Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stay Strong @JCPSKY @KentuckyWP @LouisvilleWP. The Nation Sees You. #TeacherStrong


Disclaimer: (1) I can't help but be rhythmic with a Seussian Prose (as every student I taught it KY already knows). (2) I once did the math for how much I made an hour while teaching in the state. I figured it was below minimum wage, but after factoring nights, weekends, after school obligations, holiday hours, and summer work, I learned I was mistaken. I made about $6.35 an hour...at the time, it was above minimum wage. (3) Teaching is a beautiful profession, but too few respect it as such. (4) We don't ask for much, but when they duct tape our mouths, tie our hands behind our backs, cut us at the knees, and expect us to swim across the Ohio River in record time, then there's a reason to fight. (5) I'm shaking my head. This is not the America I believe in. Every vote matters.

On Reading Yesterday's Paper About KY Legislation
I write this for the Blue Grass,
for the White Boards, notebooks, & teaching pizazz
     that sparkles across classrooms in the state….
            Put simply, Kentucky teachers have always been great.
Yet the political, nefarious fate brought forth
by the political ingrates
is what I have come to hate
(how do they not understand why the counties are so irate?).
                  Ah, because they haven’t a clue
                  of what educators do
                  each and every day.
So, I write proudly, hooray,
for those choosing to fight the inane.

Let me explain.

They hug, they listen, they plan, and they feed,
choosing a life for others, most they care for in need.
They study, they lose sleep, they collaborate & expand,
they’re always on duty AND always in demand.
They read, they make phone calls, they coach and they cheer,
they challenge, raise standards, question, & make clear.
They worry, they love, they show pride, & celebrate,
Put simply, Kentucky teachers have always been great.

It is a calling, what they do, and they do it with pride –
as for politicians, no surprise, once again they have lied
to the voters, the workers, the young people & families,
they act without conscience and they do as they please…
chasing egos & dollars while cutting teachers at the knees.

For over a decade, Kentucky was my home, 
& I soaked in the brilliance of the stellar palindrome
where students were first, teachers not far behind,
A state known for education & the way it was so kind
to its writers, and readers, mathematicians & scientific minds,
to artists & to dreamers - schools could simply shine.

But now, they have forgotten the men & women who deserve much applause,
the magicians & warriors who chose teaching, a life-calling cause.
They suited up, grew shady, became a well-known Faustian tale,
forgot their population, & lost themselves in the belly of the whale.

So, I write this for the Blue Grass,
for the White Boards, notebooks, & teaching pizazz,
for the exceptional scholars and all their intellectual jazz
for Wildcats, Mustangs, Racers, Big Red, Colonels, & Cards,
for all young people across Kentucky school yards.

Put simply, Kentucky teachers have always been great,
            yet the political, nefarious fate -
                        brought forth by these political ingrates
            is what we all should hate
(how do they not understand
            why the counties are irate?).
                 They haven’t a clue of what educators do
                 each and every day.

For teachers in KY,
I am with you…
although a few states away,
loving what you do for kids.
& celebrating: Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Get thee to the polls! The kids deserve it.






            

Friday, March 30, 2018

Zooted. Fried. Zonked. Going Into Friday and a Long Weekend Like...

My id thinks it's clever and can drag my ego and superego into a holiday weekend with oceanic dreams, but they know there's papers to grade, projects to look at, and planning to occur. The id says, "You must find time to play and, with extra time, you can be stupid for a couple of hours and chill out," but the other two recognize it all kicks off again on Tuesday and it is a marathon of tasks to be prepped for.

I will get through it, and I will run and walk the dog. Those are my salvations.

Really, I only want a Cadbury egg.

When I was a K-12 teacher, April to May was a hold-your-breath exercise of portfolios, culminating projects, senior trips and graduation. I was FRIED by those events. I realize now, however, that those experiences were preparation for what I do now which is 364 days a year (I give myself Christmas).

I'm of the ilk that the more and more they make the teaching profession an undesirable, impossible job, the more I want to counter them with possibilities, opportunities, and hope for a better world.

Ah, but this morning, I have the good and bad angels whispering in my left and right ears. I want to be on the shoreline soaking in the rays and watching the pelicans and waves. Instead, there's the pulling and resistance.

We got this. We have to!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Ecology of Me: Exploring Personal Civic History, a 7th Grade Workshop Inspired by @sonianieto

We've had a few snow days in Connecticut and, as a result, several projects with a K-8 school have been canceled. This, of course, arrived with a new Crandall challenge: How does one create a workshop with 25 7th graders from a social studies class studying the Civil War and 25 7th graders studying ecosystems in a science class? How does an instructor of an undergraduate course on teaching writing model how to 'think outside the box' while celebrating the cultural diversity of a K-8 school? How does one hit  analysis and interpretation as presented by Kelly Gallagher in Write Like This?

One breathes in. One breathes out. One realizes that the exceptional Dr. Sonia Nieto is guest speaking at Fairfield University later that night.

I simply asked, what would Sonia do? Author of What Keeps Teachers Going, Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds, Why We Teach, Affirming Diversity, Language, Culture and Teaching, The Light In Their Eyes, and Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools, Nieto has always reminded me to put students first.

The skinny: 50 students and 16 undergraduates + two content-area teachers.

The workshop? An Ecology of Me: Exploring Personal Civic History, where young people charted out the multiple communities that make their voices possible. Here's how it went down.

Step One: Two undergraduates were charged with an opening activity to kick things off. They knew analysis and interpretation was the goal and chose to print out several riddles and comic strips for the young people (and my students) to think about and scrutinize over. Both were hard as tables discussed their solutions to riddles and cartoons, but it was a great ice-breaker.

Step Two: Define Ecosystems, Civics, Analyzation, and Interpretation.

Step Three: Do a community building activity where tables of strangers learn more about each other.

Step Four: Ask 4 volunteers to share what life is like in 2017 for 7th graders. They name music, games, families, school, world events as items on their mind (Note: Predict this).

Step Five: Present a chart listing music, games, families, school, and world events with the dates of 1865 (a year of the Civil War) and 1985 (the year I was in 7th grade). Then, in each category, demonstrate what life was like (for me, music in 1985 was Aha's Take On Me, which all the students sang along to). As one goes through the chart, they see that life ins 1865 was different, but also some of it was the same (by the way, they are not amused or entertained by life in 1865, but they love their life right now). On their chart, offer them 2018 so they can list details about music, games, family life, world events important to them.

Step Six: Discuss the Civil War and what the conflict was about. Return to the definition of civility.

Step Seven: Show an ecosystem and have kids discuss how all the parts create stasis and equilibrium.

Step Eight: Show a painting of the Civil War and ask, "What was the disruption of the U.S. ecosystem in this point of history? Why was equilibrium disrupted?"

Step Nine: Read a Walt Whitman poem Beat! Beat! Drums! Discuss the context for the poem. Ask for an undergraduate and a 7th grader to perform the words as they are read.

Step Ten: Ask two 7th graders to read Kwame Alexander's Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents, a poem from Ellen Oh's Flying Lessons and Other Stories (from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement). Discuss the context of the science classroom and how Alexander creates a story of a young man interrupting the ecosystem by tricking his teacher.

Step Eleven: Model how ecosystems (communities) make up your life: family, education, cities lived in, influences.

Step Eight: Hand out a blank chart for kids to list the communities that make them who they are.

Step Nine: Initiate a conversation about how communities sometimes conflict with one another.

Step Ten: Model paragraphs about each community that you've written. Address how each community is an ecosystem that makes you who you are. Make connections that these modern ecosystems are the result of historical ecosystems (including the civil war and the U.S. mission to try to reach its true democracy).

Step Eleven: Allow kids to write and see what they come up with.

Step Twelve: Bring a few kids up front and draw on what they wrote to model how they might develop this. Share Share Share. Collect these drafts so they can be continued at school.

Step Thirteen: Conduct a human lap-sit challenge. Make a point about community.

Step Fourteen: Challenge the kids and teachers to write essays on the Ecology of Me: Exploring Civic History where they develop knowledge about the communities that make them who they are and they analyze and interpret the histories behind them.

Step Fifteen: Feed them in a college campus cafeteria.

Then smile! 

It worked. The teachers left with 100% success of students brainstorming what they might write next, finding a way for 7th grade history and science collaborating with one another (I bet, too, the ELA teacher might be delighted).

Later that night, kids depart for their homes, but you stay and have the fortune of hearing the wisdom of scholar Sonia Nieto speak about the importance of multiculturalism and student-centered pedagogy. Then you get to go to dinner with her. You pinch yourself.

Then, before bed, you simply thank the Great Whatever (yes, the band in Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess's Solo) and you fall asleep thinking, "Sometimes, magic exists."

Phew.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Big Day Today, & More Than Happy to Hear The Wisdom of Sonia Nieto Once Again.

Last night, my graduates read two short stories, one by Ursulla Leguin and another by Margaret Atwood, as we worked through Gender Theory as presented by Deborah Appleman in Critical Encounters and applied to other conversations we've had about developing readers in secondary schools.

Toward the end of the night, we discussed a couple of articles that tonight's presenter, Sonia Nieto, wrote when she revolutionized conversations about culture in education with her writing and academic career.

Interestingly, the conversation tweaked a bit when we paired the fluidity of gender with a challenge I have for today: writing with 7th graders about ecosystems (and interestingly, although I hadn't planned on it, I watched the new Roseanne and the same conversation was presented). Where do the biological and natural fit in to the ways our ecosystems sustain and rebuild themselves?

We discussed different ecosystems and I kept coming back to the ways our cultural systems are built. It seems to me that in human ecosystems, diversity has always existed and yet has had walls built to keep it from persisting. An episode like Roseanne last night, or Blackish that followed, would not have occurred 20 years ago. Society has changed.

Or has it? Is it more the fact that society has become more accepting of the diversity that exists within it? Are more people willing to be who they are without have to pose as someone they are not?

This, of course, is dynamic, multifaceted, contextual, influenced, constructed, learned and dialectic, which is what Nieto has always expressed.

I am thinking, however, more systemically (and nationally). There's a tremendous backlash to an America that never was, but always socially imagined in the minds of many who, well, benefited from it. It was their history, their traditions, their definitions, and their laws. That, though, was not representative of all people that make up the American ecosystem. Rather, in the last 20 years, the American ecosystem - which is a continued experiment in human phenomena - has grown closer to the voices and perspectives of a multicultural society in recent years. This, I am thinking, might be what is causing all the controversies of the last few years.

Attitudes and acceptance has changed to embrace more pluralism and this....well, this upsets the balance of what some perceive is normal for a society.

The whole dialogue has me thinking about ecological theory as presented by Urie Bronfenbrenner, which also is critiqued for not accounting for the biological or psychological (the complexities of Phaedrus's horses, I suppose). Anyway, I'm thrilled to see Nieto in action once again tonight and holding my breath that my students and I pull of a phenomenal morning with 7th graders. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Longer Light Means Longer Days To Accomplish More of the Daily Grind

Wake up at 6, drink coffee, and get the day started. Write. Think. Write. Think. Write.

Then by 9 a.m. I know I can get a run in before showering, avoiding traffic, and heading to the office. The sun was out and the sky was blue, so I put on shorts. I went outside and said, "Nope." Ran back upstairs and dressed in winter attire. It was beautiful, but it was cold.

By 11 a.m., I was out in schools and by 1 p.m. I was in my office plotting and planning for a crazy Tuesday and Wednesday, including foresight for a presentation that will take place in 3 weeks. I needed to get on that.

By 5 p.m. I was home again and ready to walk the dog (photo left). It was still cold, but the daylight until 8 p.m. makes it easier to get everything done, including a walk and a run during the day.

While walking, however, Glamis and I ran into our neighbor who was walking one of Glamis's best friends. Her dog was diagnosed with cancer on his liver and, sadly, it has grown and the vet told her she might have to make a hard decision soon. That was hard news to hear, and she wasn't feeling so great about having to make the decision. "I will know when it is time. I just don't want him to suffer."

Why would any of us want another to suffer? I ask this of myself daily as I go in and out of schools. Unfortunately, our learning environments are not all equal. In some, suffering is a daily experience, but it is all they really know. The grind is 24/7 challenge and those teachers get used to it: limited resources, a lack of support, difficult family backgrounds, the PTSD of kids, and a lack of time.

Still, they have life. We have life. While it's here, we have to take advantage of it and make the most of it. One of my favorite students of yesteryear posted a good ol' Peanuts cartoon and I have been thinking about it all day. It sort of sums up my thinking for a Monday.

This is what seasons are for. Spring is almost here and rebirth is always in the air. Still, the winter months (and Fall) remind us that everything ebbs and flows. The carefreeness of summer is short-lived. Life has its harder days, too.

I guess it's always best to keep this in perspective. Some day, we will all die, Snoopy...True, but on all the other days we will not.

It's all the perspective and trying to stay centered on what morrow can be slurped while we have it.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Started Out My Sunday with a Little Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Over a week ago, I picked up Jennifer Mathieu's Moxie, as it was sent to be by friends at Roaring Brook Press and I wanted to tap into a different genre of YA text that I know that has received a lot of praise from many of the adolescent girls I work with. The story, one of a group of girls coming together to fight the patriarchal machismo at their school is one that was reported to me as resonate to high school female readers. I wanted to see what the story was about and, spending yesterday morning to complete it, I totally understand why it has been a hit. The pro-grrrrrl, tear-down-the-traditions that exploit young females, story delivered as I knew it would. I loved the Zine handouts that stirred a revolution and instantly thought of 100s of girls I've taught (and boys, too) that would love Mathieu's book.

Given politics as they are now with current administration and the #MeToo movement, I totally understand why this book is getting a lot of press amongst teachers, book lovers, and agentive young women wishing to change the cultures of their schools. The arrogance and entitlements of male athletes in post-secondary culture, I feel, make sense, especially for young girls that get tired of the way their schools treat them and position them as 2nd class citizens in relation to the 'icons' of their schools.

I'm not sure this is one of the greatest YA novels I've read, but I totally see its place in the curriculum and know exactly the students I will pass it along, too. I'm a better man for reading Jennifer Mathieu's book and love how it sparks conversation, debate, frustration, and knowledge. I hope there are many books like this for our students to read. They need this, especially as they try to find the voice to challenge the cultured designed to exploit them.

Ah, but it's Monday already. Really? How did that happen so fast?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Hard To Beat Yesterday's Experiences, But On Sunday, I Have a Day of Refleciton

Yesterday, I took part of the March For Our Lives Shelton demonstration to be part of a National Movement like no other I've been part of. The Stoneman Douglas youth with their intellect, poise, integrity, passion and frustration, garnered an international movement to allow young people to make a case against the insidious violence of our nation and the nation they are scheduled to inherit.

Enough is enough. They've had enough and they are rallying communities to counter the barbaric, pernicious omnipotence of gun violence in our society.

I simply went to observe and listen. I wanted to hear what the young people had to say and, later on when I returned from the march, I turned on the television to learn that our sizeable, yet moderate demonstration, was one of many in the save and 1,000s across the country. The attendance speaks louder than anything I can write.

Late that evening, I had the pleasure, too, to partake in a surprise birthday party for Dr. Kris Sealy, arranged by her husband, a stellar teacher from Westhill High School in Stamford, Connecticut. She was totally surprised and it was a true pleasure to be in her company to celebrate her 40th birthday party.

She was at the march with me all day and I had to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn't give away the surprise. "I guess it will be a night of grading," Beth Boquet and I said as we departed. "Took the morning off and now it is time to think about our work once again."

Hee Hee. Pulled the wool (or Wooley) over the eyes rather successfully.

I think I will be processing March 23, 2018 for some time as the individuals who showed up in Shelton, like those who showed up nation wide, are done with the ridiculousness of where we are in the 21st century in terms of violent acts in our community, often advocated by political parties representing us on a national level.

What I heard is a total revolution. The young people of tomorrow will not tolerate the indifference and apathy of adult communities. They want to make America the democracy it has always claimed to be, challenging the rhetoric of the last few decades.

I guess only history will reveal what comes next. One thing is for sure...in my 46 years of life, I've never seen causes that have united more people. These young people are speaking truth to power and they've had it. I can only comprehend in my middle age state that they are admirable, honest, and deserving of our attention.

Shame on all adults, including me, who have allowed it to get this far.

Change needs to occur. What we allow to happen in this country is inexcusable. Today, I'm beginning to think about what steps I can take to make the U.S.A. the nation it has always promised itself to be.

There's much work to be done.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

An Important Day for America: Today, I Will Be With Teachers, Students and Families in Shelton

Today, at noon, I will be in the company of many in Shelton, Connecticut to show support for the youth movement occurring across the United States in protest for safer schools, better supports for youth communities, and ways to counter the violence that has been caused far too often in our nation by the hands of individuals with guns.

My dad was a hunter. He had a respect for guns and a purposeful use for them - to hunt. He fed his family and I recognize the joy he had every October when he took time from work and hunted the woods near his childhood.

I opted in my adult life not to be a hunter, but I have respect for those who take responsibility with their weapons, and who recognize the danger they bring to our society. They understand that violence, as a result of a gun epidemic, needs the attention. It's not the weapons - it's the users behind them. They shouldn't have access to as much as they do. Their needs to be more investments in helping all of us to heal.

I could post the numbers and statistics, but that is not my purpose. The facts are known, played over and over again, and they continue to set alarms for the world about what has become the United States. The data is staggering. Justifying the insanity is inane.

I also know that guns are a tool. The bigger, more substantial conversations need to be held about what's beneath the surface: mental illness, anger, fear, oppression and hatred that is culturally and historically created. Guns are a problem, but so are the individuals that misuse them to harm others in sick, demented ways - events that are far too common in our country.

I sat thinking about the March while doing as I do in March Madness, watching the Syracuse Orange and NCAA tournaments. Sitting in my house grading, too, I felt extremely small. CNN ran a documentary on the Stoneman Douglas shootings and also interviewed families that had their lives changed forever because of Sandy Hook. A father said, "The kids of Stoneman Douglas are not afraid of the adults that have allowed gun violence to get out of control. Too many of these adults have not spoken up enough. These kids are speaking. They are walking to say enough is enough."

Enough is enough.

It's sad to know that such walks have to occur to unite everyday people who do not want this to be our nation. I am hoping to find hope in the presence of others who are uniting to take action.

I am thinking of the families who have lost children at the hands of such violence. I'm not sure how they find the strength to go on, but they do. In the case of many, they redirected their lives to fight the vicious, overpowering anarchy of a gun-crazed society. Regulations and restrictions are needed. Our forefathers never imagined the carnage of today.

It's wrong.

An investment of care is needed. I am marching because I care. I am marching because I prefer a society based on empathy and love.

Friday, March 23, 2018

My Lawn Wishes To Tell Another Story and I'm With Them: Bring on the Crocuses

When I got home from work yesterday, I opened my car door and saw that a patch of purple crocuses were blooming in the 40 degree sun. They're ready as much as the blue sky is ready. We're all ready. We want to be in shorts, outside, and without layers and layers of eskimo fur around our heads and shoulders.

The hint is here. The birds have been piping their performance for a few weeks, even despite the Wednesday patterns for nor'easterners. They want to build their nests.

I said tonight, "It makes all the difference in the world to have clear skies and the orange orb up in the atmosphere. When it is gray, it simply is a miserable display of what the world has to offer.

We are heading into the weekend with possibility that warmer days are on the way. I know the buds want it, the bulbs, and the grass.

I want it, too. I'm ready for the turn-around. It is almost April, after all.

And I'm also looking forward to the pavement, the running, the sneakers, the t-shirts, the sweat, and the ability to sprint without ice, cold chills or snow.

I opened my door with optimism. There's hope yet. Better days will bloom.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

And We Need to Embrace the UIEEEEE and EEEEREO Kind of Days. They Matter, Too



 They called for a Blizzard. It was supposed to be armageddon, and so when I woke up yesterday and the sky was only gray I had to scratch my head. Classes were on. Schools were dismissing early, but the University said they were full force.

I went to work. I had a plan of action already made, but with schools getting out early, I had to adapt to a college-only class. I was in my office for 3 hours getting all the materials ready.

An hour into class (wiping sweat from my brow that I got it all settled) the University sends to all the students that offices were closing and classes ended at 12:30.

My classroom has no windows. I anxiously went to 12:29:29 and said, "Okay, this is our 4th storm and I apologize this class keeps getting interrupted." They departed.

When I went outside, however, there was no snow. Even so, everyone was scrambling to their cars to beat the storm.

I was home by 1:30. At 9:41 p.m. I was still looking outside for the snow. The Weather Channel continued to report a warning that 12 -18 inches would fall.

Nothing. Just wet roads. I swept...yes, swept...the back porch. I made an Indian curry dish. I cleaned. I then graded for 8 hours. No snow.

Before bed I played my Words with Friends game and realized that the winds they predicted actually showed up in the letters I had to work with: uieeeeee eeereo. That was the storm - the extent of it.

uieeeee eeereo!!!!

I'm not sure who missed this one. The nightly news reported the storm, the Weather Channel kept sending out warnings, and outside the wet roads remained wet, but clear.

That was the storm that stalled life in Connecticut yesterday. I don't get it. What happened? Did I miss something?

I did get a lot done, but jeez! I wanted a real reason to sit inside all day behind my computer!

Update: It turns out the storm tracked south and 28 miles from here, in Long Island, they got the 18 inches. It was chance. We got a coating. That's just the way love goes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

After a Graduate Course, Day Before a Storm, Inspiration from @likaluca and @nationalbook ‏

You know life is pretty great when you can leave a graduate course at 7 pm and drive to Dolan School of Business to hear Lisa Lucas speak to  150 Stags on campus. The executive director for the National Book Foundation is the youngest leader of the organization and the first to represent diverse readers across the nation. (You can read more from Time Magazine's Propelled by Passion).

I arrived late, but in plenty of time to hear a shout out to Jaqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds, two writers who I passionately support and who are top notch for CWP-Fairfield. I also loved that Lisa Lucas shouted out to Edith Wharton as a go-to, lifelong inspiration, which I knew would make my colleague, Dr. Emily Orlando, super happy. It was a beautiful moment in English Department history, as we hooted and hollered at Lucas's pick.

Overall, what caught my attention the most (and I was late from teaching...I apologize), was Lisa Lucas's enthusiasm, excitement, and vision for what it possible for readers of literature. I loved the stories of community outreach, applauded the efforts to put books in the hands of traditionally non-readers, and finger-snapped the recognition that all people can become lifelong readers once the right book enters their world. I've experienced this again and again as a high school teacher and a scholar of K-12 literacy. Books matter. They matter more to individuals who make a personal connection with them before joining a community of fellow readers who also share such experiences.

I am frustrated with myself that I didn't take notes, however, and I went to take a photo of Lisa Lucas with the English faculty (who said, "We already did that"). So I said, "Selfie!"

Crandall can handle that.

I think I was most amazed, however, that Lisa Lucas spoke in the same room of the Dolan School of Business where Kwame Alexander and Matt de la Peña have spoken. Everything she had to say resonates with what they had to say. Remove the undergraduate and graduate students from the room, add K-12 youth and teachers, and you have the same message - a message for strong literacy, diversity, and the humanities at Fairfield University. 

Thank you, Lisa Lucas and the National Book Foundation for all that you are doing! If ever the Connecticut Writing Project (via the National Writing Project) can be of service to you, let us know. There's a lot of miraculous work still to be accomplished.

Ubuntu!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Going Into Tuesday Wishing It Was Friday Where I Could Sleep Away the Week

Monday was rough. Something tells me that Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be worse. I barely made it to 8 o'clock last night. I couldn't keep my eyes open as the last two weeks (or perhaps 7 years) finally caught up to me. My eyelids wanted to shut to match my brain that no longer wanted to work.

Today, it's a return to meetings, meetings, meetings, and then graduate courses. To add to the rhythm of the semester, too, there's another predicted snow storm, potentially inhibiting yet another Wednesday of classes - this will be the 4th nor'easterner this season, and the 3rd to hit on a Wednesday.

I've written the other two times that I'm planning for scenario 1, then scenario 2, and of course for scenario 3. It is exhausting having to plot out three ways to run the course, but that is the way it is this semester. Why not make this Wednesday any different?

I will take this morning to sip coffee, to read, to plot out action, and to complete all I failed to do last night because I simply had to crash. All the driving, all the presenting, all the fretting, all the political work and all the traffic - well, it did me in.

I'm in need of ginger ale, chicken noodle soup, and several hours of mindless t.v. (ha, as if I've ever allowed myself such a luxury in my life).

We got this.

Monday, March 19, 2018

3,600 Miles in the Last Week and I'm Glad to Settle Into Mt. Pleasant Life Again

I am, at this point in my life, tired of seeing orange barrels and brake lights, especially as I returned from Towson University and spent most of Sunday stuck in traffic on 95 wondering if the cars would ever move. I can't help but think of stroked and clogged veins as I moved Kermit across the George Washington Bridge through the northern part of Manhattan all the way home. It was an adventure and my payments to tolls has me wary of making the trip any time soon.

Before this, of course, was a drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, another 5 hour trip (there and back) and I can say I am ready for non vehicular movement over the next few weeks.

The good news is that I am home and safe. I get to sleep in my own bed after travel to see 'tives in Florida, politicians in DC and academics in Maryland. It was worth every second, but I am exhausted.

What's up with the Sunoco's having their ATM swipe capabilities down, accepting cash only for gas in Jersey? It made tolls little tricky, but I will pay when the photos of my license charges are sent to me.

Okay, I need to regroup. I've been holding my breath since returning from the holidays and all forces have been on deck for the Divergent Awards, DC work with NWP, and NCTEAR 2018. I need to rethink a strategy for the home front.

Today, however, I can attest I slept in my own bed, with Glamis the Wonder Dog, and with the comfort of my own coffee pot.

The Syracuse win (a surprise) was a wonderful surprise and gift, as well.

Okay, Monday. You're here. Let's get to it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eighteen Years, Man! Where Did It Go? How Did It Lead To This Reunion?

So, this kid, Jimmy, Class of 2000, was in his sophomore year when I began teaching at the Brown School. On good days, I would run a 5K with him and the track team across the 2nd Street Bridge, leaving from 1st and Muhammad Ali in Louisville. I had him again when he was a senior and was honored to be a teacher representative when he was chosen for Governor's Scholars. He was brilliant, he was full of spirit, and he radiated all the Brown School had to offer, including an undying passion for everything the school stood for.

He moved on to Western Kentucky University, was a sports caster for years, and now is with his wife working at Towson University, where this year's NCTEAR conference was hosted. The two of us had a chance to catch up over dinner, trying to piece together where our 18 years have gone. I lasted at the Brown School another 8 years, and in that time he became an adult.

Phew!

So much history. It zips by faster than a blink of an eye. Back in the day, I took him to a Syracuse / Louisville basketball game and we had incredible seats 4 rows behind Jim Boeheim. Jimmy was a walking encyclopedia of information, especially about sports, and he still is.

This morning, I have back to back presentations, but I already know that the highlight of this trip is reuniting with him. I have a long drive back home, but I will spend it reminiscing about his senior year, the Class of 2000, and all the awesomeness they brought to my world, including the epic senior trip to Disney World, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Augustine, and Cape Canaveral. I will never forget that trip (for many, many reasons).

Here's to what once was and all that is still to come!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Responding to @PatFox45's Looking Ahead Prompt @writingproject Spring Meeting '18

As always, I'm leaving a Writing Project event inspired, re-energized, reflective, and action-oriented. Yesterday morning's Building New Pathways to Leadership, Extending the Reach of NWP is exactly what I needed after a day of meeting with legislators on the Hill. I had the privilege of sitting with Amanda VonKleist from the Northern California Writing Project to learn more about their online vision for building teacher leadership - a Hybrid Summer Institute Remix

As always, I love seeing the NWP family and I have a special section of my heart reserved for Pat Fox who took me under her wings when I first began directorship in Connecticut. The Pop Rocks below are for her. I love Pop Rocks as a metaphor (even though kids find mischievous ways to consume them). Every time I do a NWP event, I seem to experience the same pizazz, snap, and sizzle of Pop Rocks for my soul. I am always grateful.


I am thinking why I have always loved and stayed in the teaching profession and so much of it - perhaps all of it - has been because of the National Writing Project. I was thinking about the importance of investing in beginning teachers to help them to build leadership at their schools and a national network so they, too, can recognize the profession they passionately joined. There needs to be support for these educators and CWP should work with veteran teachers to reach out and mentor these individuals.

I'm also thinking about fusing resources, as funding depletes. Why can't Lehman College work with UConn work with Fairfield etc. to find ways to cross-pollinate ideas, opportunities, workshops, and gatherings? New Pathways may be there.

I loved the hybrid model I learned of today to reach remote areas, and I was thinking about CT's unserved communities in eastern Connecticut. I'm wondering if an arrangement might be made with administrators there to do a hybrid course (maybe partnering with Rhode Island to do this).

I'm also anxious to work with CWP teachers more on the SEED Summer Camp work, to get online playlists out there for young people who might not be able to access a NWP youth workshop in physical spaces. This works excites me.

It pops and it rocks.

I've already headed to NCTEAR with Tonya Perry and Sharonica Nelson for the next 3 days, but I know I'm once again inspired by the NWP family; in fact, I can't do much in my work without shouting out to their research, model, and ability to provide the best professional development in the nation.

Of course, there's sleep, too. I'll get to that.

A special thank you to all who do such amazing work to make the NWP meetings possible for us all. There aren't enough packages of Pop Rocks to thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Okay, DC, We've Met Again. You Know What We Stand For. Appreciating the Support

The morning began at 8:30 a.m. and the gatherings finished around 7 p.m.

Our Connecticut crew met with all 7 legislators and I'm thankful to Representatives Himes, Courtney,  Esty, DeLauro, and Larson as well as Senators Blumenthal and Murphy for meeting with us to talk about teacher leadership, writing instruction, professional development and work with high needs schools. We have a good state: 100% of our public servants stand behind the work and vote to invest in research-based teacher leadership work. Sadly, many other states have the opposite results. They are told that teachers are a drain on the economy and public schools need to be undone. This began with the tea party and is now fully funded and supported by our own Department of Education. You can't make it up.

I've been doing the DC circuit for 7 years. The last two have been extremely different. Everyone is at a loss for words and are totally shocked by the undoing of American democracy. Ah, but that's what was voted in. Be careful of what one asks for.

It is exhausting, but wonderful to spend a day advocating for what I believe in. We are a national network that gains strength from working with each other. It is a reunion that recharges, and any opportunity to talk up the work we do is a great one.

I am, however, sleeping in a little today (and admitting I went to bed at sundown).

Time to drive to Towson University for the next three days. Heading to Maryland.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Will Calculate the Miles Later, But in the Meantime I'm Having a Manhattan in DC

Well, the snow melted, my colleague at UConn had a sudden emergency, and I found myself driving from CT to DC after heading to my office for the printer. Long story short, today I will be visited with several legislators to discuss literacy, support for teachers, and youth activism. I'm in Washington, and besides a couple mishaps with Google directions, I made really good time. I will never understand why they would misdirect form the chosen path to simply say, "Rerouting. Miscalculating. Redirected," once they gave you the wrong directions.

Either way, I made it. I love DC and I love having the opportunity to meet with CT leaders who are representing our state at the national level, even with the trickery of being a minority in this current administration.

As I pulled into the hotel, I immediately ran into Jennifer Dail who invited me to dinner in Georgetown. We finally got that drink we've been promising one another for months now! We had so much fun (I got a birthday cake, and she got a bloody nose). When we returned, I ran into the other CT people and we problem solved what we will do tomorrow when we head out to the buildings.

In the meantime, I had a great pour at the hotel bar - a wonderful Manhattan, and I realized it is the perfect nightcap before bed. I'm out, as we have a long day ahead of us. This will be a long few days ahead, so sleep is a must.

I actually loved the drive from CT to DC. I'm not a fan of the tolls, but I enjoyed doing something new. DC traffic is something else, but I knew that before I headed out my door.

Here's to today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Storm That Was...and Wasn't...But the Movements Must Continue

We got the snow they predicted.

We also got warmer temperatures that quickly melted the snow fall. It barely stuck to the roads (no need for plows) and except for the back porch, I didn't have to shovel as much as I anticipated. I took the snow day and accomplished what I wanted, but there's never enough hours in the day, even when they magically arrive.

Today, I must figure out my next move as I need to be in DC for congressional visits by Thursday morning, followed by presentations at NCTEAR at Towson University. I've decided I would drive this year because of the need to be at another location for the research work. I'm glad that the weather offered some sunshine to make the possibility a little greater.

Now, I simply need to get a house/dog sitter as previous arrangements fell through in the last 24 hours. I need someone to feed and walk the dog (missing my Syracuse proximity where 5388 Amalfi Drive was always an option).

I'm thankful to live the life I do, but sometimes I wish I had the magical nose of Samantha or the genie bottle of Bewitched. At times, it seems a little tricky to make things work in my universe.

Fingers and toes are crossed that everything works out. The University has been closed, too, and I've been without a printer. I need to get materials copied before I head out (and I'm not looking forward to I-95 traffic that has been delayed 24 hours due to a blizzard in the northeast).

Everything will evolve as it will. That's the way it always works. I'm simply going to drink my coffee and let the world unravel as it will.

Phew.