Friday, September 30, 2016

Opening Pandora's Box...Well, Visiting a Cartoon To Make a Point About Freire's Pedagogy of Hope in a Philosophy Course

I will begin with a  video and end with a video.

Yesterday, in preparation of a new course I'm teaching, I reread some of the Freire required for the course, revisited the phenomenal journalism of Kristina Rizga in her book Mission High, and thought about the best ways I might teach the administrative progressivism and the student-centered progressivism that began at the onset of public schooling, with the ongoing battle between bureaucrats trying to cash-in on homogeneity, standardization, the mythology of IQs and tracking, and the experiences most of my students had. I'm a fan of Freire, but I'm not a Fan-fan (Fan with a capital F to allude to Paul Gee); even so, his chapter writing on the Pedagogy of Hope hit home with the lesson I prepared.

We began the class listing the three most monumental experiences in our lives as students (moments, people, ideas, or experiences that changed us). We then wrote for five minutes on one of these and shared. We put that aside until the end of the class: after we discussed Freire, made connections with students and teachers in Mission High and found ample textual evidence that the happiness and success of teachers in that school provided evidence of what Freire meant by Pedagogy of Hope.

I also showed clips from My Fair Lady, making the case of 'Enry Iggins power over linguistic traditions, but how having access to proper literacy opens doorways (here, making the case about class given Eliza and Alfred Doolittle's background in the class of "uneducated" England).

We also watched the above video (cartoon) about Pandora's box, deconstructing the masculinity and "Whiteness" of the story, the blaming of evil on a woman (read Adam and Eve), and the notion of what "evil" is in the world --- it is all the strife of life, and all human beings experience it. Ah, but we have hope. I argued, though, that getting an education (which I define as hope) was not accessible to all throughout history. #$#@$! It is still not accessible to all and it's 2016. I think the case became more clear about the traditions that the texts acknowledge - that is, they who govern and control tend to recreate the standards, values, belief systems, and cultures that empowered them to the place of privilege they have. To make the case, I asked each student to name the one book they hated reading in high school (that was a simple task). Not surprisingly, the books were all canonized and represented a viewpoint and time period that was far from relatable to the lived experiences of students. Ah, but my students tend to come from backgrounds where education has always been valued. They all named British texts - how post-colonial can any of us ever get?

I'm not critical of this, and that brings me back to Eliza, 'enry and Alfred. It is the access to the language and traditions of power that I feel are important to offer to all students. No tracking. No labeling. Simple unraveling of what is the language of power and how do individuals find themselves in it.

Of course we watched Star-Bellied Sneetches, too (well, a clip of it) and I discussed TFA and charter schools and David Coleman and the ways that some have found a way to profit in education (especially on the poor). It's crazy.

My solution. A star-bellied Sneetch has much to learn from one without a star and vice versa. Keeping cultures apart from each other as "other" rather than as human is the problem. We read a piece, too, from Dr. Theresa Perry who wrote that many emancipated slaves earned a degree in higher education not for jobs (because they weren't available), but to finally feel human. To be illiterate was to be enslaved by those in power.

Then I came home and Lossine sent me a video, an act with no knowledge of the mini-lessons I had with my undergraduates. It is the cherry on the cupcake. I fault Universities, too, and all the educated elite for creating this mess.

We can do better. All I have is the hope that we can.

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 southern 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...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Transitons. Transitions. Transitions. They're Never Easy (And I'm Not Talking About the End of Big Brother 2016)

Yesterday I wrote about my sweating and I have to admit that it returned briefly yesterday while Abu was at his 3-hour interview. He suited himself up (a great buy from the summer - I got it for him for like $30 bucks) and then I suited myself up, simply because I was asked to give a guest lecture (cough cough, I don't lecture...guess conversation?). When he departed at 9:45, I couldn't focus on my intellectual work so I began to clean (I do that when I'm nervous). I was good on this cleaning frenzy until 12:30, when I realized he was about to return. I made myself some lunch and while eating it in my office, my anxiety began to rise.

How was it going? What if it was a horrible experience? What will the interviewers think of this kid? What if they don't see him as the amazing young man I do? What control do I have in any of it?

I realized I had none, but by then I started sweating. When he entered my office at 1:10 he asked, "Why are you sitting in her in your t-shirt and shorts?" I told him I had to undress and shut the door because I became overheated thinking about him. Actually, I think it was the Crandall special and chicken that did it too me...a bit too spicy.

Abu admitted he was super nervous and I'm forever thankful to a college of mine, P-Jay, who was in the interview and who Abu reported took him under his wing and calmed his nerves down. Then, in his words, "I kill-t it." Even so, it's a job interview and we all know how those just never know. You simply have to put it up to the Great Whatever to let be whatever will be.

We then went to co-guest in a political science class, and discussed our work with Ubuntu Academy. Afterwards, he wanted to nap, but decided that Corn Hole was more important. So we played. I won, 2 games to his 1.

Steak on the grill. Big Bang Theory. Football highlights. Impractical Jokers. and Big Brother....Of course, I also read and graded.

Gleams is thrilled when Abu is with her. She definitely claims him as her friend. It's funny.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Remember This Scene From Airplane? Well, That Would Be Me. Not Sure If It Is Health or Nerves

I had a flashback of this scene yesterday while I was at the gym. I ran around 4 miles, then did my usual circuit of weights. I'm not sure if it was something I ate, the stress of the semester, or my age, but I found myself sweating more than usual. I was drenched. I kept going, but it seriously felt like I was running during the most humid part of the day, twice as fast as I normally do. I was soaked.

I guess hyperhydrosis is real, and I suffer from it.

It is also embarrassing. Abu asked, "Is that really sweat from the gym? Are you really that soaked?"

Uh, yes, I feel good though. I just need to good down some.

I've always been this way. When I start sweating, I go at it excessively. I've read in some journals that it is a sign of being healthy, but in others that it is a sign for something more serious. I monitor it. I never know when I will have the excessively soaked days (or where it will pour out from)(I have a few locations on the back of my head that squirt like a focus, and then there was the day that I used one of my students to invited this beautiful poet to my classroom and she came - but that is a different story. I'm still embarrassed about that).

I could easily drench three outfits at the gym if I wanted to. I start and it doesn't stop. I feel great, of course, but it truly is embarrassing.

And with that, it's time for campus. Ciao.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On a Tuesday When The Brain is Already Fried, It Necessitates a Post of Steven Wright One-Liners To Carry Me On

I know I'm tired when I can't think of anything new to write about, despite the fact that I have much to write about. I think I'm at the place of the semester, where I can't think of any new material to ponder - it's there, I just can muster up the mental space to make it happen.

For today, Tuesday, I was thinking about comedy that has always captivated me which made me remember Steven Wright. His nuggets of wisdom provide all the thinking that I would try to accomplish should any of my brain cells decide to fire up again. They seem to be throwing in the towel way too early this semester.

  • It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.
  • I stayed up one night playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.
  • I went to a place to eat. It said, "Breakfast any time of the day." So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
  • I'm writing a book. I have the page numbers done; now I just need to fill in the rest.
  • When we were driving over the border back into the United States, they asked me if I had any firearms. I asked, "What do you need?"
  • Every morning I get up and make instant coffee. I drink it until I have enough energy to make real coffee.
  • I got a new dog. He's a paranoid retriever. He brings back everything because he's not sure what I threw him.
  • I've written several children't books...none on purpose.
  • I'm going to get a tattoo over my whole body of me, but only taller.
  • I almost broke both my arms trying to hold open a revolving door for a woman.
  • When I get real bored I like to drive to a busy downtown area and get a great parking spot. I sit in my car and count the number of people asking me if I'm about to leave.
  • We lived in a house that ran on static electricity. If we wanted to cook something we had to take off a sweater real quick. If we wanted to run a blender, we had to rub balloons on our head.
  • I was Caesarean born. Can't really tell, although whenever I leave the house I go through the window.
And with that, I'm off to teach...well, work, well, attend meetings...well, do what I got to do. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Paw on the Heart and Hoping For Something To Blossom in a Connecticut Transition. @AbuBility

This photo is from the summer when Abu was working online filling out an application - one of many as he transitions from a post-Brockport life.

Glamis blessed his heart as he typed in hopes of landing one of the man jobs he applied for.

That was two months ago, and today he returns to Connecticut via Greyhound; he should be in New Haven by 4:30 p.m. - an interview to follow on Wednesday.


I've always known transitions from high school to college are something, but the one from college to real world is a lot more difficult. The unknowing is intense.

Yet, knowing he is returning, I went through my online journals to rethink how far the two of us have come. I'm laughing to see the post I made when he wanted me to pick him up to try out for a traveling soccer team. It was July 8, 2009, although I spent the previous 5 months working with him at his high school in Syracuse.

Now I laugh to think of the family our Liberian-American lives have become (a sampling follows):

For the past 7 years, Abu and Lossine have been very much a part of what I write on a daily basis, and the links above are only some f the influences they've had on my life.

And now we will see what comes next. 

I know Glamis looks forward to having her buddy back in the house, and I'm excited to think that the young man who has been in my world since 2009 is possibly about to embark on a new journey close to my home. Here's to his safe travels. I'm looking forward to seeing him once again.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

An Out Of Town Guest Named "Scout." No, We're Not Literary At All, But We Are Exhausted From Puppy Play

My colleague, Emily, went to Michigan with her family and I volunteered to dog-sit her puppy. She acclimated to Mt. Pleasant rather quickly and she, Tunga, and Glamis are getting along marvelously. We've gone for walks, sprinted in the backyard, went for a car ride, and even went to a birthday party where they got puppy peanut-butter ice-cream (yes, they make that for dogs) in their own dish. My guess is that Emily's puppy may ask to sleep over again.

Scout, the dog, is named after the charger in To Kill A Mockingbird. This is humorous, as Glamis came with the name she has and is the castle in Scotland where Queen Elizabeth was born. Macbeth, Thane of Glamis.

It's always fun to walk around one dog who is always underfoot, but yesterday I had to trip over two dogs, both equally as needy as the other. They constantly want to know what I'm doing and if they can do it with me.

At moments, they seem to be at rest but within seconds they begin wrestling with one another again. Everything is a a puppy arena for chasing, prodding, pulling, and pushing. Of course, this arena travels to whatever room I am attending.

It's totally fun, too. Scout has the glittering light thing that my sister's dog, Cynde, has. If it shines on the wall it catches her attention and she wants to capture it. Glamis doesn't seem to see it at all, though.

I write this while they're both asleep, which I hope will be for a short while longer. They seems pretty stoked to have one another for company. Of course, today it is supposed to rain, so I'm hoping we can get all the play out early.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Philosophical Show and Tell: Shhh! Don't Tell Anyone, But I Was in Bed by 9 PM Last Night. #Fried

Typically, I like to have students present their worlds to me through various presentations and writing assignments that I spread throughout the semester (usually a couple kids a week present). This semester, I tried something new. In anticipation that I will assign PechKucha presentations, I want them to get used to the rule of 20 (just 20 images). Whether they do a live performance or a digital story variation, they will only be allowed 20 slides.

To kick off 'getting to know' you work this semester, I realized the pace wouldn't allow for individual presentations so I came up with a plan. In week two I said, "Bring in 20 objets that say, "Look Out World! This is Who I Am" and we created a walk-about museum where everyone could interact with everyone else's objects.

There was no formal invitation; rather, in small groups they talked about a few of their items, and then they wandered to connect with other people. Their task was to learn something new from everyone in the room - something they connected with and something that intrigued them to want to know more.

My point, of course, tied in with the readings on Jesuit Education and principals. I wanted to emphasize community and the the irreplaceable skill of networking. "The good student," I proclaimed, "learns no matter what fool is in front of them. They come in curious to learn as much as they can about the students in their class and the content being covered."

I think it went well, although m colleagues would probably say that the room looked cluttered like my office (which is true....temporarily, that is).

We are storied creatures and that was the point. From our experiences and memories of them come our philosophies and before we can set out to state what they are, we need to be focused on who we are --- especially with each other.

Good bye workweek. You about did me in.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Relying On Old-Skool Prompts, A Throw-Back to Junior English, But Fast Pace in A College Classroom

When I inherited a junior year English classroom, I also inherited an ethics unit from a veteran teacher and I followed it closely, recognizing that she was an expert and her curriculum would suffice, whatever it is I was teaching. In the junior year, she simply asked the kids, "How do you know what is good? How do you know what is bad?"

Then, Plato, Aristotle, Existentialists, and World Literature followed.

It worked.

I am teaching Philosophy of Education, and I began yesterday with the same two questions. Most of my students knew Allegory of the Cave, so I could dust upon that. The mathematics, though, was interesting. We calculated how much someone being paid $12 an hour would be paid, before taxes, 52 weeks a year (assuming 40 hours). The income would be around $26,000. We then calculated the cost of higher education, even at a Jesuit University that questions traditions and encourages us to be Men and Women for others. We compared this salary with the cost of higher education.

We read articles about the disparities in Connecticut, and also watched videos of achieving youth in poor communities, to counter the mythology they believe. I ended with showing a 9 minute documentary of refugee youth trying to achieve in the United States (with families who haven't been able to work because of war, poverty, and violence) and I returned to the question of what is good and what it bad.

Meandering through the ethics of education: privilege, access, opportunity, and content, I asked my students if any of the system is fair? How is it that a relocated refugee youth could be dropped to the United States as a senior and asked to compete with youth born on third base thinking they hit a triple?

Philosophy offers space for me to do this. We free wrote at the beginning of class and I wrote,
Good depends. Sleeping is good, one might say, but too much sleep is sort of bad. The overall act of sleeping is good, but waking up as an early bird to catch a worm is sometimes better than actually sleeping. I think this is similar to education. Education is good, but charging $ for it is sort of bad. How can learning be commodified? Is there a price tag for learning? 
As for being just, I want such a world to be fair, but there is always the scenario I think abut with my little sister. She had a conundrum when she went to sleep, because she had a lot of stuffed animals. She felt if she kissed one of them, to be fair, she needed to kiss all of them the same way, the same amount of times, all to be fair and equitable. The OCD was a bit much. 
As for learning....Learning is good, but it becomes bad when we think along competitive terms. Why do we create ranks in higher education and judge between community colleges and ivy league schools. Learning is learning; why should one institution be valued over another? As for me, I hated the obnoxious, know-it-all students I studied with, and there was nothing I despised more than being in the presence of someone who put on an air of superiority. For that reason, I hated learning, because I didn't want to learn in such a way that I felt superior. Those people, competitive, are obnoxious. 
And what about a skinned knee. So many parents hate to see their kid hurting or wounded or troubled or struggling. Yet, isn't it the difficult learning, the harm, the wounds, where the best knowledge is gained. Isn't bad learning actually good?
This was drafted in 5 minutes in my notebook as I asked my undergraduates to contemplate Jesuit education and social justice. We put a dollar sign to it, and everything changes - especially in Fairfield County. And I think, "Man, I talk this way for free all day long, but then it is given a dollar quantity because I teach."

So, strange.

And in the end, I return to the idea of what is good. Add an 'o' to God and that is what you get, "good." The individual decides this and it is up to him or her to decide. I feel the thinking life is a good life, but it might distract you from the economically better life. Such is the dilemma of a Jesuit education - what happens when we actually think about these things?


Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Accepted "Clowndall" As a Nickname a Few Years Ago @LBility @AbuBility Probably Because It's True

I think it was sometime when they were in high school that Abu and Lossine started calling me, "Forever 15." This nickname, however, transitioned to "Clowndall" over the years probably because they got to know me more than the majority of people in my life. I like to think the nickname came about after I shared with them that my friend Charlie and I wish to retire as clowns somewhere in Kansas so that we can run out of cornfields into highway traffic just so passer-bys can say, "Yo, did you just see that clown? I think I'm seeing things."

If ever you traveled through Kansas you'll understand why a clown breaking the highway monotony would be both thrilling and startling.

I don't think, however, my desire to be a clown in retirement is why they gave me the nickname. It evolved, more than likely, from 8 years of interacting closely in my life: through observation, experience, conversation, and action.

Yesterday, Lossine sent me a piece from one of my very favorite Twitter accounts: @VeryShortStory.
I spotted the clown tailing me. They'd found me. Soon the whole posse would be here, giving me an "intervention" to return to the clownhood.
I immediately started laughing and said, "This will be my post Thursday morning." Now, I recognize that there's been an onslaught of scary clowns trying to lure children into the woods across the country (it may be a publicity stunt for an upcoming film or psychopaths that should be arrested) and I want to write here that my comedy with becoming a clown in Kansas upon retirement is benign. I just think running randomly across a thruway would be hilarious, especially when one can go miles and miles without seeing another car, a house, or anything but corn. A clown would be a welcomed surprise.

And with that, I will leave with a few 4th grade jokes.
  • Why did the clown visit the doctor? Because he needed expertise to check on his funny bone.
  • What should you do if a posse of clowns attacks you? Go for the juggler!
  • Why don't most go into a career of clowning? Because those are big shoes to fill!
  • Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Ah, because they taste sort of funny
  • What is the pink good found between the toes of elephants? Slow clown that didn't move to get out of the way
Ba dum dum ch'. And with that, it's time to get philosophical for my afternoon class. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Writing About The Sundays on a Wednesday Before I Head Into Work For a Day of Meetings (and Writing)

Yesterday, Steve Di Costanzo of WPKN radio was pulling several albums off the shelf of their expansive library, explaining to me that he likes to feature an album cover every week on the station's Facebook page. He selected around 10 albums, but when he saw how excited I was to see The Sundays he simply said, "That's the winner for this week. It's over."

It was the first time I met the man and I told him, "You feature it on your Facebook page and I will write about it on my blog."

I first heard The Sundays on 120 Minutes, an MTV show that used to begin after midnight and featured alternative pop and rock. These were the days when MTV played music 24/7, after they went from flashing lights to video, and before they moved to reality t.v. and news coverage. They used to be all music and I learned in my teenage years that the best music was played late at night - probably just like a radio station when DJs get the late shifts, but can play what is really good music and not commercial.

I didn't have the vinyl, of course. I had a cassette - one that I played all throughout my senior year of high school and throughout my college years, including while I studied in London as a 19-year old. The Sundays, The JudyBats, Blues Traveler, Edie Brickel and the New Bohemians, Kraftwerk, Art of Noise, The Spin Doctors, Prince - these were my go to musicians and I still laugh that I used to pack all those tapes into backpacks where I went.

I still have the cassettes, too. They are in my garage in a box - I don't think there's a working cassette player in our house (but now I want to find one). How quickly we moved to CDs, then mP3s, and of course, the Internet. Tunga listens to music organized for him via free online programs. He types in the names of who he wants to hear and they organize the music for him. How quickly I aged out of the music scene (which I suppose happens to everyone - I laugh to know that I don't know anyone today and I didn't 10 years ago either). Soon I'll be wishing my own Lawrence Welk and Happy Days years back my way.

But for today, I play The Sundays. This will be the song in my head to keep me going!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Wonderful Opportunity with @WPKNradio @_IICONN @FairfieldU To Discuss a Phenomenal Collaboration: Ubuntu Matters

In June, when Carey Mack Weber of the Fairfield University Art Museum contacted me to inquire on whether or not CWP-Fairfield would once again host Ubuntu Academy I told her, "Wow. This is amazing. Every summer I look for a special way to promote the voices of youth and teachers in Connecticut, but until you called, I didn't know how I'd make this summer's work as memorable as year's past."

Memorable is an understatement.

Carey put me in touch with artist Rick Shaefer who invited me to his studio to have a preliminary showing of his opus in charcoal, Refugee Trilogy. I knew that the artwork spoke volumes and was more than delighted when replicas of the artwork were delivered to the Invitational Leadership Institute and Ubuntu Academy for the summer. I was able to used the pieces to create prompts to get the students and teachers writing. We were also able to record their writing and piece together soundbites of the work to play alongside the exhibit at the Thomas J. Walsh Gallery located in the Quick Center.

Yesterday, Jennifer Shaner Bangser invited me, Rick Shaefer, iiConn Director Claudia Connor, and Akbar Radjab Niyonkuru, a student from Bassick High School and participant in Ubuntu Academy, to her radio show on WPKN: The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. The radio show can be heard here,

and it highlights the unique collaboration with an artist who wanted to artistically bring attention to the refugee experience worldwide. We were able to talk about what happened behind the scenes and learn the way that Rick Schaefer's artwork made a tremendous impact on the youth and educators participating in CWP-Fairfield summer programs.

There is not much I can type here that will have the impact of actually listening to the show (so I recommend you go to it). 

I'm feeling fortunate to have had this opportunity present itself and as Akbar and I discussed on the way home from the recording, "We all have a responsibility to speak out."

And now to prepare for tonight's classes!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hoping Some of Their Super Power Sprinkles Upon Me To Get Through the Week of Daily Commitments

Tunga ran a 9/11 Memorial 5K yesterday and Milford with super heroes and patriotism. I, on the other hand, sat at home writing a book chapter and wishing more time on the clock. I want to channel some of that 14-hour a day energy he has in his 20s like I used to have in my own.

Not any more.

A teaching friend came over mid-day to talk about her career, wanting to bail the profession, and the worries she has for next steps in her life. The only advice I had was for her to read the magnet on my refrigerator: Leap and the Net Will Appear. It's not my motto, but there's been a few times when I've relied on it to get me through.

I did walk Glamis twice on Sunday so I guess that is good. Walking is my mental break from writing/editing which I wish I had more time for during the summer (when everyone else has time off).

Wow, it's Monday again. And reflecting on yesterday's post, I see I got what I wanted. The air finally switched to September crisp yesterday at around 6 p.m. Phew. It feels so good to take a deep breath and not want to choke from the moisture. Here's hoping it lasts.

Here's to the work week!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Transitions: Hunkering Down in the Good Ol' Office and Submitting to Fall Semester and Its Projects

The leaves falling in my driveway and backyard want to tell the story that summer is over, but the temperatures in the high 80s beg to differ. Walking the dog this morning caused my sweating and her panting, even though I'm ready for sweatshirts, tea, and chili (um, just not yet).

I did take a short hiatus to Louisville and caught somewhat of a break, and I'm hoping it was enough to fuel me for the lists that need to be accomplished: conferences, classes, writing projects, reports, advising, and planning ahead. I decided on Friday night that I was just going to give in and hide away in Canisius Hall to feel somewhat accomplished. I can say I chiseled, but I can't say anything is near the sculpture I intend it to be. I plan on returning tomorrow so I can get further on top of the game so I don't have this suffocating feeling that I have no control of anything. I think it is just the time of the year: closing out summer work and seeing the autumn light ahead.

I get angry with the air, though. With crisp temperatures (and even some rain) I don't feel so bad hibernating indoors. The blue skies and sun, though, make me feel like I should remake spring fever.

I often say that I became a good student because I grew up in Syracuse and gray skies with rain were the norm. In winter, we were blessed with big snows and unbearable temperatures.  A guy couldn't help but stay indoors to read and be on top of the game. Kentucky offered different challenges, though, with the lack of rain and mild winters. "How does anyone get anything done?" I used to ask friends who grew up there. "It's always so nice." Of course, the humidity in the summer kept people inside a lot more.

This summer, Connecticut has had pretty remarkable weather and, perhaps, I've been more distracted outside than tending to life inside. I'm thinking ahead to the early sunsets and the extra hours I get behind a laptop. Ah, but I'm also thinking about work in schools, waking up when they run, and then working late with graduate courses. Maybe that is why I already did a first round of Christmas shopping. I am ready for the lights and glitter of gift-giving and family. I must wait, though.

For the most part, the leaves are still hanging on in hopes that they might produce a little more oxygen for our world. The grass has other plans, as it has succumbed to the Dust Bowl, moles, and ants. I believe the humidity breaks today which will be a nice welcome: socks, sweatpants and long sleeve shirts through the pre-hibernal months. This will move me indoors to the gym where I'm more productive and less likely to distract myself from a physical routine.

I learned my lesson, though, about college football. I don't have 4 hours to commit to a game, no matter how much I want to dedicate to a team. Basketball (November, November, November) is a different story. I wonder if Louisville plays anywhere near the region. If so, I'll go, otherwise it's all on t.v.

And tonight, t.v. brings Big Brother. Casey cheated and read results online. I'm anxious, but not that obnoxious (at least this year, that is).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Seriously? Too Hot in the Dome for the Cards? Please. Have You Ever Been To Louisville? Come On.

The visitors showed up right after Louisville scored it's first touchdown at 8:04. Tunga ran to the bank, and I was ready for the game. Um, the Louisville kept scoring, so it was easier to watch from the kitchen where I couldn't see the game and I could gage the score from Tunga's shouts and hollers. At 10 pm when the guests left, I came out to the t.v. to see it wasn't as big of an ass-whooping as I anticipated. Of course, two hours went by and it was only halftime.

Um, kid...this football thing is a commitment. We're talking 4.5 hours of life for one game. My eyes can't stay open that long, let alone attentive.

I think what humored me the most was Louisville players being pulled off the field in the Carrier Dome with sportscasters announcing the unbearable heat of 80 degrees - too much for Louisville players (who were kicking butt). Um, Newhouse graduates, have you ever been to Louisville in the summer?  80 degree heat is nothing compared to what they're used to playing in. They can handle it. Maybe CNYorkers can't handle it, but Louisvillians can. That was odd commentary stating the "Cards can't handle the heat."

They're up by 20. They're doing fine. This is Koolaid for them.

Just bring on basketball. The Post Standard had a report today about Boeheim's hype of this year's team. Syracuse football hasn't been a contender in some time. I'd love to love Cuse football, but they're just not that strong (like they used to be). Perhaps they will build it again, but at 3 hours and still in the 3rd quarter, I'm like YAWN.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hmmm. The Negativity Surpasses the Positive. Reflections on School K-12 Experiences on the First Day of Class

The outline on the left are the negatives. The right outlines the positives. My students today graduated in 2014 and their entire experience in schools was under NCLB and the transition to Common Core. They've lived through the de-professionalisation of schooling and experienced apathetic, disconnected and passionless teachers.

Each had that one teacher, though, that lit a spark in their trajectory. That is why they are taking an education course. They want to replicate the experiences for others that they had, but wondered why it wasn't the norm in all their classes. They are taking philosophy of education to think about the profession a little more.

Some thought K-12 was too easy. Others thought it had too many demands. Most found college  more supportive of the kind of learning that works best: choice, flexibility, expertise, creativity, high standards, and freedom. Most qualities lacked in their earlier experiences. They hated when assessments had nothing to do with what they learned in a class. Kindness goes a long way, and being mean goes nowhere. They hated how bored they were, but some were able to articulate it was a lot of fun.

Real experience trumps those from a book. They learn from having time to make personal connections. They learn from storytelling and opportunities to explore. They prefer time to co-construct knowledge and not to take notes from lectures.

I always feel a little odd asking the kids to brainstorm about the learning experiences they've had, because I feel I tend to come into the equation upside and backwards. I mean, today I talked about the Brown School and they all had cocked heads trying to comprehend such a school (most of our students come from private and Catholic schools so Brown is definitely an alternative education). Very few have had experiences in diverse times I feel like I'm a trumpeter heralding reasons why their learning experience would be enriched with a more heterogeneous population at the University. I tell them, if it doesn't come to me, I will bring them to it.

And now I need to read all the texts chosen for the course and catch up.

Friday! Friday! Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Wonderful Night Celebrating the Art of Rick Shaefer with @cwpfairfield @fairfieldu. In the Gallery with a Genius, For Sure

Juma, Akbar, and Artist Rick Shaefer (Refugee Trilogy)
Refugee Trilogy, artwork by Rick Shaefer, premiered last night in the Walsh Gallery of the Quick Center at Fairfield University. It was a full house that allowed for robust conversation - Shaefer's work, tremendous to see, inspired much dialogue. The three largest pieces on display: Land Crossing, Water Crossing, and Border Crossing are an opus composed by a genius with an eye for detail, history,  storytelling, and commentary. Having  opportunity to work with Rick Shaefer over the last few months has been motivating and thought-provoking. Participating teachers in the Invitational Leadership Institute and students in Ubuntu Academy finally had  opportunity to meet the artist in person.

Earlier this summer, CWP-Fairfield was contacted for possible collaboration and the suggestion was made that teachers and young people might write and record stories and thoughts inspired by  Refugee Trilogy, the work of Rick Shaefer. Many who participated in the project have only been in the United States for a few months. With the teaching expertise of William King and Jessica Baldizon, students thought critically about Shaefer's drawings and how the drawings communicated . In summary, over 40 essays, poems, raps, and narratives were recorded. From the recordings, "snapshots" were taken to coincide with pieces in the exhibit, including several sketches of Refugee Trilogy in all of its phases.

Carey Mack Weber of the Fairfield University Art Museum acted as liaison for the project and printed up miniature versions of the trilogy so teachers and students could think about the work over the summer. Through conversations, critical thinking activities, and workshopping, the teachers and youth finished their work before heading back to school.

Soundbites from the collaboration (and images from the exhibit) can be found online at:
I recommend visiting this website to hear the student and teacher voices, but I HIGHLY recommend touring the exhibit LIVE where the original pieces can be seen.

The young people who participated are from Bangladesh, Equador, Haiti, Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, Guatemala, and other locations. Jessica Baldizon is a teacher at Cesar Batalla and William King works with immigrant and refugee youth at Bassick High School. The teachers who participated work at schools all over the region: urban, rural, suburban, private and public.

 I was drawn especially to the charcoal shavings that were on display (Rick said, "they were only a sampling"). To me, they were symbolic of the hard work that went into the masterpiece, but also a reminder that what is left behind, and is often not the center of attention, is a big part of the story, too (sometimes forgotten or never seen). With the shavings, I began thinking about the 99% of refugees worldwide who are not granted asylum or relocation into Western societies. The shavings are a reminder that the trilogy for refugees: water, land, and border crossing, tell an even larger story of the majority that is simply casted to the side.

I will definitely visit the exhibit more this month to celebrate Rick Shaefer's storytelling. It has been a tremendous pleasure to meet him, to work with him, and to have his talent act as catalyst for so many of us at CWP-Fairfield.  The collaboration has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm very grateful to Rick Shaefer, Carey Mack Weber, the teachers, and the young people for being wonderful with one another.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Not Feeling My Usual Zest To Kick Off A New School Year. Really, All I Want is Time for More Sleep and Relaxing.

Maybe at year 19 of running classrooms, one finally gets the jaded apathy monster embedded in his brain. I love teaching, and this summer was beyond magical teaching 15 teachers and working with the 200 young people through CWP-Fairfield. I guess that is why I'm unsure about why I feel so gloomy about returning to the fall semester. I am doing my part, but I'm feeling exhausted like it is the end of the semester.

I think it might be because my classes are oddly mixed this year: in-practice teachers, undergraduates, and graduate students. On one hand I need to be a cheerleader for the profession, but on the other hand I have veteran teachers who are needing additional expertise and not naive optimism. It's also hard for me, too, because I know there are few schools or districts left that I'd do flips for. The bureaucracy has become so overwhelming that I'm not sure how anyone survives out in the field any more. The kids need great teachers, but the system has become a police state that makes it hard to be a good teacher.

Much of my teaching schtick is stories of Brown School and the work I'm able to do with the National Writing Project. Sadly, in-pratice teachers have a difficult time even comprehending such success or envisioning what is possible when one dreams outside of the box. They are so regimented and monitored, that they simply can't imagine a context for creative teaching and possibilities.

Maybe it is because I was given the super late slots for courses that I'm feeling so gray. The teachers are exhausted when they arrive and they have to return at 7:15 in the morning. I get tired just looking at them, but here they are pursuing their advanced degrees to earn more money in their salaries.

What is missing from the equation is the excitement for the profession that I felt for over a decade while teaching in Kentucky. I'm also missing the energy and enthusiasm of those attending our summer institute through CWP.

I need a better night's sleep so I can wake up with more pep to my step. Right now I'm scrunchy-eyed and somewhat cynical. I need the magic to return.