.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. - repeat. - repeat.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Okay, Monday. Let Me Tell You About My Sunday. Fall Cleaning Like Its Spring

I wake up on Sunday mornings always wishing I did more on Friday night and Saturday, knowing that I will regret whatever I didn't accomplish during a new work week. Even so, I am good about taking care of myself and this meant running six miles in the sun and blue skies, even when it was cold. This led, too, to the winterizing of the outdoors, putting all the tables in the shed, putting the snowblower in the garage, and mowing the lawn (to get rid of the pesky leaves).

In between, I graded, and graded, and graded.

I was thankful for the sauce I made yesterday and although I turned down an invitation to eat stew (I really wanted to go), I felt like I got most of what I wanted done...well, done.

Now it's Monday morning and the workweek marathon (okay, sprint) takes off. Everything needs to be accomplished before my plain leaves on Thursday and after I teach two important classes so that my students are ready for final projects.

I do know about Spring cleaning, but there's a thing called Fall winterizing that is equally as important. The lawn ornaments are now stored, the chairs piled up and put away, and the hoses away from the house so they won't freeze. I also finished half the gutters, cleaning out the last six months of debris. I guess I'm thankful that I don't have a pull to close up for the colder months.

And, I ordered the urban turkey kit once again so I am ready for the brining to come next week for Thanksgiving at my house. My Sunday night talk with Chitunga was cut short because I was in energizer bunny mode, but I left with telling him that I am living for his return for gravy and stuffing

In truth, though, I think I like to run when in layers. It won't be long before I'm totally in the gym until it all thaws.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Wish I Could Claim His Culinary Talents. Nope. This Kid Was Destined For Greatness

As soon as I saw Brownies dining at Nam Huynh's new Vietnamese restaurant, Eatz, in Louisville, Kentucky, I had to contact my Louisville Mom Sue. I sent the address and said, "One of my awesome kids from my teaching days has opened a Vietnamese restaurant and you must get there as soon as possible. It took her 48 hours. She and Dave at their last night and I was sent this photo. Nam looks exactly the same, but older, wiser, happier, and more mature. I am so proud to know that he has taken his culinary talents and used them to make his American dreams a reality. He's been getting great acclaim since high school as a sushi chef and entrepreneur. If the Queen of the Spring Roll, Sue, approves, than I'm sure he will have a loyal customer for quite a while.

Meanwhile, in my own kitchen, I was channeling Syracuse Sue, my Mom, and my dad, Butch. I wanted their spaghetti, so I went to the store and came home to get my hands all gooey. In total, I made 28 meatballs and they came out as good as I remembered them.
Of course, I didn't make spaghetti to go with them - opted for a meatball sub, instead - but I can say that they came out great. I only make them once a year, because it really is repulsive to mix the hot sausage, beef, eggs, spices, bread crumbs, onions, and milk. It's a little to Zombie-esque and you can't touch anything while your mixing and rolling.

Ah, but I have food for the week - at least until I leave for Houston on Thursday. I also froze a bag so I can have them on a cold, snowy night when I need such comfort food.

Speaking of Houston, I think I have all six presentations ready to go and I am thrilled to have a fantastic team of colleagues and teachers coming with me. It is remarkable to see how far the work has come in the last 5 years since we redesigned our writing project initiatives. It has become Scholarship in Action, just like I learned from Nancy Cantor when she was President of Syracuse University and I was earning my doctorate.

Cheers. I hope you have something good to eat today!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Friday Scarf Fleek in Canisius Hall. Kicking Off a Weekend in Style.

Not too much action on campus on a Friday, except academics trying to stay on top of their game and freshman who take classes all the way through the last block of time before the campus shuts down for the weekend. I was in my office trying to find a way out for the weekend when Akbaru arrived to say hello as he headed from his late Friday class to his last one. We had just enough time to take a picture while I headed off campus and he went to his final class for the week.

I simply wanted one thing - to get home to watch the Syracuse/Louisville football game (and with Syracuse playing awesome and Louisville still resolving its Rick Pitino tragedy, it wasn't much of a game).

Chitunga, who went to the game with friends, texted, "What happened to Louisville?" I said, "The bad ethics finally caught up with them."

Seriously, it's sad to see that other sports programs also seem to be taking the hit for the scandalous behavior of a few. I wish I could say it was a one-time deal for the campus, but they have had their share of not-so-good leaders using their leadership to do sketchy work. I love my CARDS and want to believe in the integrity of their programs, but their hubris finally caught up with them, and Syracuse...well, Syracuse deserves the success they're having. It's been awhile.

Okay, Saturday and Sunday. This is for us. There's a lot to accomplish in the next couple of days as we prepare for Houston and a weekend away.

I left the campus portion of my week with a smile, however, seeing the Rabbit with a smile before hopping in the Frog-mobile and revving up for weekend work. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

It's Trivial - Thursday Into Friday When You Know The Weekend Ahead Is Nose To the Grind

When you are heading into the weekend, knowing that it needs to be conference-focus ahead, one quickly takes an invitation for Trivia Night at a local Irish club to heart...

...dinner....really bad knowledge...and the opportunity not to place anywhere near the top three because you don't know that Emma Thompson was recently given Duchess status for her theatrical talents and you think that Lake Heron is the only one that doesn't line with Canada. You are wrong.

You do know the characters of Gilligan's Island but not what Betty White has produced as an aging actress. Still, you try, and you eat french fries and take the night off.

It's Friday. I need to hibernate in my office today (possibly tomorrow and Saturday, too) to get on top of reports you missed during the week and what needs to be accomplished for next week.

It's all a blur.

I am still trying to catch up from summer 2018, while getting ready for summer 2019. I can't make sense of what needs to be accomplished right now.

I will say, however, it's Friday. That counts the most. I will get runs in and lots of time to do work (without the inevitable, but non-functional work of committees). Bring on the serenity of the weekend.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The @TheEllenShow School Proposal - That Was A First...Learning For Joy, Optimism & Hope

I knew today's course was going to be interesting, especially when I had my undergraduates design their own schools. They had to work in small groups, come to compromise, find a name, and lay out the curriculum and belief systems.

As I wandered around wondering what the students would discuss, I came across three who were wrestling with the mission of the school: one where kids wanted to be there, to feel special, to appreciate diversity and creativity, and to have pep in their every day step. I asked them to think about a word or inspiration that their school could be named after.

30 minutes later I came back to them and they had the name: The Degeneres School - a location for individualized learning, a love for youth, and an appreciation for happiness. They chose to name their school after Ellen Degeneres!

I immediately thought about playing music between classes and how the requirement could be that students have to dance their way from class to class.

There were numerous creations for an ideal school but this one caught my attention. I don't get the fortune of watching the Ellen Show often, but when I do, it is always fun, informative, happy, and 100% American. I always love it. She brings laughter and happiness to a sometimes dark, and misery-driven world (and for that I am appreciative).

So, if ever given the opportunity, I'd totally be willing to collaborate with anyone on creating a Degeneres School. Trust me, research shows that it is really needed - now more than ever. I know exactly the mission I'd build, sparked from these wonderful undergraduates and perhaps one day I'll find a way to make it happen.

Super-diversity - a choice of LOVE over hate - creativity - humor - and hard work. That is a mission to emulate everywhere.

And how awesome would it be to have an Ellen Dengeneres-like teacher in every classroom! Now I'm really dreaming!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Building a Perfect School Today - Well, Not Me. My Students. I Have My Perfect School In My Heart

In Philosophy of Education in Action, David W. Nicholson' concludes with the request of early thinkers to design the perfect school given the potential purposes for what schools should be about:

  • To learn objective, universal knowledge, or 
  • To learn subjective, changing knowledge, 
From there we talked about ideals, essentials, natural development, feelings, imagination, community, action, and individual freedom.

I can't help but reflect on my teaching at the J. Graham Brown School in Louisville, Kentucky as I read the possibilities for education as philosophers have explored them throughout history. I will be curious to what my students design today for the perfect school. It's harder for me, because I taught at the perfect school, but it was also at a time when when the state had close-to-perfect writing expectations, and I had an almost perfect (okay, I'll give him perfect) principal. It was heaven to have a decade in those circumstances.

Then retirements happened. Bad hires occurred. The state began to come after the curriculum. I realized I would die if I stayed. Why? I saw what was coming at kids and teachers and it was heartbreaking. I wouldn't be able to work in a location that didn't have the best interest of kids and teachers in mind.

My perfect school would be inquiry-based, high expectations, super-diverse, and arts-based. Most of what I experienced at the Brown would be part of the school's mission. Some things I might change is to have students more central in maintenance of the school, but also given more voice in curriculum matters. I'd love to have flexibility in curricular design, without the top-down mandate of how it should be taught from district "experts."

I'm holding out on the specifics of my perfect school, because I want to see what the students will bring forward.

But, again. I go back to what I had at the Brown when the Brown was supported to be the Brown. Those were ideal times and I hold them dear to my heart.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Existential Cream Cheese For Philosophical Cinnamon Rolls - An Election Day Post

Truth is, the truth is, and that truth is what you think it is.

I just read the readings I assigned for Philosophy of Education (the last chapter of Philosophy of Education in Action) and it moved from Friere to Buber to Kierkegaard to Noddings to Greene really quick, with a lot of emphasis on existentialism.

Who am I in relation to the truth I create for myself? What does any of it matter in relation to one's existence and purpose? Then there's that education thing. Why should any of us care?

I was thinking about this when I opened a new hair product, a dipping doo diggity wallop that strikingly reminded me of the frosting I used to get caked on Cindy's Cinnamon Rolls (I miss them so much). I used to purchase these delectable pastries when I could afford them (the last 10 minutes of Mall hours when they sold what they had left for 50% off).
Is there anything better than a a well done cinnamon roll? I don't think so.

I exist because I once ate such delicacies. I exist because I have a paste to make my hair look like Kramer from Seinfeld. I exist, because after reading and prepping for a class on existential contributions to K-12 schooling (um, I don't see too much recognition of existence or reasons for existing in most of the schools I visit - just robotic boredom and apathetic misery). But I exist, as they exist. We exist together.

Then there's an election. I exist, therefore I have an opinion, but they exist, and they have an opinion, too. I'm afraid of postmodern subjectivities and reality television thinking as it exists on CNN and Fox. Results will come in and we will all still be existing.

Truth is non-truth. Non-truth is truth. All we are is dust in the wind.

And I'm thinking about the humanity of it all. Why would I put cream cheese in my hair? Is it vanity? Is it insanity? Is it postmodern play? Is it MAN-o-pause? Am I a particle man, particle man?

Actually, I'm thinking of two movies: I Heart Huckabees and Waking Life. Both are early millennial movies at the turn of the century and (for the most part) place existential crisis in Western White Masculine terms (which is humorous and problematic and enlightening and right and wrong). These films, as well as the profound silliness of this post will be on my mind for the next 24 hours as I try to find a way to make students (who tend to be from traditional Catholic schooling institutions) contemplate the esoteric and intellectual Basquiat-painting of existentialism.

But I am so, so, so craving a cinnamon roll. Should be an interesting class this week. And should be an interesting night of news, for better or for worse. We will still have to exist within it all.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Processing a Metaphor for Subversive Teaching - The Underground Railroad

I've always seen teaching as bringing the light to dark places in hopes of showing young people alternative paths to their success and a way to get through difficult obstacles that stand in their way. It is my belief that young people respond to the light and follow it when they know the intentions will best serve their personal interests.

Yesterday, two of my favorite educators stopped by to catch me up on their school year and to celebrate the phenomenal work they do with CWP-Fairfield in the summer and how the work is carried forward to their academic school year. They've made great connections with kids, word has spread, and colleagues are interested in what they are accomplishing.

"It feels like we're leading an underground railroad," one said. "It's like the institution itself is designed to keep the kids from learning, from growing, from succeeding, and believing. We're trying to show them a better way."

When I probed further, they described the professional development they receive at their schools, the inundation of more and more tests, and the administrative eye scolding them for reaching kids and not focusing 100% of their attention on the actual tests that are measuring the school."

"The underground railroad," he explained, "is getting kids to read, to write, to take chances and to speak in a way that is working. It is, however, in total contradiction with how our schools are requiring us to do so."

I wanted more.

"The test-only push, the mandate of reading and writing requirements that are totally disconnected from the lives our students are living makes them hate school. In fact, they feel that such an environment makes the school a place that is not safe. As kids come to us, we give them books, we ask them to share their stories, we encourage them to speak out. They work for us, but are totally disillusioned with how they are treated in most classrooms."

The metaphor of the underground railroad caught my ear. They are reporting on kids who want to do well, who are there to play the game, but who are totally recognizing that the schooling institution is there to hinder their achievement. What is a light, however, is the introduction of reading, writing, speaking, and action that is not on the larger institution's agenda.

What I've learned from 24 years of teaching is that the best guides to helping students to achieve come from listening to youth and what they report. These teachers work in schools with all the deficit labels that come from state and national testing, yet they have students who want to work hard, to read, to write, and to take action. The curriculum of the school, they report, is impeding their learning. These are locations where teachers are reporting almost half the year is taken over by tests testing kids to get benchmarks so that teachers can better understand what needs to be done before the 'real' tests arrive. Meanwhile, while this testing is occurring, reading, writing and action are not occurring.

They feel like they are leading an underground railroad, because they are achieving behind the scenes, underneath the radar, and beyond the administrators who oversee them, through finding literacy instruction that works with the young people coming to them with goals for a college education and a successful life.

Strange. This should be the purpose of all schools, yet teachers need to be subversive with the actual instruction that works.

"It's coming from after school programs, free periods, and weekend. This is where we can actually teach the kids and they're thirsty for it."

If this is the case, then how do we find a way to communicate this in a way that actual administrators and politicians will actually listen? Perhaps I'm too much a socio-constructivist, but I've always found more fault in the systems and institutions that put the deficits on the kids when, in actuality, the real problem is in how they are viewing what kids know, can do, and should prove they know.

Currently, it's a measurement that is not capturing truth. I'm now seeking more lanterns to help these teachers guide the young people they say are coming towards them more and more looking for help. They want to achieve, but the top-down management is making them failures. It is so crazy.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Well, Yes. I Guess You Can Say You Saw a Crandall Imprint In Another School

Yesterday, a kid from Central High School texted me to ask, "Do you ever do work at Bassick?" He sent me these photos and told me he was taking his SATs and was sitting next to bookshelves with Home of the Brave, The Arrival, We Were Here, The Crossover, & POW!.

I recognized the shelf and simply replied, "Why, yes. I've worked often with Bassick High School and, in fact, I've worked with that school more than any other in Connecticut.

I laughed to know that a kid could see the Crandall imprint in another building and recognize it as familiar to his experiences in CWP summer programs. Actually, he was in William King's ESL classroom and on the shelves are the heart and pulse of Ubuntu Academy for the last five years.

He felt comfortable taking his college entrance exam there, but also wanted to bypass the test and simply read all the books that were lining the shelf.
I'm already thinking about the summer programs in 2019 and what new books I can purchase to get in the hands of Mr. King's students, not only in the summer but during the academic year, too.

In a week, William, Jessica, Ryan, Jayne, Mindy, Kim, Rebecca, Shaun, Dave and Rich, in fact, will be flying to Houston, Texas to present on the ways we are building writing communities in southern Connecticut.

Yesterday, too, Fairfield University shared a video featuring Aidas and Vilia with their trip to Zimbabwe, where CWP-Fairfield brought over many of Kwame Alexander's books and I'm guessing that there's a place in that country where similar bookshelves are lined with such books. If only I could build libraries in every classroom and every school of the books I know that will personally resonate with students.

I'd do that work full time because it is the work I absolutely love.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Today is @TeamVickiSoto - One of My Favorite 5Ks of the Year (A Cause I Believe In)

I continue to shake my head reflecting on December 14, 2012 when suddenly Connecticut was on all the news and those of us who are educators began to shake our heads in sadness, frustration, sorrow, and disbelief. My instinct was to reach out to the National Writing Project community and, without fail, we raised enough money to do a book release of Trina Paulus's Hope For the Flowers throughout schools, synagogues, churches, community centers, and doctor's offices around the region. I'd soon read more and more about Vicki Soto, her graduation from Stratford Public Schools (the same town where I live), and her family's dedication to keep her memory and spirit alive: pink flamingos and Live, Love, Laugh.

Last year, I had to miss the 5K because I was at a national conference, but this year I arranged a small Fairfield University team who will be represented in the race, rain or shine. We will run for teachers, educators and the power of love in our K-12 schools.

I even bought a pair of flamingo socks that I've been saving for the run and I will wear them rain or shine.

Somewhere in my files, I have an article I wrote about everything ever published about literacy and the prevalence of gun violence in our nation. I collected every piece I could find written by English educators, administrators and young people about such tragedies. I closed that writing into a folder hoping that such events would not continue (it was written for English educators like me to have a way to respond in times of such terrible loss).

I believe I need to open that folder again. I'm always attempting to be the optimist and hopeful, so writing about such darkness made me fearful and angry. I am realizing, however, that looking at this darkness is the only way to bring forward more light.

Today, as always, the 5K will bring tremendous light to Short Beach as 4,000 runners sweat in honor of a young woman's legacy. It will begin and end with a gigantic American flag and along the route there will be marching bands, cheerleaders, crowds, and celebration.

This is the nation I believe in. This is why it's one of my favorite events of the year.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Actual Footage Of Me Trying To Keep Up With the Crazy - Not Doing a Good Job

Up at 6 a.m. and immediately getting into emails when I receive two that name two reports are due last night by midnight. I tried.

I failed.

I got extensions.

I am feeling the fact that I no longer have an administrative assistant and I can't keep up. I love writing grants and am more thrilled when I get them. These grants, however, require data collection and submissions, which means I need the cooperation of the University, as well as support staff to make it all happen. Of course, this year the University went to a new accounting system, Workday, and we're still trying to get people and companies paid for July and August work. It's been insane.

I want to do my part and be able to get my reports done on time and professionally, but I also teach, do professional development in K-12 schools, and am planning for National conferences where I'm bringing 9 teacher leaders with me.

Don't get me started on deadlines for publication.

I remember when doing my doctorate, my cohorts in crime used to say, "We're spinning the plates as fast as we can while roller skating on ice and having rocks thrown at our head."

That's where I am this Friday morning. It will get done, but I am feeling like someone needs to make a meme of a man being buried under such rocks.

I get salvation, I suppose, because so many of my National Writing Project colleagues are doing the same - we're not only employees of the University, but we're responsible to the K-12 schools surrounding our institutions that includes their administrators, their bureaucracies, their youth communities, and their families. Those worlds don't necessarily jive well with he University world (even though both worlds are expecting more and more from their workers with less and less provided to them in support).

It will definitely be a laptop kind of weekend. Thankful for a 5K run tomorrow morning, though.

Otherwise, it's the image above. Non-stop from sunrise to sundown (and then some).

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Well, Hello, Golden-Crowned Kinglet. Glad To Be Introduced to You in Stratford

After working with 8th graders, I came home to prepare for trick or treaters, but knew I wanted to take Glamis on a long hike. It was unseasonably warm and the air was wonderful: crisp, fresh, and rejuvenating. Glamis and I got about a mile out when I thought a pinecone fell on my shoulder, but it was actually a bird with a yellow crown - a tiny little guy that I could curl into my palm if I wanted to - who bounced off of me and onto the dog.

If it wasn't a pinecone, I thought it was a bouncing ball. Nope, it was a bird.

The fellow then bobbled to the ground and begin scrounging for food. Glamis, curious as I was, stuck her nose down to sniff the feathered wonder and that lil' booger turned its head and sniffed Glamis's snout. Glamis licked it and then the bird when back to looking for insects. I thought, "it must be hurt, or maybe it has something mentally wrong with it."

Nope. He seemed content.

I came home to look into my Bird books (miss my Louisville Nature Center days) and identified the yellow capped nugget as a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. It's the first I've ever seen, and although their mating season is in Canada, they settle all over the northern United States during the winter. I guess he found his way to Stratford.

What cracked me up as I tried to be sure I had the right bird were the number of photos from others who captured the same. The bird landed on glasses of wine when sitting out back, they landed on hands and seemed to like to be stroked and cuddled, they even cuddled with other dogs. I'm guessing the friendliness is part of its species - if only more humans could learn from such jolly amiability.

It made my day, and was a great way to get over the hump.

And look at that! It's November.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

You Boo, Too - Ubuntu: Welcoming 8th Graders to @FairfieldU This Halloween

I'm feeling haunted. Actually, I did my job this weekend to prepare for middle schoolers to be on campus all day to work with my undergraduate students (and because it's Halloween, I went with the theme of YOU BOO, TOO! a pun on Ubuntu and the literacy community we've been trying to create with the school for the last few years.

That is the plan and fingers crossed it goes forward.

Last night, after returning from a graduate course, I went into panic mode. Why? Well, my computer crashed at the beginning of class and I had two think on my feet to be non-technological to advance the night's objectives with NO PRESENTATION to give.

Lucky, I got that going again.

When I came home, I was finalizing this morning workshop when the computer crashed again! It was down for 60 minutes and I thought, "Oh, No. This is the end."

Technology is scary. We're so reliant on it.

So, this Halloween, I'm praying for 24 hours so I can walk my machine to ITS and actually say, "That email I sent? I was serious. I can't live this way any longer.

Still, I'm excited about YOU BOO, TOO. The middle schoolers have been reading The Outsiders and Ghost so this will be a fun writing day of collaborating, philosophizing, and enjoying Fairfield University together. Oh, lord.

I just want to have a no-brainer night of handing out candy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hey, Baby! What's Your Sign? Getting Metacognitive About Lesson Planning with Grad Students

We're approaching the last few miles of the semester (and having taught a content area literacy class for 7 years, I can predict the obstacles that stand in the way of pre-service teachers for designing lesson plans with the intent of best practices in literacy instruction).

They have the knowledge. They have the models. They have the interviews. They have their lived experiences. What they don't have, however, is a lot of experience with the lesson plan genre, especially with pacing out a lesson with students (and this is before announcements, interruptions, bathroom passes, lost homework, parental calls, and coffee spilling all over the plans).

I've become more and more strategic in my backwards planning so that the final product is much more beneficial to them and their student teaching (now in the era of EdTPA). Each year, I'm able to pull parts of the final project into earlier work so that they are building a foundation for their learning:  first with interviewing adolescents, 2nd with genre analysis of a reading, writing, creating, or speaking experience in their field, and tonight - Crandall's model lesson: one to be deconstructed after it occurs.

I have science, math, Spanish, Italian, English, elementary, and History in-practice and pre-service teachers in the class. The reading from Smagorinsky's Content-Area Literacy describes a shift to semiotics and teaching the deconstruction of how words signify.

Signs. Signs. Everywhere there's signs.

I had to get humorous, so am doing a lesson on the validity of Zodiac signs. I found 3 NY Times articles, one we will read together, one they will read in small groups, and 1 they will read solo. We will implement a strategy from Beers & Probst Reading NonFiction. Then, after the instruction, I will hand them a EdTPA lesson plan template where I filled out all the parts with the lesson.

It's a lesson on teaching a lesson on preparing a lesson for the EdTPA lesson plan forma (while hitting instructional practices we read from the research this semester).

Dang. I am thinking about their thinking about the other's thinking, so that I can prepare their thinking in preparation of the future thinking that will happen in their classrooms.

If I was a Warners Bros. cartoon, my eyes would be hanging by my feet, with my brain spinning underneath coo-coo birds.

That's what's happening tonight in my neck of the woods. What about you?

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Hakuna Budd-dha-dha" - All Credit to Dave Wooley For Naming the Phenomena

Over the weekend, there was a brief exchange with my friends Dave Wooley and Kris Sealy about revisiting our youth and what we used to be like in relation to being an adult and what life is like right now. I asked Kris for a philosophical phrase for when one is provided with youthful choices after one has advanced one's self through being young and finding a way into adulthood.

I explained that my love of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha has taken on new meaning as I work with kids who were once the age I was, who do what I once did, but who have no awareness for the youthfulness of their ways.

Here, I'm referring to the period of time when I chose to go out to the night scene at 11 p.m. - socializing with friends, bars, dance floors, booze, and flirting - only to return as the adults in my life were getting ready for work.

I did that, but put an end to it in my first year of teaching because I couldn't go out all night and function in the classroom. It no longer worked.

I explained to them that I now have new understanding for when Siddhartha found the true meaning of Om, knowing that his son wanted to separate from him and to be independently on his own journey. This is not the case of Chitunga...but will be...but with other kids who are totally enraptured by the early to mid-twenties.

Dave's advice, "Hakuna Budd-dha-dha." It was brilliant. The om is found through a total understanding of life cycles and routines that help us to develop at each age, despite the craziness of what those experiences actually offer us. One choice is to be overly adult and be like, "That's dumb...when I was your age, I...."

I recalled my early 20s when I was home in Syracuse and simply went out all night, totally oblivious to my parent's routine. Years later I asked and they responded, "We were too tired. We just went to sleep and hoped you'd be okay."

That's what I did this weekend. I simply went to bed, fell asleep, and didn't worry.

Hakuna Budd-dha-dha. Finding no worries by simply tapping the inner Buddha to find the serenity in the way life develops us all. I loved it.

Shaw wrote, "Youth is wasted on the young." I'd argue that youth is necessary to give us perspective as we age.

Yes, in my 30s I discovered the joy of being home, under a blanket, reading a book and finding calm within my own house. In my 20s, I went for the excitement, because it was exciting, until I realized it was pointless and absolutely stupid. I would never had known that had I not experienced it and grew out of it.

I would never want that age to return either. So, I learned Hakuna Budd-dha-dha this weekend and I'm good with that.

Adulting is difficult, but I much prefer it. Period.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

On A Sunday Morning When I'm Already Frustrated by a Computer That Has a Mind of Its Own.

Dear God,
Dear Great Whatever,
Dear ITS,
Dear Interlocutor Who Is Receiving This Email,

I don’t mind rainbow twirls. Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper or even the lollipops from the guild of Oz are wonderful. Still, the twirl of the rainbow swirl has now become a tremendous obstacle with my MacBook Pro - one that has seen services numerous times over the last few years because it is slow, it crashes, and the Skittles whirligig from hell wishes to be my best friend.

We are now at a place of emergency. My emails crash my computer. Grading crashes my computer. I spent 1/2 of my day cursing at my machine because it shuts down while I’m working and when rebooting it takes forever to warm back up. 

Somedays are better than others and I think my frustration is all in my head. Other days, like today, makes me feel like I’m in an Edgar Allan Poe novel. I am drastically in need of a computer that can keep the pace of the work I do. I’m on my machine a good portion of my day and when it gets to the point that I’m working from my phone because it is more reliable, it is a problem. 

I’m praying to the Great Whatever that I will finish this email in time before it crashes again and doesn’t save my words. I will hit send in hopes that something can be done. At this point, it is becoming impossible to do my job because the Apple of my eye, the MacBook Pro that I’ve been using as my computer-of-choice before I came to Fairfield University, is becoming an intolerable, angry son of a Butch (that’s my father’s name). 

HELP (insert waving white flag here).


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Great to Have Kanyea Back on Mt. Pleasant for a Weekend. Moving Up In The World

He's back. After graduating from University of Illinois-Urbana, working for me for a summer, then taking a job at Onondaga Community College mentoring first generation students, Kanyea returned to Connecticut to high five before he begins a new career with Bank of New York - Melon.

Funny how it goes, as he applied to the Peace Corps and after a year of the process, many recommendations and interviews, he was selected to serve in Ethiopia. The only thing hindering him from going was trying to give sublet his leased vehicle for the 3 years he'd be gone. I was trying to maneuver any potential submitter I could find in Syracuse, but there were no bites.

Then Kanyea calls me and asks, "Can you give me advice?" He was offered full time work with BNY Mellon and didn't know what he should do with the Peace Corp. I did a Sue McV and only asked questions so he could process what he really wanted to do. In my heart, I thought, "This kid knows the struggles of Ethiopia because he's battled both as a refugee in Ghana and then as a parentless kid in the United States."

In the end he decided on the finance job and I said, "You made a good decision. I think you've mastered the 3rd world struggle thing. It's time you figure out the American dream thing."

Although this weekend's weather is going to be awful with flooding rains and high winds, we'll make the best of it. We walked and talked on the Walnut Beach yesterday and he's good for a day of shopping (he needs clothes for the job - this time in hopes that tragedy won't hit his apartment when he returns).

It's funny how it goes. I knew this kid when he was a freshman and I was doing my research. He disappeared before my study began but always kept in touch. Years go by and Abu and Lossine call me to encourage me to hire him for the summer.

I do. We reunite. The rest is history. It's good to have him back.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spent an Evening Learning from Carmen Kynard with Project Citizen Youth. So Much To Think About

"What are you doing Thursday night?"

"Nothing. Just got poetry club after school."

"You want to see a scholar who will take this summer's work with #UNLOAD: Guns in the Hands of Artists to a whole new level - a level of academic discourse."

"You know we do."

The College of Arts and Science, under the leadership of Drs. Beth Boquet and Kim Gunter finished up the art exhibition at Fairfield University by inviting teacher scholar and rhetorician Dr. Carmen Kynard to campus. I knew of thirsty youth from the summer who are looking for the next phase of their intellectual journey, especially as they question the education they are receiving in their own schools, and I thought, "Well, this is perfectly in line with what they discussed this summer, what they hope to accomplish in their lives, and how they want to continue to pave their future."

It cost me a dinner and some gas, but truth be told, my Brown School core can't help but guide brilliant young people I meet in K-12 schools, especially when the dialogue aligns so effectively with their own writing and questioning that they presented to CWP-Fairifled this summer.

Dr. Carmen Kynard is doing great work at CUNY and documenting her own narratives with the college students she's teaching: interrogating Critical Race Theories, Racial Realism Afro Pessimism,  and Androfuturism with new geographies. In other words, she's listening to the young people she teaches and acknowledging the linguistic practices, theoretical perspectives and intellectual insight that they bring to her writing classroom.

I knew when the boys had questions and wanted to stay behind for pictures that the night was totally worth it. One is a junior and the other is a senior, both are wondering where they will find themselves in a post-high school world. Dr. Kynard's lecture (more a sharing of knowledge and research through the lens of listening to her youth - a storytelling blending scholarship and practice) was well received.

Now comes the rain, the wind, and the cold predicted for the next few days (and my road to hell with good intensions with a plan to get much accomplished).

Honored and privilege to hear her speak. Looking to the scholars of tomorrow with hope as they take Asante's 'two sets of notes.'

I love / to believe / in hope.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Philosophical Perspectives: Another Great Day with a Class That is Just Making the Semester a Joy

It's always much more fun to teach when all the stores have bulk Halloween shenanigans readily available and easy to grab. I can provide a metaphor for my teaching really quickly, and after I handed back all the educational autobiographies this week, today's class was all about gaining new perspectives: summon Jane Addams, John Dewey, Dianne Ravitch, Jonthan Kozol, Pablo Freire, and the wonderful reporting of Nikolle Hannah Jones who was featured in 2015 in This American Life, beginning with "The Problem We All Live With."

Note: All of us have 60-minutes in our lives to listen to this radio show (which is what we did yesterday in class). The reporting is excellent, and the journalism amazing.

The Problem We All Live

I've written about the show before and as I told my students, every time I listen to it again, tap the books on my shelves, and maneuver in and out of school, the reality simply gets me angry. Fear is the undoing of the United States. We need to be aware of that.

Yesterday, we discussed a lot of reading, we shared educational outliers, we listened to the show, and then I entertained a fishbowl so students could share their thinking.

Of course, my releasing of 23 pairs of goggles into the classroom setting helped us to lighten the mood some, even when the conversation was heavy, challenging, and extremely frustrating.

We talked to bring forward alternative, perhaps agentive perspective on what we might do to make educational opportunities a whole lot better. They are abysmal...we know this.

Yet, I have a crew this semester of urban, suburban, and rural students. They are from private schools, religious affiliated schools, international schools and public schools Some are first-generation high school graduates and others are 4th-generation college students.

They all talked. They shared their voiced. They read and heard about the inequities in American schooling systems and they united on wanting to do something about it. They are armed with their own knowledge and I take pleasure knowing that their perspectives will be what guides the next generation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

For 5 Months Every Year, She's 1 Year Younger Than Me By Age - KdotCdot Day!

It's Karyn Dee Crandall's Birthday!

KC, the Pain, kdotcdot, lil' sis, now Casey Barnwell.

And I screwed up the gift - not like orange sweater Christmas style, but in the too big category. I was good, too - went online a while ago and timed the delivery for the 23rd. It came to her knees.

whomp whom whomp.

Deflated like Sean-man's faulty dinosaur Halloween costume.

So, I decided to resurrect one of my favorite memories from a few summer's ago when, on the rare - very rare - okay, miraculous - occasion I actually took time off. I broke my finger tossing a football around with Chitunga at her house. Yes, that's sweat. Drenched. I was in pain and even with my humor in full check, my body did it's own thing and drowned me in nerves. Without missing a beat, though, Casey (KC, Karyn) drove me to emergency care and guided Chitunga, who wanted to be with me, and Nikki, who is the medical "expert" in the family, while we went to get the dangling finger bones reset. Um, Chitunga and Nikki stayed in the lobby because they gave out free Slushees.

There was a moment when the nurse said, "I can't get it in place. This is worse than a shoulder dislocation," and she sat me in a wheeled chair and started swinging me around like I was a lasso. It hurt so bad and it was not fun, and Casey (Kc, Karyn) said, "Okay, I think I'm going to pass out." And then we just started laughing like we were at a funeral and our Aunt Rena's stomach was growling.

I thought of that last night as she texted what her boys will be for Halloween and the fiasco with EBay on the dinosaur costume.

Time. Aging. Adulting. Memories. Parenting. Stress. Keeping world order. Worry. Loving, Caring. Fretting. Kvetching. Needing sleep. Making appointments. No time to catch a breath.

My older sister is in a different place. She's almost empty nesting (well, not really), but she's slowly getting a life schedule that belongs to her and Mike alone. It's a transition.

My baby sister is in full-force MOMMY mode driving the minivan to this and to that only to get this and to get that before needing to be here and then there.

I'm just amazed at the stories of 3 Amalfi Drive kids and where we once were...where we are now...what we know we might be one day.

This life thing is wonky, but in perspective of those who have been with you for the longest, it begins to have more meaning. It's a deeper meaning.

As the sands in the hour glass...This Is Us.  And siblings are meant to deliver the Zing. That's what Big Brothers do.

So our the days of our life.

Happy Birthday, Lil' Sis. I'll get a gift right one of these days!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alas, Poor Yorick! Looking for Infinite Jest & Imagination on a Tuesday Morning

The few Halloween directions that I have are now up. They will be illuminated at dusk and, if somewhat fortunate, will spook a few trick-or-treaters next week. Glamis will have to share her lounge sofa (the bay window) with a few skeletons until the goods are handed out).

When I was in high school, I used to sing in the shower, "It's just another, predictable Bryan day/ You can expect that nothing will go your way," a tune that I still have in my head from my Eeyore/Charlie Brown/Chicken Little days.

Later, as a teacher in Louisville who taught Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, I began singing,

"In the end, I'm gonna die,
 it doesn't matter, so just call me Bry.
 You go to work, you earn some pay,
 in the meantime, you might as well play."

Perhaps a little more upbeat and Wonka-whimsical, I learned to find a festive way to put humor, creativity, spirit, and spunk into the every day grind, just because if I thought about the routine too much, I would get sad.

I prefer to laugh.

That might be why this morning, while showering and singing these songs that popped back into my head, I pulled back the shower curtain and looked at this wonderful, whimsical body the Great Whatever provided me and had to laugh. Instantly, I envisioned my Grannie Annie in the bathroom taking pictures of me as she used to do with all of us as kids. I still don't know how she was allowed to come in and take post-shower, towel shots, but I found myself posing as a 46-year old, some 32 years later, as if she was in there with her camera and humor.

"I always thought the male body looks like a frog resting on a lily pad."

Thanks, Grandma.

Perhaps it is because my mother resurrected the butterfly/frog stories from Loch Lebanon or maybe it's because my baby sis is a year older tomorrow, but I was thinking about my skeletal self - the short time we have while we have it - and the stress of adult life.

I choose love, happiness, humor and wit. It wasn't always that way, but I am realizing that the opposite is hate, sorrow, seriousness, and stupidity. So, that helps me feel like I am winning some as I face the challenges of every day life.

And I'm still singing,

"It's just another typical Bryan day,
 but for now at least I have my say,
 go to work and try to earn my pay,
while it's here, I might as well just play."

Time to get to work.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Balancing My Brain With an Early Morning Bryan Rant, Then Back to Grading

Over the last weekend, I've been reading educational autobiographies from a wide-range of individuals in their early stages of, perhaps, becoming teachers. I am admitting to myself that this semester I have an unusually astute group of writers who seem to be passionate, self-aware, engaged, clever and curious. Often, I get generic responses to why one is thinking about a career in education, but this crew  - a lucky one - has diverse perspectives and a world-liness to them that seems to be more global and conscious of the extreme experiences in our educational system.

Of note, are several who wrote about coming from affluent communities, but recognizing the inequalities and inequities of U.S. schools. For many, they name programs in their successful high schools that partnered them with other schools that didn't have the same resources, and how beneficial this was to how they understood knowledge and schooling. Still, others wrote about coming from marginalized, underfunded schools where they were the first in their family to graduate high school AND to go to college (with all the stress and fear that comes with that). They wrote about immigrating to the U.S. and the struggle it took for their family to get them into an American school.

What has impressed me with this crop is that they are good writers. Almost all of them have turned to words as a way to make sense of their world, often journaling about what they see and understand, while asking questions to pursue later.

Over the weekend, too, I mentored a young man who was asked to write a personal piece about his life before arriving to a college campus. As a relocated refugee who lost his father and a little sister to HIV/AIDS, he explained how writing words with a stick in the ground and later with a pen to paper (which was a tremendous privilege that came with going to an American school) was how he's come to be self-aware and to build-self esteem. The content of what he wrote was truly amazing, even if he didn't have the language (yet) to articulate the narrative in the ways of American English traditions. As I read his story, I couldn't help but think about how language justifies his existence - putting into the global understanding of knowledge that he, as a college kid, is taking care of his mother and brother while going to school and working. He is the man of his house, and he's always trying to make sense of his luck of being in the U.S. given the refugee experiences of his youth.

I know that the U.S. is awash with universal healthcare, but I'm also a fan of universal educational opportunities. It is a shame when children are turned away from nations and denied access to learn like those born into more privileged societies. As I read the essays of my students and mentee, I couldn't help but think of how awful it is that more is not invested in schools around the world. I'm reading from kids that education is all they have ever had to promote them in the world into circumstances better than how they grew up.

I couple this with previous semesters where students wrote of apathy within their college-prep backgrounds and little determination for doing better than what was expected, other than to go to college and get a job.

Education is more that a preparation for a career. It is partially that, but it is also a means to make the world a better place.

I know grading is a pain in the ass, but many of my students are really impressing me this semester - giving me hope that the next generation might be more tolerant, more loving, more global, and less divisive than our own.

Only time will tell.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sigh, Bry, All This Grading Makes You Want To Cry - Your Eyes are Buggin'

I knew it was coming. Because I spent the last few weeks semi-distracted by large literacy events, I never found any time to keep up with the grading (although I'm proud that I kept up with the planning for my classes). The result? I have been super behind, and my students need my feedback as it is formative to the summative projects ahead.

It's all a puzzle, and my feedback along the way coaches them to get to a stronger final piece (as I teach the National Writing Project way).

With that noted, I've got middle-age eyeballs now. I can't see anything close up and reading on the computer makes my brain go wonky. Maybe it's because I'm simply tired, but doing a 14-hour grading marathon yesterday has my eyes in doobie-doo land. I can proudly admit, however, that I got through the writing of one class, and tomorrow I will tackle the other (which may take a little longer, but will be educational to read).

I did stop grading about 60 minutes before bed, only because I knew if I went to sleep right after, there would be no sleeping. I would be seeing flashes of light and text flying across a word-documented page (it's like this when reviewing manuscripts and quickly judging writing contests, too). At some point, your eyes give up.

Ah, but I'm hoping a good night's sleep will refuel this morning marathon of starting all over again. The prize? Well, another week of coursework and more writing coming in.

"If you don't like grading, then don't assign it."

Well, if I didn't assign it, I couldn't assure you're meeting the objectives of what it takes to be a great teacher and writer yourself.

It's a double-edged sword.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Loved Working with @blprogram for #NDOW #WhyIWrite in Stamford, CT This Week

Beyond Limits
[Bee - yawned Limb-itz]

A place to get life and school support,
over & outside the chains that inhibit us.

As in, 15 young people eating pizza
& attending a writing workshop
on a Thursday night.

As in: Brothers with fros and
frizzy hair focused on their
self-esteem and integrity.

As In: A community of learners
scribbling dreams on
sheets of white paper

(Thanks, Kwame, for the inspiration)

Actually, we were inspired by Jacqueline Woodson, Nic Stone, Rose Brock, and Jason Reynolds, too.
We stole like artists and had a conversation about why writing is not just important for school, but for life.

I was invited to present at Beyond Limits in Stamford after they reached out to me this summer to learn more about CWP and our youth programming. I visited their site, too, and quickly fell in love with their mission of helping young people in Stamford to achieve their dreams through coaching, tutoring, workshops, and tremendous mentoring. The love for their students is everywhere: in the photos on the wall, in the staff that they hire, and in the pride everyone has for the organization.

While there, I met a young woman who happens to be in high school with two of CWP's wonderful teachers and, within seconds, I could see their influence on her spirit (and the National Writing Project's mission) in how she viewed herself as a writer. I love when this happens (so I snapped a photo to send their way).

Okay, Saturday. Today you are officially the National Day on Writing and I look forward to the pre-recorded radio show that will come out sometime this morning. But I'm also thankful that it is not the National Day on Grading, because that is inevitable (I will be eyes down on my keyboard for the next 48 hours as I catch up from Story Fest  - last night I kept dozing off as I tried...and was able to accomplish...the grading agenda that I had). It's the pace that keeps me sustained over long hauls, especially when I've ignored my own students' writing for the last two weeks.

Happy Writing today! I hope you find a place to doodle words across something somewhere. They're important.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Oh, @S_StoryFest, Be Proud - The Story Will Be Told on #NDOW #WhyIWrite This Saturday. Thanks, @WritingProject!

Two scenes from yesterday.

The first was the authentic and heartfelt smiles of two incredible educators in southern Connecticut: Kim Palca Herzog and Rebecca Marsick of Westport Public Schools, who led the charges (after writing a grant) to make Saugatuck Story Fest a reality. I sent them a box of wind-up toys to thank them for all the JOY they brought to teachers, young people, and so many more this past weekend, as they pulled off an incredible literary festival with brilliant minds like Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Libba Bray, Ashley Woodfolk, Ibi Zoboi, Gayle Forman and so many more. I tired my hardest to think how I could return the favor of what they provided our literacy community.

Yesterday was a celebration of them, but first I had to help run a faculty meeting in my department and prep for a presentation in Stamford for the National Day on Writing. Their texts brought me ultimate pleasure as I saw them entertaining their students with the little gifts. That means everything.

The second is I followed with an afternoon recording of National Writing Project radio, where Westport Library, Staples High School, Bridgeport Public Schools and CWP-Fairfield were represented. The show will air this Saturday during the National Day on Writing, which is awesome - we, by this I mean the collective Ubuntu that resulted from their vision, brought over 80 writers to southern Connecticut to work with our community with the partnership and collaboration of over 50 organizations. Wow.

Some of the young people and partners are pictured here (the heart), but I don't have Cody and Alex from Westport Libraries, or the other youth who were part of the collaboration.

I loved the stories that were shared in the recording (all of these individuals) and the authenticity of their voices (ah, but there are so many more). There was so much excitement in what all had to say and I hope this comes forward in the production.

I am very thankful to Tanya Baker for allowing us on her show, and I can't wait to hear how it comes out this weekend! Woot Woot for all who are involved. I am, because we are.

But guess what, world? I am FRIED. And with that, I'm out. I am entering this weekend as one of those wind-up toys, needing to be twisted up to keep going, but thrilled to have had an hour upon the stage.

Here's to them and their vision. Wusah!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Writing Friends for Undergrad Philosophers for #WHYIWRITE & NDOW

In the tradition of Crandall playfulness, I handed out finger puppets to my undergraduates to be intellectual partners while they crafted their educational autobiographies, and reflected on their learning experiences from him, K-12 schooling, extracurriculars, and college experiences. I admitted to them that when I write and craft, I need a little silliness around me, including the fact that when I need to be most serious, I often tie a scarf or tie to my head so my thoughts and ideas don't jump out as quickly as they usually do.

It's been quite a couple of weeks and today is no exception: a faculty meeting, a radio show, and a keynote presentation in Stamford for the National Day on Writing.

Yesterday, one of my students workshopped his crafted narrative to the help of all his peers and, with the help of Dewey, Rizga, Nicholson and Greene, we looked closely at imagination, creativity and community (and how the 3 interchange and/or combat in the arena of K-12 education given the administrative construct of most educational buildings.

I am in my 2nd meeting as the GSEAP Faculty Meeting Chair and, because I found the time, I baked a cake to bring chocolate love to my colleagues and friends in celebration of the hard work we do. We had a slight scare yesterday as one of our favorite colleagues got sick and we quickly moved into worry land. I am happy to report that everything turned out okay and that was a huge relief to many of us.

I'm looking forward to presenting tonight to teenagers and their parents who are part of the Beyond Limits program in Stamford, an organization that works with middle and high school athletes to keep their academics on the up and up, and who are very interested in the development of successful writing. The timing is perfect for the celebration of the The National Day on Writing on October 20th. I am looking forward to meeting new youth from a different part of the state.

Then there's tomorrow. I need to hibernate for many reasons, the first being grading, grading, and well, more grading. I also see that NCTE is around the corner and that, well, is an undertaking and then some.

Oh, if you could see the mess that is my house right now. Scratch that. I would never let you in, but after I do pick up, I will gladly allow you inside.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Whoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine! Crandall, On a Whim, Hits the Literacy Lottery with @scottlava

Let me start by saying this was not planned.

I had a dream Monday night about an activity to do with math, history, science, Italian, Spanish, and ELA teachers that would involve children's books. I got up at 7 a.m. and was at the library by 8 a.m. only to learn that they didn't open until 10 a.m., so I sat in my car for 2 hours and read.

I entered at 10 a.m. and introduced myself to the children's librarian. I explained, "I'm a professor at Fairfield University and my students all have to design lessons to showcase ways they develop literacy skills in their content areas. To get their heads around "genre," I told her, I'm doing an opening prompt where they choose to write about a favorite sport, food, book or movie taste (they did this without flaw, which allowed me to discuss the categorization of genres in our every day life - genres are our social glue, as Richard Beach writes). I also was going to read a children's book to them and dissect it for the parts of how we know it is a children's book.

With a few references to course readings, I then  brought forth the delivery of several children's books that were content-specific - written in Italian or Spanish, historical stories topics, math-related, sand narrative. Some read  Funny Bunny Money and others read The Dark Tale of the Tortoise and the Hair. There were 17 different books.

I, by luck of the draw, got the last book which happened to be Hug Machine by Scott Campbell, which I read to model that I, too, was reading for purpose, content knowledge, and genre reliability.
I loved this book. In fact, I passed it to the kid on my right who read it, then passed it to the kid on his right, and eventually it made it around the room. We all decided we wanted to get the Hug Machine kid tattooed over our hearts (and to create our own hug checklist to follow on a daily basis). The illustrations were stellar: whimsical, relevant, and perfect for the the text. We started singing, "I am the hug machine," to the tune of "I am a love machine."

Of course, I then transitioned to a reading of "The Psychology of Genre" in the NY Times - an opinion piece - and we applied a few Beers and Probst strategies. (They NYT's piece is a great read...I recommend it).

From there, we brought forward all the activities that I did in the night and how I used activities and, in a democratic student-centered practice, got everyone on the same page about what genre is. Their homework is to find models of a genre that they are likely to teach (something they will read or something that they will be expected to write). They are to analyze it like we did the children's books.

Ah, but back to Hug Machine. What a great book. It's likely to be a new go-to text to send on special occasions. Scott Campbell, if you are reading this, my class and I send you a 1,000 hugs. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crandall Has a New October Friend Named Wilburt the Ghoul (Nice For This Fool)

And I'm back in my office to get ready for the week, after a breath-taking, incredible celebration of writers and literacy in southern Connecticut (um, Bryan, you stopped in your office on the way to the festival both Saturday and Sunday, so Monday wasn't anything new).

What was new, however, was the delivery of Wilburt, my October Ghoul from my colleague Diana.

"A little nonsense now and then, relished by the wisest men."

Some people get me. I'm able to keep at it if I have little fiends/friends like this to distract me. He is helping me to get back on the grading/planning train, after a 4-day festival of putting the scholarship into action.

  • a sports literacy night and film screening for 500 people, 
  • 80 writers at a Story Fest,
  • substantial audiences at all the panels, 
  • collaboration with amazing teachers,
  • admiration for phenomenal kids, 
and zero to no horrific obstacles. Instead, I got to meet great writers I admire, to be part of them, and to promote literacies across southern Connecticut. That's how I spent my weekend and I loved every second of it.

Now, however, I need to plan for the courses ahead. I couldn't do that, however, until I reviewed applicant files for graduate school, finished a grant report, and planned a radio show. 

With me was Wilburt and I'm thankful for him. Okay, Calendar, what do you GOT for me today. We can do this.  We have to do this. Let the day begin.