Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shouting Out to @carynsullivan and Her Wonderful Presence in Front of The Camera.

For the last year, Caryn Sullivan signed up to be my program manager at the Connecticut Writing Project, a part-time gig that helps me to promote student and teacher writing, organizes conversations with important people, and tames my wackiness with her professional expertise. She was enrolled in my EN 411 course where she was assigned to present and WOW'd everyone. She is a natural communicator, especially when live and in person. She radiates energy, positivity, and kindness (and it's one of the reasons we featured her at the Writing Our Lives-Digital Ubuntu conference last spring).

Caryn is a two-time cancer survivor and has dedicated her life to clean and healthy living. When she's not parenting her awesome boy, running activities for her son's school, or managing CWP's programs, she's traveling the country to speak to audiences about her life story or appearing on television programs sharing her expertise. She was on CT Style this week and I needed to share her clean product presentation here. I wanted to celebrate her wisdom and applaud the focus she has on helping others think about lifestyle choices.

Our bodies are a sanctuary and post-Easter, I'm realizing that my sanctuary has become a garbage dump of Cadbury Eggs, Malted Milk Balls, potatoes, and beer. Such is the life of bunny rabbit festivities. I told Caryn that I'm thankful that I don't think of beauty products and their effects on my skin and in my blood, because I'm limited to only a few. Yet, when I think about all the other stuff men and women do to themselves with products, I can't help but wonder, "What's actually in that stuff?" I know that my lungs are enflamed simply by walking through the beauty section of a department store and that numerous deodorants cause my armpits to blister. I can only imagine what it does if it gets inside the body. And I parallel this when thinking about ingesting food - Twizzlers? What the heck are Twizzlers? After hearing Caryn speak online, I thought, "What else am I doing that is more than likely not good for me?"

I feel fortunate that Caryn stepped into the world of CWP and I'm thankful that she carries me along on her journey, too: her expertise, her life story, her ambitions, and her dreams are inspiration for my own.

Happy Thursday. It's a day of planning, planning. planning (and I should grade, too).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Captivated by the Magic When It Comes Together: Graduate Students, Fairfield Seniors, and Youth From Bassick High School

For the last year, I participated in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) under the supervision of Joclyn Boryczka and Melissa Quann to discuss service-learning coursework and to design curriculum that works collaboratively with local communities. With the success of Ubuntu Academy during the summer months and working with relocated refugee and immigrant youth in Bridgeport Public Schools, I wanted more strategic ways to support kids and their teachers during the academic year.

Last fall, I purchased several copies of Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave which I donated to my students in ED 459: Developmental Reading in Secondary Schools and to teachers at Cesar Batalla and Bassick High School in Bridgeport. The YA novel, written in narrative, free-verse form, tells the story of Kek and his assimilation to the United States as he misses his homeland, Sudan, and learns to fuse his childhood with responsibilities of school, family, and a new language. My graduate students have read developmental reading texts and articles, and from them we've applied learned skills to create a curriculum guide for teachers to use Home of the Brave at their schools. We've also created opportunities for students in ED 459 and  in ESL classes at Bassick to dialogue with one another.

During class last night, Bassick students worked alongside those enrolled in my Developmental Reading course and participated in a few drawing, reading, writing, and speaking activities. The majority of youth were from Congo and Rwanda, with one young woman from Guatemala. We read two poems from Home of the Brave and briefly applied the advice from Beers & Probst in their Notice and Note text. Specifically, we looked for "memory moments," "again and again words," and "words of wisdom." Beers & Probst argue that clueing readers towards predictable writerly techniques for fiction and narrative, helps readers to think more critically and deeply while they read.

The students also participated in a dialogue book (a series of questions stapled together to discuss themes from Home of the Brave and our own experiences). Where I could, too, I hinted at the postcolonial lens for reading , as suggested by Deborah Appleman in Critical Encounters (another text graduate students read for the course).

The curriculum and objectives were secondary, however, to the enthusiasm of Fairfield and Bassick students learning alongside one another. I was unsure we'd get students from Bassick to attend, because the teacher helping us to coordinate shared class time was pulled out of the classroom for professional development and has been out of the building 10 days this semester. Even so, word of mouth spread (ah, the power of Facebook) and kids were ready to go - granted, it was a posse of ten different kids than the original list. My service learning associate, Jillian, has been spectacular at assisting the course's activities and keeping the events rolling.

I only got through 1/4th of what I planned. The students from both venues were really into learning with and from one another. When I alarmed them that the 2 hours were up, they looked at the clock and thought, "No way."

On the drive home, the young men in my car discussed how much they loved coming to the University and wondered if they could do it every night. They talked about wanting to come to the University when they graduate and wondered if there were more opportunities for them to be mentored by my graduate students. Enoch, one young man from Congo with incredible soccer skills and intellect, noted "Wow, that was such a surprise. I didn't know what I was going to, but I came for education. The education was so good. I am so glad I came and I want to do this again."

Another young man remarked, "This was so good for my English. I spoke more tonight and practiced my language more than ever before." He's only been in the country for 6 months.  Each of the students was paired with graduate students and participated on the literacy tasks.

I'm sure the pizza and Double Stuff Oreos helped, too.

I left last night wondering how face to face time can be more normed for the length of the entire course. What if the young people attended a majority of the Tuesdays where Developmental Reading  in Secondary School classes meet? What if they learned alongside graduate students as part of their weekly routine?.

I loved hearing the willingness of Bassick students as they contributed much and held back little. At that age, I was more apprehensive about sharing my ideas around adults, but they jumped right in. They had much to offer, including connections to Biblical readings, stories their families told them in Africa and Guatemala, words, and the role of books in our lives. They were not shy and saw themselves on the same level as the Fairfield students. They made intelligent connections about colonial history, language, oral storytelling, memories and the power of education, too.

Nights like this simply have me shaking my head with joy and delight. Then I get my head out of the clouds and think, "How can we do more?'

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We Must Be Approaching April Because The Pollen Has Given Birth To The Mucus Monsters Once Again

I knew on Saturday when I ran that the Mucinex monsters were regrouping from the pollen that caked itself into my nostrils. I sneezed a few times and they didn't depart. Rather, they did their jello-magic and created a drip that scratched my throat and eventually settled into my chest.

When I ran on Sunday, I realized they already build a cactus within my chest and that by Monday, I would have an irritable cough.

Man, I hate them. They exhaust me. They make thinking, being, doing, writing, reading, and moving forward practically impossible.

Yet, onward I must go, irritable or not. Orange juice, Thera-Flu, and ginger ale are my friends. I walked Glamis and felt okay, but as soon as I sat down, the nasal faucet began. Allergies. Allergies. Allergies.

At least it's not the Ohio Valley crud that plagued my Kentucky days. Nope, this is much less sinus pressure and 100 times more a liquid sprinkler system. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot.

UCONN Women's team, hot hot hot.

And me hoping I can stay on top of the boogers until I can properly rest this weekend. It's a ritual I'm accustomed to, but it is never an easy voyage. Rest is the answer. Sleep. More and more fluids.

Mr. Mucus, I know you and you will not win.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I Am Totally Eating Crow, But That's Okay. Because It's Orange and Blue Crow and I Can Be Forgiven.

It's not that this crow and napkins are U of L colors (they are), but that I have been in mourning that they wouldn't be represented in this year's tournament. I was anxious for Syracuse, but their regular season was so pathetic that I presumed they didn't stand a chance to make the NCAA final brackets. Somehow they did, and they've totally made my March. It's madness.

First, a special shout out is deserving for the Women's team who slid into the final four with ease. They are representing the University with finesse and I'm thinking the only way to undo Breanna Stewart is a little CNY guilt tripping. She could of played for the local team (nah! She's done well for herself in Connecticut). Syracuse made it into the big dance with much skill, great coaching, tremendous heart, and perseverance.

And the Men's team. I'm a doubter. I didn't think they should have made the tournament and I argued that Monmouth University should have gotten a bid from the MAAC conference. Ah, but they slid in. I watched with trepidation and became a bit of a fanatic when I told Abu, "If they can beat Middle State Tennessee by 20, I'll believe." They got them by 25.

Then last night...last night...Man oh man oh man. I was awaiting Chitunga's Italian return and started to get distracted after Cuse lost its lead in the first 10 minutes. Abu and Lossine told me they fell asleep. Tunga got home at halftime, and we caught up while the game kicked off again. He went upstairs to unpack and I started watching the Orangemen come back one basket at a time. Then they just took over.

I couldn't believe it. Final Four. I was screaming so loud that my dog began barking at me. I don't think she (or Chitunga) appreciated my hollering from downstairs, but I was stoked, amped and pumped by the win.

Then, I remembered what I've said this entire season and realized, I am eating a bit of crow. It's not that I'm unfaithful, it's that I'm a realist.

And this run is unreal. It is so much fun, too.

So here is to next week. Final Four. Syracuse is very much deserving of the opportunity, no matter what happens. They've had a tremendous run that makes up for the shitty NCAA decisions from last year.

Cuse! Cuse! Cuse! I remain a believer!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter From The Isgars, Barnwells, and Crandalls. Mt. Pleasant Bunny Fest 2016. We Survived.

They descended from Central New York. They drove in trucks, Rav 4s, and a Mini-Van. They brought chocolate and luggage. We cooked a ham, squash, creamed potatoes, green been casseroles, Portuguese rolls, and asparagus. The dogs played, played some more, and played even more.

No one killed each other, and that is always good. Even as exhausted as each of us were, we were on our best behavior.

The Kelly's came, too, bringing a delicious Easter cake and a good appetite and the kitchen was transformed to an open oasis into a fine-dining arrangement.

The UCONN women killed Mississippi State, and another day of SU basketball approached.

Meanwhile, Chitunga wound down his siesta in Italy.

There are enough plastic eggs lying around to keep the Easter Bunny satisfied for numerous weeks to come. Snickers, Milky Ways, Three Musketeer bars, Kit Kats, and Twix. The Cadbury Eggs have been devoured and the jelly beans have been swallowed.

This is all to say HAPPY EASTER, Universe. Here's to April ahead and another year of hoppy-ness.

Boing Boing Boing. Our love blossoms like an amaryllis, tulips, azaleas, and daffodils.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

And On a Good Friday, Good Family, Good Chaos, Good Food, Good Games, and a Good New Patio Set

It still seems strange to me that I get up before my father now. He sleeps until 9 while I get up at 7. There seems to be some sort of odd change with that.

I got my coffee, some writing, and a run in, and then the rest of the crew arrived. My house hasn't seen this much food in, um, forever. The fridge is stacked and the counters are covered.

I've decided that entertaining is totally balancing out feeding schedules and having enough out for everyone when they're ready to feast. While the sisters checked out hotel, Papi Butch and I went to Ocean State Job Lot and managed to get two large glass tables for the back patio. Bonus.

Then Paradise Pizza and Syracuse Orange at night, with lots more food, and screaming before the drive to Connecticut finally caught up with them.

And all three dogs got to reside on Mt. Pleasant. I am not sure who they stayed awake as long as they did after a day of non-stop play, but they didn't retire early at all. Rather, they just played.

Ah, but today is the big Easter dinner, and I look forward to cooking a ham and making creamed potatoes.

Exhausted...but happy.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thursday Before Good Friday is a Great Day For a Student-Written Production at Central High School in Bridgeport

After the folks chose to visit Jersey Shores after a GPS mess-up, they made it in time for dinner (not their style, but they endured the flavors) before settling in front of the t.v. so I could head to Central High School to support the young writers under Super Teacher, Shaun Mitchell's care. This was the 3rd year of student scripts and it is always great to get a pulse of what young people are thinking.

Family dinner squabbles, loneliness, imaginary friends, anxiety, and misogyny were some of the themes explored with this year's crop of student writers. Added to the zest were performances by singers, pianists, and guitar players. Also new to the occasion was food from the culinary arts class and a wonderful display of artwork created by Central High School students.

The thing that stood out the most in this year's performance is how bonded the students were and how much fun they were having. Most performed the scrips of their classmates and, because of this, the more serious the dialogue got, the more it began to crack them up (which was part of the charm of the evening).

Props (ba dum dum ch) to the entire class of the 2016 Fine Arts & Playwright Festival, to the student writers who contributed the scripts, and for the teacher who stands by the young people he believes in most. I am sure he is exhausted. It is the time of year when we all are.

And with that, let this Friday be Good.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My House Smells Like PineSol, The Dust is Swiped, The Fridge is Stocked, and I Want To Go Back To Bed

I did as I said. I came home, dug into cleaning mode, went to the grocery store, and didn't finish. I figured I'd get up today and go back to work. It's a big house and Glamis sheds a lot. Plus, I got into cooking mode and pulled summer goods out of the shed because it was so nice.

But the first floor is tidied. I drank a few beers in the process and played music really loud. Poor dog. She hates the commotion and hid upstairs. She likes the entire house to be her furry nest.

I've been in work zone for so long that I felt a little guilty actually taking care of the home front. The one funny thing is when I went into Chitunga's room to get it ready for guests and I found it completely spotless. Figures. I can scratch that off the list.

Actually, I'm also looking forward to Cynde coming. She likes to rearrange and do positioning of my crap. I can use that (and should bring her to my office, which is worse than my house)

So, agenda: clean more, laundry, grade, read for next week, attend candidate interview, then see the third annual Playwright Festival at Central High School - a tradition brought to Connecticut from Kentucky. Then, I await.

It won't be chaotic. It will be fun! Promise!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

T.G.I.W. - That's My Motto For the Spring Semester and I Can't Wait Until This Afternoon. Me Time.

I know most get excited about Fridays, but I tend to see them as a gateway to the weekend when I can get the majority of my work done (that is: grading, writing, planning, answering emails, applying for grants, and justifying all the moves I make at the University because keeping record of action is the way we keep our jobs. Doing is secondary to the reporting of our doing).

Ah, but because I teach Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and almost all my committee meetings are Monday and Tuesdays, a vast majority of the weekend must be spent preparing for the chaos that is the early week.

This past week, however, I was in DC so my normal routine was off even more. It's been 7 a.m. - midnight for quite a while now and today, as of 2 p.m., I actually have a window to breathe...

...by breathing, I mean, I can clean the house (don't let Chitunga know, but I'm not as clean as he is and he's been gone for the week. My thinking was, "Why not let it go? You can get to it later?"). Today, however, I can go to the grocery store (I think I ate moldy rice and beans last night because it was al I had), then I can come home and be domestic. I've picked it up some - the good homeowner quality - because of the parental guilt, but it definitely has slipped in March. The out-of-town guests this weekend give me another reason to do spring cleaning. I am actually looking forward to it, because I might spend a couple of hours away from the laptop.

Imagine that. Being happy to have two hours away from a machine.

So, today I am keeping calm because it is Wednesday...my Friday this semester. I will walk the dog, run, fold laundry, run the dishwasher, vacuum, dust, recycle, and restore the fridge. You know you're an adult when you actually have time to do this.

And with that, it's time to get to campus to finish the marathon the last few weeks has been.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NATIONAL GOOF OFF DAY - Now Here Is A Reason To Celebrate March 22, ATuesday. #BeGoofy

Crandall Man - Getting His Work Done as a Goof Ball
I knew as soon as I saw the call that today is National Goof Off Day that I needed to celebrate the ways I tend to goof-off every day. If I have piles of work to do and serious business to get off my plate, the one thing that is absolute is that I  will choose to goof-off every time.

It's not procrastination.

No, procrastination implies that the work is avoided and doesn't get done. I actually goof-off to get the work done.

Ever since I began writing in college I found it productive to get silly behind my screen and to not take myself too seriously. I've always known that the work needed to be accomplished required a level of sophistication that never seemed like me. That is why I began collecting hats and odd toys so I could become someone ridiculous while doing serious, academic things. When I write, I often dress myself as some kind of dork. It might have something to do with my admiration of King Lear's Fool or that I made my high school students memorize lines from Macbeth,
It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
I know it sounds extremely odd, but it is true. I am fascinated with comedians and improvisation, and I love to be spontaneous in action and with ideas. The theory goes: If I live my imagination outwardly, I can harness my creativity inwardly.

In other words, I goof-off to get S**T done. I think it is successful.

Yes, I have numerous tchotchkes I've collected from gum-ball machines around the world, stuffed animals, and hats....lots and lots of hats. I have a rather impressive collection of wind-up toys, too, plenty of stickers, and a drawer of masks. I need these to be productive.

I admit that it pains me when I have to present at national conferences, especially the serious research ones, because I know I have to play a part that has never felt comfortable to me. I know what I'm doing - and I play the game within the traditional protocols for delivering knowledge - but I much prefer to pretend I'm a paid guest for Birthday parties (scary, I know). Let me live as Pee Wee Herman in my head. He makes sense to me in a way that Jim Carey and Robin Williams always made sense to me (and why I crush hard on Judy Tenuta, Ellen Degeneres, Paula Poundstone, and Roseanne Barr). I like to laugh.

A therapist might recognize this as the Crandall side of me (the Superego) wrestling with the Ripley side (the Id). As soon as I start taking myself seriously, I remember Grandpa Spence asking me to pull a finger (of course, he didn't have all his fingers and it usually was just a nub).

Ffffffffrttttt. Gotcha again.

I love the fact that Google searches present whacky images of me trying to 'empty the ocean with a fork' in my role as a Director, community-engaged scholar, teacher, and lifelong learner. It reminds me that goofing off is actually a wonderful skill to have. In fact, I've named this whimsical learning and am still upset that Howard Gardner never wrote me back when I suggested humor is another intelligence  (I guess he didn't find it funny). It's s not Ivy-league enough.

My day is jam-packed with faculty handbook committee meetings, school district partnering, and of course graduate school teaching. I will be a good boy and represent seriousness as I should. But I do know, as soon as I get home, I'm going to goof off so I can get ready for another busy day on Wednesday. I have to do this, otherwise I wouldn't be able to survive.

And with that, I give you permission to be goofy today. This may be the greatest holiday of the year!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Channeling Luda and Realizing, "I Believe." It's March Madness and I'm Trusting I Am Using Every Minute Wisely.

You have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it, forced upon you, can't refuse it, didn't seek it, didn't choose it, but it's up to you to use it...you will suffer if you lose it, give account if you abuse it, just a tiny little minute, but an eternity is in it. ~Luda Dixon
 I don't know why, but Luda Dixon is always on my mind! I guess that means I am a Brownie forever, and his wisdom lurks in my conscious memory as I try to pace myself for life. And that is why I am posting "I Believe" from the Book of Mormon soundtrack.

I may have posted this song before (from CBS Tony Award's, I believe), but today I wanted to declare that I do believe in this Syracuse University Men's Basketball team. Earlier this year, I was a doubter (so much so that I declared there was know way in #$#@ they'd make the tournament). Ah, but they did. Still, I didn't believe in them. Then, last night, I texted Abu (who was at work and shooting messages to me that this is THE team) and wrote, "If they win by 20, then I will know they are a team to believe in."

They won by 25. I am a true believer. Ah, but I'm not optimistic about Gonzaga. They are definitely a tournament team and ever since I've been watching their program, I've admired the tremendous run they have in NCAA tournaments. So, Friday...I'll be watching.

And my family will be here and we will not stop believing. It is looking like a pizza, beer and scream fest to kick off Easter weekend. I'm looking around my living room trying to find a way where everyone can sit comfortably. It will be rough, but we can do it!

In the meantime, I've been writing and reading, believing I can get all my work done, too. I have to believe. Interestingly, I've been reading a lot on experiential education and I have to say, "This teaching thing is a bit of a farce. It is true. The best teacher is experience." I am thinking of Tunga's 9 days in Italy - totally envious of his youth and opportunity - knowing that every second he spends overseas (academic or social), he is growing wiser and smarter about this world. Having opportunity to travel is a privilege and he recognizes this. Ah, but he also earned this and paid for the entire experience on his own through hustling through jobs, saving, and having a goal in mind.

Finally, about this storm. They said 12 inches. Then they went down to 1 inches. Yesterday, the went up to 6 -8 inches (I guess they thought it wasn't moving out to sea as fast as they predicted) and this morning they are back to 1-3 inches. It's all good. There's a warmup this week that will return us to the path we were already on.

Bring on the tulips. I welcome the grass and buds. But let's keep 'Cuse going hard for a few more weeks!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's So Great To Have Neighborhood Dogs Visit So Glamis Will Leave Me Alone For a While To Type.

I now know why people with little children have play dates. It's so the kids will stop driving their parents nuts and so the parents can gain back some sanity.

Yesterday, when Jaxon was walking around the neighborhood with the kids I asked, "Hey, can I borrow your dog for a little while? I think it would be really good to tire my puppy out. They play so well together."

"Sure," the little kid with a leash replied. "But I need to ask my mom first."

"Just ask for 15 minutes. All I need is 15 minutes."

And I got it. 15 minutes was just enough to give me time to begin a project and to tire Glamis out so her cold nose wasn't being pushed up against my face, wrists, thighs, and legs. She got a 4 mile walk in, followed by play time with Jax, so I actually had around 3 hours of uninterrupted work time.

It was heaven. Of course, I payed for it later, after Glamis woke up from her nap and wanted to wrestle me to the ground. There's only so many peanut butter in the chew toy tricks a man can do before she even grows tired of that.

Earlier this week they were calling for a northeastern storm of 12 inches, but I heard on last count it may only be 1 or 2 inches. I have a couple Sunday meetings (grants, grants, grants) and I need to get on top of a couple of writing projects and courses for the week. I've prepped, however, to have most of the day today in sweats and on the couch with the laptop. This, of course, will be made impossible with the world's most loving dog, but I will try.

On the Italian front, I didn't expect Chitunga would be able to text, but he's been in direct communication all day. I haven't received news about the scenery or the excitement of being in a new country...all I've gotten were stories of bathrooms, which makes me think he really is a part of the Crandall family.

Happy Sunday. I have to admit, I was somewhat excited about having another storm. Looks like it will be a buzzkill.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

And On the Day He Returns, He Walks In The House and Boom! The Amaryllis Has Popped Its Joy Once Again

After a successful few days on the Hill, and a morning of presenting to a few beautiful NWP folks during a round table, I hit Amtrak for the 5 hour trip home. For the first leg of the trip I sat next to a 76-year old midwife who was heading to NYC to deliver her grandchild, a girl to be born to her white daughter and Japanese husband. I got the whole story of delivering babies, and we talked at great length about the miracle of life.

While we pulled into NYC from DC, I knew Chitunga was arriving to the JFK airport for his departure to Italy. The midwife got off at Penn Station and then Desne stepped in and sat next to me. Now, what are the chances that the same person who rode next to me on the train from B'port to NYC on my way to DC, would be in the car and next to me again on the way back? I was typing and when I looked up, I started to laugh. She works for Harvard in the gifts department and was heading to the Apple to talk with potential donors. She talked to me about her work with Sudanese refugees in Boston and I thought it was crazy that she was next to me again on my way back home. Of course, Chitunga called to say goodbye as I was stepping off the train. He was entering customs, and I was thinking about life cycles and rhythms.

When I entered the house, Mt. Pleasant itself, I was greeted buy an Amaryllis in full bloom. This is the same one that opened up last year when Chitunga and I finally moved into the new house - the same one that I had for years, but never blossomed. Yet, here she was again welcoming me back home from being on the road. I took Glamis for a long walk and when I returned Chitunga called again from the tarmac. He was taking off. He wanted to know if I saw the flower in bloom.

I see it as a reminder of life, possibility and hope. Given the facts 2016 and how it has been, I am appreciative to have such the plant's hello upon my return.

I hope she stays this way throughout the week.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Happy Day on the Hill. Several Years Later and I Still See There Is Hope For the Flowers in Memory of Sandy Hook

The highlight of the DC trip this year was walking into Representative Larson's office and seeing that he still has a copy of Hope for the Flowers on his shelf that I gave him the year after the tragedy near Newtown and before the initiation of the Newtown Poetry Project. I am still proud to have released 600 copies of Trina Paulus's book as inspiration throughout southern Connecticut.

On the way out of his office, too, I was thrilled to see copies of CWP-Fairfield's POW! Power of Words, the Anthology - a collection of student and teacher writing also displayed for visitors to see. Larson is a good man and he went out of his way to meet with us yesterday on the Hill. Our entourage had a spectacular day and we couldn't ask for more gorgeous weather. Yes, we did have to springboard from one end of the Capital to the other, but it was so nice that we forgot about all the walking. We are one of the few states that can claim 100% support from our senators and representatives.

My quote for the day was, "Man, Representative Larson, are you Irish!" He had on his green, and with his white hair and white eyebrows, his ancestry definitely showed. It was wonderful to spend a part of St. Patrick's Day with him.

We were also fortunate to spent time in the offices of Himes, Esty, DeLauro, Blumenthal, Murphy, and Courtney. They know a lot about the National Writing Project and are huge fans. With their support, we are hopeful to have an opportunity to continue competing for funds that can be used to advance literacy instruction through Supporting Effective Educator Development grants.

And after 4 hours of meetings this morning, I get to take a 5 hour train ride home (back to the office this guy goes!).




Thursday, March 17, 2016

Huge Buildings. Homeless People. Expensive Hotels. Cherry Blossoms. Pretzel Venders. Tourists. Middle School Kids. Yup. DC.

I had to surpass the political circuit last year, because of Henry the Hernia. This year, I'm back, and today I meet with 24 year old interns representing the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

We, in Connecticut, are fortunate. We have tremendous support for the work of the National Writing Project from the federal government. We simply need to work harder with the State of Connecticut, itself.

Long day. Office to Office to Office to Office. We'll get through this.

In the meantime I'm enjoying the reunion and the fact that today is a super short post. I have too much work to do. I need to get elected as president.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Experience + Reflection = Wisdom. The Trick Is To Have Time For Reflection. And Today I Have Amtrak for Five Hours

I've lived with John Dewey at my core since I was a graduate student at the University of Louisville. Experience, I learned from reading him, is the best experience. There's no better teacher than experience and (all of us in the real world know) that the school experience is sort of a fake experience. A lot of the work we do there is not real (or relevant) to what it takes to be successful and to achieve.

Yes, you learn to play the game (and I'm still learning to do that), but the bigger learning is when you find a thirst and a drive for wanting to know. This comes when you have questions that you find yourself pursuing up and beyond the call of duty. I'm fortunate that I have set this as a mission. Siddhartha leaves his home and then moves to new worlds for enlightenment. Bryan moved from home to find the same, but he's only found himself face to face with more walls, additional questions, and several obstacles.

But, the focus remains on experience.

Today, I have a 5 hour Amtrak trip to DC (and hope that our journey is not inhabited by the fact that DC has shut down its Metro tomorrow). I look forward to this trip because I'm able to sit in one location for 5 hours with my laptop. That's huge. I get to do this on the return, too, this Friday. That's 10 hours of stationary writing time. If only I could find this time every day.

A year ago, when I was heading out to this trip I had to cancel. Henry. It was all Henry. This year I get to return, however, and meet with legislatures and senators. It's a heavy couple of days, but very rewarding and, well, educational. The experience proves worthwhile every time I go.

And with that, I'm gone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Insert Rocky Music Here: This Has Become My Tuesday Theme Song in 2016. I Just Wish I Was in Better Shape for the Fight

First, I am thankful that Chitunga is home during the day, because I leave early in the a.m. and don't return until after class at 8. It is Faculty Salary Committee, followed by Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation meetings, followed by office hours, followed by Developmental Reading in Secondary Schools.

I spend my weekends and Monday getting everything ready for this day and this week, too, I have to be prepared for Washington, DC, tomorrow.

If only I could where sweats to these events.

Seriously, I have to have every second of my Tuesday charted, mapped, organized and aligned, so I can greet the friendly graduate students who work for our department and give them tasks for the day, "While I'm away can you do this, and copy that, and file this, and have this prepared, and maker sure that this."

I never thought I'd become someone who had to be so "bossy" but on Tuesdays it is my only way to survive.

And on Monday night? I try to cook everything I can so there's food in the house when I return, so I can come home and immediately begin preparing for the Wednesday morning class (which I have to partially miss because I need to catch the Amtrak).

I shake my head. There's got to be a better way, but I don't think there is. There's only this and I'm doing my best to meet the challenge.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Highlight from Yesterday: Kaitlin's Sheppard Pie and Pam's Corned Beef. Luck of the Irish for this Idio

Sunday began great. I woke up at the normal time, realized it was an hour later than the normal time (damn Daylights Savings), then immediately got to work. I knew at 1 pm I needed to take a break for an Irish feast in Monroe. I ordered Sheppard's Pie and it was delivered by Kaitlin. I've never made it myself, but it was a favorite for me to have at the Rover in Louisville. Totally Irish and I get it...the ingredients that is.

I've not had corned beef (and if I have, I don't remember it). As I asked Pam, "How did they make the beef taste like pork?" There was a reason (it's the worst part of the cow or something), but I don't recall. I just enjoyed it.

Then, it was time to return back to work, but I was easily distracted at a DSW run to get Tunga new sneakers and then a stop at Walmart to get travel materials for his Italy trip. I know the excursion was a total testimony of procrastination, but I paid for it later, staying up much to late to finish goals (cough cough, I tried to finish them, but failed). It is a sad state of affairs when I get to the final week of my vacation and realize that the only break I took was a 3 hour Irish feast in Monroe (which was fantastic) - the rest of the time was spent working....perhaps even longer days and harder than usual.
A man at Syracuse once told me, "Academia is a life choice. Rarely does one get breaks."

I'm ready for a break, but that is not on the horizon for a while. And when I get a break, I'm teaching myself to make Sheppard's pie. Just looking at the photograph makes my mouth water.

And Garfield, Ugh! I know it's Monday.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

I'm Losing an Hour Of Sleep, And This Seems About Right As My Spring "Break" Comes to an End

This spring break was an absolute lie.

It began last week, when I went on a marathon grading spree that didn't end until Monday afternoon. I then followed the week with a series of meetings, multiple sessions where I led professional development in local schools, more meetings, a lot of writing, and preparation for the WOL #BeFree conference in NYC and getting things aligned for Washington, DC (which is this week).

In other words, I didn't quite sleep.

Ah, but I did. Staying at the Benjamin on Friday night (thank you Syracuse University for offering me this great room before the conference) offered me the best sleep that I've had in a long, long time.

Seriously, I have had 16 hours days since Fairfield was officially off without students. I am pretty fried, but feel somewhat thankful that I didn't have to balance all the work with organizing my classes, too.

Yesterday in NYC was phenomenal and I couldn't ask for a more wonderful group of literacy leaders or youth to work with.

But that bed, though. I need one of these (with those pillows). I slept like a baby and I'm hoping to recreate some of that this week. When I am rested, I'm able to give so much more when I'm awake.

Spring forward, everyone. This looks to be a sweatpants and marathon reading/writing kind of Sunday.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

#BeFree, Writing Our Lives in NYC. 8 Years Later and I'm Bringing my CT and KY Life to the Apple

This is a photograph from8 years ago during the first Writing Our Lives conference. Today, we begin anew in NYC. From Louisville, to Syracuse, to Connecticut, to the Apple. I am   excited to be a part of this journey. Countdown to performance in 3...2...1.

Writing Our Lives To #BeFree
(written for Leadership and Public Service High School)

We are the writers of our lives, 
destined to be free,
scribbling our hopes and dreams 
in the vibrant landscape of NYC, 
“We can do this, yes, 
the combo of you & me,
with leadership & alphabet letters, 
as simple as A B C, 
and speech bubbles, 
“Oh, Say Can You See,”
how quickly we become a story, 
and are able to bring glory 
to the nerd, 
a nincompoop 
(whose out to prove the narcissist wrong).
We, the chapter books, 
who grow intellectually strong 
through poetry, writing all that is wrong 
while righting, as neophytes,
to bring our personal light to others…” 

ouch, hmmmm, yum, ahhhh,                     How about we just look at ya’ll?
whoosh, swish, wishing to be free.
Writing our lives in celestial serenity!

We are the word warriors 
riding the Metro with books & morning coffee, 
while speeding along the cartography of culture, 
and bringing greater harmony, an epiphany,
to the finger-tapping lives we know upon the keyboard piano, 
joining hands to roast the rats, 
the stubborn brats, so
we can find beauty in the waltz of cyberspace 
and power in lightening bolts to spark possibility from disgrace, 
while removing dampness and the mundane,
Not following me? Let me explain…
We write to make the the body electric,
& we create to make the earth more sane.

Our Lives. Writing. We #BeFree. Are. .
Old friends laughing, 
letting words go, here we are dancing 
in memories  
(like the pitter-pat tap-tap of rain) 
sharing curiosity & wisdom, 
(like Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin, jazz in our brain)
with the protest songs we create & throw out of the window,
to speak our ideas externally, to join the ebb & flow 
(oh, Dr. Seuss, the places we go)
when riding the lapping waves,
embracing justice while we can 
for ancestors who lie their graves.

Writing Our Lives, We Be Free, not dumb, in freedom.
ba, dum, ba, dum, dum, banging the linguistic drum.
saying nope to the hate of those who grope,
& taking pride with walking an intellectual tightrope 
(with Ubuntu, I hope)
and the historical beans and cultural rice, 
taking more risks & paying the price
while balancing just how nice it is to
cross the salty water of oceans.

We are not inhibition.
We are the exhibition
We are the sun that brings power to everything we face.
We got this, people. We are the human race 
growing stronger in this nest while spreading our wings, 
working arm and arm together 
in order to change things 
with liberation, concentration, and initiation 
that we are a declaration to #BeFree.
Yes, this poem sings.

We are the fresh air, you see, 
the mad-hatters, the ice-cream, the cantaloupe, 
and  the intergalactic chatter striving to cope in a kaleidoscope 
of honey, Reese’s Peanut Butter ups, and Earl Gray tea. 
Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do.
Yo. We must undo the idiotic shackles 
& be ready to step to the Mic,
tiptoeing with imagination through the roses, 
& showing ‘em what our lives ‘be’ like,
stopping to smell the two lips
that bring voice to the wireless baton,
releasing negativity from proverbial caves, 
and so on 
and so on 
and so on.

We must teach one another that language is our power,
& bring our souls what it craves without ever going sour,
& light the oral fuse with our magical wand to empower
a transmission, an amplification, an exhibition, 
an implication & a declaration
that our truth is being written for the ignorant to read.… 
Today, we release lyrical birds with what we speak, think, and bleed,
into a cacophony, a symphony and a harmony to #BeFree
both You & Me, who have dedicated Writing Our Lives 

together.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A New Injury for 2016, While Trying To Be a Good Dog Owner While BBQing Outside. Damn Leash.

In the mornings, when Glamis and I walk, we meet all the neighborhood dogs and it becomes routine with who is friendly and who we avoid. Because of the wonderful weather, I decided I would take Glamis for a second walk in the afternoon, and when we returned, I chose to BBQ meat from the freezer (thawed of course), while taking advantage of the wonderful spring-like day. I chose to have Glamis with me; after all, she loves this warmth as much as I do.

She was on her leash and I was the Grill Master.

That's when Jackson and his owner, Holly, walked by and wanted to play. Joyful with the air, I said, "Come on, Jackson. Glamis can play."

And the two played. And they chased each other. And they had a great time.

And Bryan flew through the air when Glamis went after Jackson at 100 mph, still on the leash, around my right leg, and outwards again. It was like a lasso that grabbed this bovine and tackled him to the arena in record time. I cleaned it up before it created a bruise that makes it look like I've tattooed my shin.

My bad. That's what happens when leashed dogs are allowed to be in a ballet of play that turns into the Super Bowl. I learned my lesson.

TGIF. A school, a meeting, and then Metro North to NYC for the #BeFree Writing Our Lives event at Leadership and Public Service High School in Manhattan on Saturday. Uniting CT and Syracuse voices, finally and at last.

And probably bringing peroxide.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Double Edged Curse of a Beautiful Day In The Realm of an Academic Career...But the Sun

Yesterday, when in my office making arrangements for DC next week - harnessing politicians to find availability on a random Thursday - I learned Washington hit 80 degrees. I was told, "The trees are so confused. They wanted to bloom in an odd warmup last October, but then winter came and it froze the process, and now it's summer weather."

I wanted to know if the Cherry Blossoms would be in bloom, and they said, "Well, the pollen is out."

Um, it's still March and I'm convinced we have to have another major snow storm before this year ends. Still, I will try to be optimistic.

As I sat in meeting after meeting, and took moments here and there to write, I kept seeing the blue skies and sunshine and I wanted to run. I couldn't wait to get home, and I was lucky that I still find time to make one possible. Everyone was out. Dogs were frolicking, kids were playing, people were on bikes, and everyone was out moving about. Those with rakes and shovels, doing yard work, may have jumped the gun a bit, but they were in full force, too.

It is so much easier to be a nerd when it is raining and cold. It is much harder when their is an outside world to enjoy. We all want to lose the winter slump (even though it was a minor experience this year). Yes, March came in like a lamb and now it is like a kitten sunning itself in the beams of June. This will pass, but while we have it, I will take full advantage of the opportunity.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Then There Are Days When The News Stops You In Your Place and Reflection is a Necessity

The video (posted below) was shot during a graduate project in a course called Describing the Imagination, taught (2005) by Michael Armstrong at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont. Michael was the gentlest soul I've ever learned from and his approach to teaching is one I have tried to replicate ever since (and its been somewhat of a challenge for this edgy, manic man). Before our class arrived to the beautiful Bread Loaf campus in Middlebury, each of us was assigned to bring a sample of student work. Aligned with course readings, we 'described the imagination' we witnessed from the work of students as part of the course.

At the time, I was collecting data for the State of Kentucky to be used on analytical writing, a new emphasis for the portfolio writing process. As a Humana Scholar, I utilized my course time to think about how teacher-leaders could advanced goals in the Commonwealth while adhering to the national recognized accountability for student writing. I brought a video that was created by a graduating senior named Cody as my student model. He created a DVD yearbook as his culminating project. In Michael's class I couldn't show all the movies that Cody compiled on the DVD, but I remember bringing it to Vermont in total awe of what he accomplished when left to his own device. At the time, too, I was dabbling in the first generation of IMovie, and inspired by my student, I chose to do a project that "described the imagination" of Michael Armstrong's class.

Michael asked us to offer context for our work, and then we were asked to remain silent as the group described what they saw in the student work (the approach resonated immensely with the Coalition of Essential Schools and my training as a Critical Friends Coach). I adored every second of Michael Armstrong's classroom and continue to draw on his inspiration during my most stressful times.

Learning yesterday that Michael Armstrong  is no longer with us created a firestorm in my heart. He truly was a good man. He was a phenomenal educator. The news came while I was at a meeting and I knew when I got home I would immediately ocate the video project I submitted during his course. I had to dig out my old camcorder and mini-dv's, find my old, old Apple MacBook that is the only machine that has the right outlets (inlets) for that particular camcorder, then cross my fingers in prayer that I could find the actual mini-dv that the actual footage was on. I went through several bags and when I was about to give up, I found the one I was looking for. Then, it took a lot of finagling to get the old computer to run again (its battery died long, long ago and it is s l o w).

But I persevered. Why? A testimony to Michael Armstrong. It's not news that 2016 for me has been a compilation of tragic deaths, suicides, illnesses, and grant rejections. Turmoil on campus, too, caused by embarrassing off-campus parties has created rifts with community relations, too. I've been on edge because of much, and I've been needing something to recenter me...to reposition my anger towards something positive.
For every minute spent angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.
Thinking about Michael Armstrong has always helped me to recenter. His influence and inspiration were remarkable; the community he built amongst professionals was truly outstanding. I felt tremendous pride when Brendan McGrath and I put our video together, and a greater pride when we presented Michael Armstrong with a hand-carved walking stick to thank him for his influence on our teaching. He had Parkinson's, and movement for him was sometimes difficult.

At the time I was in Michael Armstrong's embrace I was also able to reconnect with my mentor, poet Ruth Stone, who lived near Rochester, Vermont - where I had a house for the summer. Talking with Ruth by night and Michael by day reminded me of the importance of language and workshopping ideas with colleagues. In short, my summer in Vermont helped me to unleash a philosophy to always act in the best interest of student creativity and to fight the institutional forces that push imagination out of school.

Eleven years later and I took an evening off from the chaos of the world to hunt for the video and to find a way to make it available in memoriam. It is funny to think that the Internet was in its infant phase and students did their technical work on a single computer in my room. It was clunky, but it is what we had. We pushed forward, however, using our imagination.

Because of Michael Armstrong, several friendships were fostered and I have loved staying connected with Bread Loaf faculty and alumni to hear updates about how he was doing. The video highlights the creative ways we used art, performance, and reflection to establish knowledge amongst one another. It, as a piece of student work itself, needs no other context than this post.

The rest can be described by those who view it - a testimony to the brilliance of a miraculous man.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Discovering My Pressure Points When Working Between Wealth and Poverty. A Tale of Two Worlds

It has been an interesting journey trying to position who I am in the world of education. I've always promoted the achievement and success of urban schools, students and teachers, beyond the deficit construction labeled upon them by institutions with linguistic and economic capital that often exist on campuses and suburbs.

I experienced greatness with my own public school education and benefited even more from teaching in an urban school with a mission for academic achievement and diversity. From working with a wide-arrange of student learners and collaborating with tremendous educators from multiple content areas, I gained knowledge on what works and benefits learning for heterogeneous groups of youth. It wasn't until I did a doctorate that I learned that such work was placed on a petri-dish for academics and researchers (of whom I am now) to study. One world was a lived experience. The other world was one of probing, positioning, referencing, and competing.

By day, I live in urban schools while working with K-12 youth to become better writers in a wide variety of genres: informative, argumentative, and narrative. I operate among public school teachers and hear their frustrations about a lack of resources, the additional expectations place on them, the challenging out-of-school lives their students live, and the ever-changing professional development they receive. By night, I teach courses that try to provide context for the K-12 world that pre-service teachers will inherit and in-practice teachers already know. The university world offers flexibility, time, freedom, and resources with libraries, grants, and budgets. The K-12 world was far from that.

Balancing a dialogue between both worlds is extremely challenging. I've referred to Connecticut as the land of zip-code apartheid and it is true that two worlds exist: one with opportunities and and the other with obstacles and a lack of resources. I suppose my work is 'therapist trying to help the dysfunctions that result from the disparity of those who have and those who do not'. Now that I'm on the other side (drunk the Kool-Aid, as some might say) I'm having a difficult time curbing my impatience. 

One location has lunches provided to discuss the issues urban educators face and the other location has urban educators trying to find ways to feed kids who are hungry. I grow frustrated that most of the power lies beyond the communities that need to be empowered most. This causes me to scratch my head asking, "Where does an individual have the greatest impact? What is the best life to live?"

The verdict is out for answers to those questions. But each day I wake up with both of them on my mind.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Well, It's March Madness and the Lack of Syracuse and Louisville (Definitely Louisville) Has Me In a Funk

One of the items that typically has me motivated to get through the mid-semester blues is the ongoing pace of watching tournament play with the Cards and Orange, but it is not happening this year - or at least I don't think it is happening for Syracuse (maybe the NIT...we shall see).

Now I am going to have to figure out another way to multitask and to become semi-distracted as I chug along towards May and the second half of the semester pace.

On Saturday and Sunday, I watched several games (including the Stags Final Four finish in the MAAC tournament), but the departure for my teams came too soon. I am short circuiting a bit, as this will be a different approach towards greeting April's arrival. The grading and the course planning will go as usual, but the distractions will be fewer and this has me twitching a bit upon my couch. I just might need to find a different vice to get through spring.

Ah, but it's Monday. There's work to be done (as there was all weekend with the pleasure of looking up to keep up with play and media time outs).

Oh, I will continue to watch (Kentucky better have a run). But this year will not be the same.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Papi Butch. Each and Every Year, Your Dedication and Devotion to the Crandall Crew is More Appreciated

Ah, the father-unit is another year wiser, grayer, and more deserving of a cold beer. This year, he's deserving of a few more because he's been the sole provider for Mimi Sue as she heals from her shoulder surgery (in which she admits, "Your father has been a Saint this last month). For my sisters and me, this is much more enjoyable to hear than the typical, "Your $##@$ father and his #$@#$. I swear, I am so sick of his $##@$ and if I could %#@ I would." It's why I bought her a Nerf gun for Christmas. I said, "Just shoot him already, if it's that bad."

Oh, but on this day I am hearing the advice he gave Peter Boy and me throughout our childhood. I am hearing my father sing, "We are the Sherburne girls. We wear our hair in curls," and the screams at Casey, "Your mouth runs like a whippoorwill's ass." I am laughing at the time he took Abu and Lossine fishing for the first time and the days when he'd get kicked off the Little League fields for arguing with the umps. I am channeling the lawn mowing, the snow blowing, the taking out the garbage, and the "Bryan, Can you give me a hand with this?" where I'd stand for hours holding a screw wondering what it was I was actually helping him with.

There's the Clam Bar and the days when he used to take us to the Bowling Alley with him on Thursday nights. There's driving lessons and his greeting of a Budweiser over the garbage cans as soon as I got home. There's digging for night crawlers and sitting around his fire pit out back. There's underwater 'hold your breath' lap challenges, green beans from his garden served in hot buttermilk, and the constant offer of venison steaks or jerky. There's the wearing of his sweats whenever I run on my visits and the accidents of taking his favorite hats, ear warmers, and gloves. Of course there's the, "What are you going to forget this time?"

I remember March Madness in Kentucky when we were wearing our Orange gear (not welcome) and the sharing of responsibilities when helping my grandparents at Loch Lebanon. There's the field band shows, the color guard shows, and the years of learning his mischief as a child. There's Dusty, Tizzy, and Smoker (and I always loved the stories about Ginger and am so appreciative for all you did for Baby, too).

When I was running yesterday, I was thinking of my pops and also remembering my Grandpa Ken. I think it's because the sudden turn-around in my own house, but I've suddenly come to the revelation of how important a father really is. I mean, it's really important. I now realize that 99.9% of the fatherly advice doesn't really make sense until you've set out to guide another human being yourself. It is then that everything comes full circle and it all begins to make sense.

I am so appreciative of everything my dad has done for me, and I wouldn't be the man I am today without him. Everything in my world is because of his investment in me, and I am thankful.

I am a Son of a Butch, and nothing could make me prouder.

I love you, Dad. I hope your day is spectacular. Take yourself to Chubby's and raise a Labatt's Blue to the Great Whatever in celebration of all you've created: three kids, a foundation on Amalfi Drive, and all the love that we've shared with one another for over 40 years.

And with that, let the theme to MASH bring you a day of your best memories.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Meet George Jetson! By Golly, Astro. Go Get LeRoy and Judy. Your Boss is on the Line. Well, Family, That Is.

One of my Friday rituals I've grown to love is coming home, opening a beer, cleaning the house, putting away the laundry, and settling in my Crandall chair to call the parental units, then my sisters (who are usually not available), only to have each FaceTime me back throughout the night.

We always laugh that we never thought we'd see the day when the Jetson's reality was our own, but on Friday nights we get face-to-face time to catch up on our weeks. I remarked yesterday that the IPad may be the single most greatest invention of our time. I suppose the next step will be community FaceTime as if we are all in the same room (and I'd also love a dog walker...that would be cool, too, on the mornings when I don't have time to get on the streets with Glamis).

When I think about all the chaotic shenanigans of this recent year (and how much humans suck), I find hope in thinking about the inventors who somehow get beyond the politics to imagine a better world and to create tools that make our lives a little more interesting.

Teleportation? I'm not sure if that it necessary, but it might be one day. Cloning? They can do that and it is scary. I do think, though, that I'm ready for a flying saucer so I can avoid I-95 traffic.

Yeah, that would be awesome.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Congratulations, Hill Central!!! On Behalf of @CwpFairfield I Am Sending You the Greatest Cheers @donnadelbasso



2016 has provided two months of ugh, eek, oh no, yikes, and oof. January and February were not the friendliest months, but yesterday, March announced,

Woo Hoo! Celebrate! Ya Hoo! Phenomenal. Woot Woot! Hooray!

I learned from faculty and administrators at Hill Central they are officially beyond the State's Turn-Around School status; they have successfully moved students beyond the achievement goals they set forth many years ago.

I've written about the school's magic here, the beginning of digital acoustics here, jazzing it up here, workshops here, wings-spans here, poetry slams here, 1st graders here, digital learning day here, and final arggghuments here, which led to a radio show and the publication Taking risks with literacy acoustics. Phew!

Their success began with a vision, however, of a leadership team who chose to invest in the teachers at Hill Central. Investment in teacher leadership around literacy leadership transfers to effective practices for student achievement. The literacy coaches helped to create an infrastructure that utilized professional development conducted by groups like CWP-Fairfield. Effective practices were carried forth into classrooms on a daily basis with vertical teaming and interdisciplinary conversations throughout the year.

The students, teachers, and administrators and Hill Central should be very proud
. I can't wait to visit again to give high fives and hugs. I said from the beginning, the most important part of a school activity system is community and Hill Central, as a solidified community, has much to be proud of. They have accomplished the tremendous task (and so much more than a single release from a State label). The countless hours, sleepless nights, and intense reflections are all reasons that this news deserves tremendous celebration.

YES! WOW! AWESOME!

Lillian Fontan....Represent! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sometimes I Think I Get It, But I Don't Get It. I Go Along With It, But I Scratch My Head Thinking, "What? Really?"

I left the K-12 classrooms looking for answers. The changes arrived from administrators that no longer would allow me to support what was best for students, I tried to fight it. I was powerless, however, and I thought the answers I sought could be found in continuing my education.

That has always been the answer. Like Abu and Lossine taught me, "There are three things one needs to be successful in the United States: education, education, and education."

I'm in the land of education now and schooled with experts in the field,  journals of high prestige, and libraries of books to help me do what is best for kids.

And still, the obstacles are extreme.

One of the things I have come to realize since relocating to Connecticut is that the Nobody I always knew I was is TRULY a Nobody in the larger game of politics, economics, and traditions. By this, I mean, there's an uber class that fights each other out: us vs. them, and it has nothing to do with the majority of us. This is the class of people who think about poverty and solutions from boards, consultancies, and philanthropy. 50% of this class of people feel one way and the other 50% feel another. They compete (usually ivy leagued elite on both sides of the spectrum). They have funds to give, but they are beyond detached to who will receive them. This is what the 2016 election is all about.

The everyday people are sick of this class of elites who are battling it out for power. In truth,  neither side really cares about the vast majority of everyday people - working people, struggling people, laboring people, dedicated people (to them, it's a parlor game to discuss such people over cocktails and board meetings). They may say they care, but they don't. They live in their version of utopia (usually away from the communities they discuss) and intellectually feel they have superior solutions, yet they are battling with intellect, wits and hubris for their own gains. I see it more clearly now and the joke, "What's the difference between a Republican and a Democrat? The way it's spelled" makes even more sense.

Meanwhile, the poor are the poor. The working class is the working class. The struggle is real.

I got a call from a social worker yesterday telling me about a young man who takes care of a 9 year old brother and a 1 year older sister. He's an honors kid and lettering in three sports. He's applied to Universities all over the country, but hasn't heard a thing. A few weeks ago, the three kids found themselves totally homeless. The kid is doing what is right and trying to get an education. The social worker wondered what next steps for the kid should be. He's one who has made it through urban struggle and who still has hope that there's a pathway away from his history. He's an achiever, but will their be a pathway for him to succeed in a nation that says one thing, but acts in another.

One would think there would be a clear trajectory for such a young person, but there's not.

Inequities are real and, sadly, I don't really think politicians talking as they do have a clue about how hard a majority of people in our nation are living. When I think about the stories of the young people I know, I can't help but make the connection that they are Americans, born in America, without any of the comforts of the American Dream (even when their families have been dreaming hard for a very long time). This is happening all over. As billions upon billions are spent on #OscarsSoWhite, NCAA tournaments, fashion shows, Super Bowls, and elections, I continue to think about K-12 schools. We talk about equity, but do we ever address the inequities that really exist?

The anvil drops on the coyote's head.

How any one individual thinks they are deserving of a salary for one year - one that could run a school district for 1,000s upon 1,000s of kids - is beyond me. The 1 life (um, really?) is worth more than the lives of all those children? I don't think so.

I understand the fervor for Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right (two sides of the spectrum). The status quo which has been in office for the last 16-20 years needs to be challenged because the moves they made have been totally hypocritical for what they claim to care about. We saw glimmers of this when the Tea Party began challenging the norm (before they were usurped by the conservative right). I learned in a history class, once, that the Reactionaries and the Revolutionaries eventually become the same thing before it all falls apart and a new order is recreated. I am wondering if we are living in such a time.

I still believe in Democracy and the voice of the people; even if I disagree with the popular voices, I know that democracy means a decision of the majority. Majorities are speaking now loud and clear  and it is not the angle I would take - but I am hearing them.

The teacher in me is simply concerned with one thing: our kids. Not just kids heading to soccer practices, SAT prep, after school tutoring sessions, and dance classes, but the kids who have no access to such support and privilege. The kids whose parents are not able to put a roof over their heads. The kids who want to learn in school, but attend institutions where teacher turnover is high, state support is authoritative and militant, and funding is dismal (I welcome anyone to come with me for a tour).

A day like I had yesterday makes me sleepless, and I grow more disgusted with myself because I'm now in an ivory tower...where kids pay two times what I made as a starting teacher, for one year of tuition (so they can have parties on weekends to get drunk while pretending they are poor). Detached? Yes. Their fault? No. This is political. And it's disgusting.

The Gods must be (are) crazy. I've lived long enough, to realize, they just are getting crazier (crazy as they've always have been).

For now, though, I continue to find hope in the optimism of youth. They have potential. The adult world has simply lost their minds. Cry The Beloved Country.