Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's Been a Couple of Decades, But I Finally Saw David Ive's 10-Minute Scripts Performed On Stage @FairfieldU

David Ives, Playwright
My history with ten-minute plays begins in 2002, when a student wanted to resurrect a rather dead theater department at the J. Graham Brown School in Louisville, Kentucky. I was reluctant to sign on, but then I attended a 10-minute play festival at Actor's Theater (down the street from the school) and said, "I could do that." Of course, I also participated in the Louisville Writing Project and spent a part of my summer crafting my own scripts and playing more with the genre. In short, my juniors wrote the scripts that were performed every year.

Naturally, I needed models for my kids and I began with Free To Be You and Me, "Boy Meets Girl." I also taught Euripides, but that wasn't as approachable to the fun, fast, and lively 10-minute scripts. So, we watched MadTv and Saturday Night Live. I discovered playwright David Ives in a local book store, and the rest is history. Decades of student-written ten-minute play festivals in Louisville, the introduction of the genre in Syracuse and hosting several workshops that have led teachers to mentor award-winning student scripts, and now the 4th year of collaborating with Shaun Mitchell of Central High School on their own 10-minute play festival.

That is why I was thrilled to read the following when the new academic year began:
The Academy Players of Fairfield University return to the stage to present four performances of All in the Timing: Five Short Comedies by David Ives at the Wien Experimental Theater at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts from Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m.
I've taught Ives, but I've never seen his work produced, other than "deconstructing" the genre with my students. Actually, I've led workshops all over the nation where I hand out "Time Flies" as a model for adults to read at home (learning that many teach it to high school students...which I shied away from). 

Jerelyn Johnson and Shawn Rafalski nailed the parts as Mae and Horace. It was also a riot to see Paul Lakeland as Attenborough. I was partial to that script, in particular (and critical), but they totally pulled it off. In fact, they exceeded what I anticipated: great wings, wonderful glasses, phenomenal pantomime, great timing, hilarious facial expression, and brilliant campiness. I loved every second of their performance. They were incredible. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent timing of Andrea MacAdam and Don Gibson in "Sure Thing" (nice job hitting the block, too, Charlene Wallace). The other scripts by Ives were equally well-performed and, without a doubt, they did the writer justice. Lisa and Steve Sawin also rocked it.

What a great way to spend a Wednesday night and I now have a checkmark for my bucket list. I finally saw the written work staged and it was as delightful as I expected. I know there are other performances this week (and they are selling out fast). If possible, try to get a ticket. The show put oomph and spark to an otherwise gray, and pre-hibernal week.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Jen Anderson, I Appreciate The Email, But I Think You Sent It To The Wrong Person. Um? Really? Me? Whoa.

I was sitting at my desk on Monday trying to edit a pestering lil' book chapter when an email alert came across my screen. "You Won!"

At first I thought it was Publisher's Clearing House, but then I remembered I never enter the contest. I saw the name, 'Jen Anderson,' and it sounded familiar, but I didn't make the connection. I read the email and thought, "Wait. I won a Presidential Innovation Award at Fairfield University for Community Engagement and Service?" I immediately wrote back and said she must have made a mistake. 

Jen replied quickly to say, "No. A nomination written in support of your work with CWP-Fairfield was selected to be awarded by the President at this year's convocation." Jen Anderson is the Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Fairfield University. Whoa. Along with 7 other recipients nominated in other categories, I received an award that I can re-invest into the youth literacy labs, throw a party, redo my driveway or pay myself back "some" of the money I've invested into literacy initiatives in souther Connecticut.

I am amazed, but I'm a little overwhelmed. Pay It Forward. Pay It Forward. Pay It Forward. There is so much more to be done. 

From the Letter of Nomination:

Dr. Crandall integrated his teaching, research and personal passions and philosophies to develop several creative solutions for increasing youth and teacher participation in CWP programs, now up 175%, and to strengthen partnerships with local schools and community agencies. He embraced Ubuntu (a S. African worldview that translates, I am, because we are) and wrote numerous competitive grants -- including the LRNG Innovation Challenge funded by John Legend and MacArthur Foundation -- to build community-engaged opportunities for K-12 schools. He also restructured professional development workshops for teachers and designed more K-12 writing events on campus.

Um, really?

In summary, Dr. Crandall redesigned the summer programs to make the National Writing Project presence on Fairfield University’s campus more sustainable and spirited. Further, he increased diversity in CWP-Fairfield’s programs and targeted numerous scholarships for young people from low socio-economic backgrounds, including winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Poetry for Peace contests also hosted on Fairfield’s campus. Key to his community engagement and service, though, has been Dr. Crandall’s intentional redesign of numerous young adult literacy labs during the summer in partnership with an Invitational Leadership Institute for teachers hosted on Fairfield University’s campus. 

As one of 185 National Writing Project sites, CWP-Fairfield acts liaison between Universities, K-12 schools, and community agencies to support literacy initiatives. Under Crandall’s directorship, CWP now serves schools and engages communities in new and exciting ways, including summer programs (highlighted here), the implementation of service learning courses, contributions to JUHAN and the new Humanitarian Action minor, and proactive support of the Newtown Poetry Project, Poetry for Peace, Literacy4Life, and Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest. CWP-Fairfield has become an integral part of Fairfield University’s outreach because Dr. Crandall has been extremely action-oriented. Young people and teachers attending CWP-Fairfield’s summer programs now arrive from 16 school districts across southern Connecticut.

Wait, there's more. This is where I need to shout out to Dr. Kelly Chandler-Olcott and her willingness to take me under her wings at Syracuse University: Co-Planning and Co-Teaching in a Summer Institute: A Formative Experiment  was a result, and I rebuilt the program at Fairfield partially from my experience of working with her.

In 2014, despite reduced funding, Dr. Crandall redesigned CWP’s summer programs so more educational leaders in Connecticut could participate from the National Writing Project model. Specifically, Bryan wrote grants to pay for Connecticut teachers to participate in ED 561: Summer Institute for the Teaching of Writing and began thinking creatively about how CWP-Fairfield could also serve more young people during the summer months. Before 2014, only 40 youngsters took part in CWP’s summer programs. Crandall, however, cut participation costs to recruit representation from diverse populations and sought financial sources for scholarships so young people traditionally underserved in summer camp traditions, including refugee and immigrant youth, could benefit from reading, writing, and speaking opportunities on Fairfield University’s campus. Specifically, Crandall restructured what once was a two-week writing camp into several one-week “Young Adult Literacy Labs.”  He lowered fees for attendance and offered a match-program that now provides one scholarship for every paying customer. Working closely with Bridgeport and New Haven Public Schools, too, he holds spaces in the labs, including:
·      Little Lab For Big Imaginations (for 3rd-5th grade youth)
·      Character Matters – Novel Lab I (for budding novelists)
·      Plot Matters – Novel Lab II (for budding novelists)
·      A Performance of Words: Poetry and Playwriting (for spoken word artists)
·      Digital Communications (for Cyber writers)
·      Project Citizen (for the politically minded writer)
·      Sports Writing (for the athleticism of words)
·      Ubuntu Academy (for immigrant and refugee youth)
These Young Adult Literacy Labs have been extremely successful and this January the National Writing Project invited Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall to present his innovation and redesign to other directors and educational leaders from the Gates Foundation. Through the work, CWP-Fairfield has established a vibrant and replicable model for sustaining educational excellence in challenging economic times.

Scholarship in Action. This was the mantra of Nancy Cantor when I was at Syracuse University from 2007 - 2011. It became ingrained in how I knew scholarship should be. It's Dr. Marcelle Haddix, too. WRITING OUR LIVES! WRITING OUR LIVES! WRITING OUR LIVES!

The unique part of Crandall’s lab-innovation is the deliberate collaboration with educators, administrators, and writers who enroll in ED 561: Summer Institute for the Teaching of Writing. With service learning in mind, participants have opportunities to interact with young people attending the young adult writing labs. They read about effective writing instruction at the same time they work one-on-one with young writers, allowing for them to experience theory within practice.

The Young Adult Literacy Labs have proven to be lucrative both pedagogically and financially, too. In 2014, 90 young people attended CWP’s Labs; in 2015, that number increased to 152. This summer the number is projected to rise once again. The labs have also made additional revenue for CWP-Fairfield, making it easier to invest in teachers and student projects during the school year, as well.

I wanted to cap total participation at 150. We had over 200 students this summer!

Young Adult Literacy Labs has helped CWP-Fairfield advance the National Writing Project model and establish Fairfield University as a K-12 literacy leader for young writers and teachers. Crandall met his original objectives for the redesign since his hire: (1) to find alternative revenue streams to replace extreme cuts in federal and state support, (2) to align programs with best practices for teaching writing, (3) to increase diversity in CWP programs, and (4) to find wider audiences for the innovation occurring on Fairfield University’s campus.


Almost 48% of the young people attending Young Adult Literacy Labs are given full or partial scholarship. In Crandall’s redesign, local high-needs schools are targeted and deliberately served. Included in this are immigrant and refugee youth who attend Ubuntu Academy, a one-of-a-kind two-week literacy lab that was designed specifically to counter summer literacy loss for English language learners. The Academy has served over 40 young people to date with another 30 expected in 2016.

Further, Crandall uses revenue created from the Young Adult Literacy Labs to actively support CWP-Fairfield teachers for making presentations at national conferences – another way to raise Fairfield University’s national profile. Since the redesign in 2014, Crandall and his colleagues have presented work approximately 25 times and published six times in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters. Crandall and his team have also partnered with CT Mirror, a non-partisan political newspaper in Connecticut, to create (and write for) an interactive website: Education, Change, and Diversity in Fairfield County. This November, Dr. Crandall and his teachers will also present five papers at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a service capacity, Bryan has established professional relationships with Fairfield University Athletics, Upward Bound, Gear Up, Bridgeport Higher Education Alliance, Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Hoops4Hope, LEAP, IICONN, IRIS, Bridgeport Public Schools, the Archdiocese of Bridgeport, and Connecticut Post to support literacy achievement in the State. He is always willing to offer his services and expertise with an admirable drive for community outreach.

The Young Adult Literacy Labs redesign is extremely innovated and has provided new financial means for CWP-Fairfield to serve local schools and teachers. These labs are deserving of a Presidential Innovation Award. True to the Ubuntu philosophy, Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall has built a community of many here on Fairfield University’s campus.

Now I'm feeling guilty and like I have much more work to do. 

Seriously, I cannot believe this email came to me and yesterday I received the award at the convocation. I am still shaking my head. Did this really happen?

Jen Anderson, Are you sure? Um...there was a ceremony. I guess I have to believe it. Or did I dream that? Man, I think I need more sleep.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Learning From Dogs About Our Own Idiosynracies The Day After an Election. It Just Doesn't Feel Right

Over the weekend, while Glamis played with her best friends, Jake and Mae, Patrick said we should throw off their canine universes by putting all the collars on Mae. We did.

Mae began to sulk and paced around the room with nervous energy, while Jake and Glamis were perplexed. "Um, we're used to this feeling around our neck? Where did it go? What are we to do without that strap behind our ears?"

They, too, began to nervously pace. It made me think that I probably have my own shenanigans that I'm used to and when something goes askew, I get nervous.

That's how I viewed the debate last night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both of them make me nervous, and although one makes me excessively more nervous than the other, I felt my mind pacing around my house wondering, "What the heck is going on with our nation this year?"

I'm not the type to get excessively political or to join the bandwagons on either side. Perhaps it's my middle child nature, or maybe it is my interest in viewing everything from multiple angles. As I run through Stratford and see signs in yards of people (much more minimal in this election cycle than year's past) I wonder how it is they can be so convinced to stand adamantly behind either of the candidates. It seems this year I'll be voting reluctantly to attempt to do the least damage to our nation.

Turn on the news any time of the day, and evidence of such damage is rampant. Aristotle said that "Every civilization bears the seeds of its own destruction." Hmmmm. It seems to me that the privileges and affordances of the American people are truly challenging what democracy actually means. With that comes questions of freedom, rights, prejudice, hate, and fear. I think it is the fear being spread that has me thinking I'm with the dogs on this one....

...wandering around the world saying, "This doesn't feel right. What am I supposed to do?"

And I know what I will do. I will participate with the rights I have (while I have them) and try to make sense of this alteration of materials around my neck. I will pant, I will pace, I might panic, and I'll look to others to help me understand what Marvin Gaye once sang, "What's going on?"

I have no idea, but my inner ethnographer is trying to make sense of it, even when none of it seems to make much sense.

Monday, September 26, 2016

So, One Thing That Definitely Didn't Happen This Weekend Is Laundry. Hope To Find Time Later This Week

I am opting for a huge photo of a laundry basket because this is sort of what my laundry room looks like. Actually, take this pile and amplify it by four. There are currently four laundry baskets piled this high next to the dryer and washer.

Why? Well, we've been good about cleaning the laundry, but not so good about folding it and putting it away. That's what happens when academic work calls and deadlines arrive. The house comes second, even when it is the weekend.

I don't necessarily mind folding the laundry or putting it away, but it is a time-consuming task that doesn't always fit into my week-by-week schedule. I can keep up with the dishes and kitchen (cooking even on a daily basis), but staying atop the laundry.


Of course, I know my sisters battle this, too, and when I think about our own upbringing, it seemed that it was the bane of my mother's existence (until my father started helping out some, and my sisters and I grew old enough to do our own).

So, I'm beginning this Monday with defeat that the unfolded laundry might begin attacking us if we don't take care of it soon. Adulthood is for the birds. I'd throw in the towel, but then I'd have to wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away. Yuck.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Another Reality of the Work I Do - Living in my Office To Do the Work I Do. At Least I Made Philly Steak

I learned while finishing my dissertation during my first year at Fairfield University that my office is my friend. It is a home away from and where I can go to concentrate, to revise, to rethink, to reorganize, and to meet deadlines. Unfortunately, my schedule never allows me to do this in a traditional Monday-Friday work week.

I spent last Thursday cleaning my office out of nerves during Abu's interview on campus, so I knew if I went to work yesterday I'd be able to concentrate on the tasks at hand without distractions of cleaning, feeling overly cluttered (yes, I allow my office to be packed), and having the Glamster licking every part of my skin that is exposed to her. I also knew I needed to rethink a writing project that has been in the works for over three years - writing with Somali youth who relocated as refugee background students. The task is important to me, but the everyday world of institutes, literacy labs, professional development, committee meetings, home life, emails, and other projects sometimes throws roadblocks at getting the work done (okay, I admit it...I procrastinated on this one by meeting two other deadlines, which I didn't think I'd be able to do).

Exhale. All in the hopes that the writing will be published.

I came home last night around 8 pm and made myself Philly steak with onions and peppers. I didn't have a hoagie roll, but I did have good bread so the meal wasn't a complete dud. I also made time to walk the dog in the morning (while catching up on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and even managed a 45-minute run). But then it was devotion time, which is also true of today. The work needs to be tuned so I can go into classes this week with a concentration on my students.

No one told me the reality of doing the work that I do. I admit that I love it, but lordy lordy it does a number on the brain. Sometimes I feel confident with what I have to say from the research I do, but other times I simply feel overwhelmed by the volumes of everything needed to know.

We can only do what we can do given the context with how we've been able to do it. And with that I enter the day of rest with ambition to check another box on my to-do list.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Ties, With Hope, Driven Ahead, and Responsible to Speak Out... @abubility In a Suit, Part One

We clean up nicely, no?

It was great having Abu on Mt. Pleasant during the fall semester as he interviewed for a potential job and assisted me while we worked with a political science class on Africa. He does a phenomenal job communicating his goals, story, and dreams and when he's around my job becomes easier. For many years, he's SKYPED with my students, but because he was on campus and I was scheduled to speak, he added the extra bonus that knocked the conversation out of the ball park. No doubt that he and his brother, Lossine, are VIP in my world and with my family.

I wish him much joy today as he attends a wedding in Syracuse for another of his fans (he has the opportunity to try out another suit ... or the one he rocked in Connecticut).

Abu sent me this photo when he made it back to Syracuse on Amtrak after his short stay in the Nutmeg State. Of course, Glamis is already missing him and I want him to return so her licks and bouncy toys can be enjoyed by him. She loves this guy even more than I do, and it is wonderful not having her to annoy me every second I'm in the house. When he's here, she prefers annoying him.

I crashed again early last night, knowing I needed to spend my day on my laptop both catching up and getting ahead. Friday nights are becoming an evening of exhaustion where my body simply yells at me, "Crandall, Chill the Heck Out!"

And the temperatures are supposed to drop this weekend with only 70s in the forecast. The leaves have hinted for a while that they're ready for change and now it looks like the thermometer will join them. It's all good. I look forward to wearing my sweatshirts again.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Best Part of Collaboration: Hosting A Philosophy Course In The Walsh Gallery Art Museum

We spent the first hour of yesterday's Philosophy of Education undergraduate course at the Walsh Gallery in the Quick Center, a part of the Fairfield University Art Museum. The students had opportunity to listen to the radio show about the collaboration hearing Claudia Connor, Akbar, and Rick Shaefer's wisdom, while absorbing the talent in the work and the power of collaborating.

I sometimes try to put myself in the position of the students (wondering if I'd be able to sustain 60 minutes of audio in a museum), but I think it went real well. The story of the work is incredible, and hearing the product from Akbar served to make a point. Upon departure, I also invoked my good ol' sage, Sue, to allow my students a 30-minute walk-n-talk to process the artwork and to think about their own educational experiences.

They returned to our regular classroom to discuss what they talked about, to think critically about Paolo Friere, and to discuss opening chapters of Kristina Rizga's Mission High. We capped the afternoon by reading Op-Eds written by Connecticut teachers and pinpointed some of the major obstacles facing educators in the area today.

We were fortunate, too, because when we arrived Rick Shaefer was there showing his daughter, a curator, the work he had on display. He was able to say hello to the students briefly and I had a moment to catch up with him.

I am still loving the fact that I had an opportunity to connect with others on this partnership. Sometimes the moments really do shine...