Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's the Way I Flow, You Know, SoBro (Nashville) #LRA16

If there's a way to save a penny and find a good deal, you know this guy is on it. For the last 8 years, when I've attended, I've sought to find lodging that isn't so steep on the pocket (this began when I was doing my doctoral work). It's an ongoing quest to find inexpensive housing as an alternative so that I'm able to see other parts of town. My Syracuse peeps used to laugh at me (if not get frightened....I'm used to being laughed at) by the way I would roll into conferences...sometimes in a rented car, too, sharing how much money I was able to save. (Truth is, every penny I save allows me to put more into the communities I work closest with --- you should see me with 30% off coupons at Kohl's, when I hit up the clearance racks).

This year, though, I took a chance with a Guest House, which is a building made up of apartments that act as a time share. There are no clerks or tenants, no bell people, or on-location crews. There's just you, the cell phone, a text message, a code, and then access to a suite. I didn't know what to expect, but when I walked in I saw that my apartment could host any number of people for an evening. I have a full kitchen, two beds, a living room, and a full walk in shower.

The best part of the location, however, is the fact that it came with an actual record player that works:  I've been listening to Pat Benatar, Blood Sweat and Tears, 38 Special, and even Isaac Hayes. The location is equipped, too, with two televisions and a barrel of monkeys (the game I used to play as a kid). The cost of one night, though, is 1/2 of what one would get for a hotel downtown (and guess what, I'm a block from all the more expensive hotels).

In the kitchen were recipes, as well, for cooking dinner with the fresh food in the fridge.

All it takes is an imaginative, alternative option to the hotel empire, and suddenly one gets competitive options. It is the Uber of the taxi world, but guess houses are overnight sleeping accommodations. Boom. I love it.

And the record player! Wusah!

I have a real quick presentation in the morning and then must fly out for another in Connecticut. Quick stay, indeed, which is too bad because I really scored this year with the SoBro. I got out for barbecue, too, but didn't find a joint nearly as good as any of those we ate at in Atlanta a couple weeks ago. Georgia does it up Crandall style.

Oh, snap. I need to present. Yikes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Motho Ke Motho Ka Batho Ba Bangwe #LRA16

I'm channeling Beauty Makinta on this one, as she is the one who uttered the words when she moved into my house during the summer of 2013. She was visiting from Pretoria, South Africa, and when she learned of my Ubuntu Philosophy, those words came out of her mouth. I've held onto them in my writer's notebook ever since, and when CWP-Fairfield created Ubuntu Academy, I decided to draw on Beauty's wisdom by restating, "Motho ke moth ka batho ba bangwe."

I definitely can be who I am, because of who we are together.

I fly out this morning for Nashville, Tennessee, to join colleagues at the Literacy Research Association. I didn't attend last year and used the money I saved to fund the 3rd year of Ubuntu Academy, CWP-Fairfield's young adult literacy lab for refugee and immigrant youth. For the last three years I've been collecting data on the Invitational Leadership Institute at Fairfield University in relation to teacher interaction with the young people who attend - in three years, almost 400 young people have attended our summer programs and I'm extremely proud of our literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth. Working with Bridgeport Public Schools and International Institute of Connecticut, we've been abel to reach 68 young people from all over the world, just arriving to the United States. The program relies 100% on donations (and they have come from Deans, my willingness to donate money for the professional development I do in schools, and -- last year -- because I chose not to attend as many literacy conferences). This year, however, I am heading back to LRA to share what I've learned from our program.

As I've pieced this work together, I am rather impressed by the volume of data that was collected over the last three years: 1,400 pages of observation, interviews, published writing, and artifacts from the young people in all our literacy labs, and the 37 teachers who have participated in our National Writing Project program. Of note, we are one of only a few in the state that deliberately are mixing up the communities: CT is well known for having some of the most extreme income disparities in the nation and, as part of the region, zip code apartheid is the norm. With that said, our summer programs for teachers and young people represent the super diversity that Stephen Vertrovec, the sociologist, has been writing about in Europe for two decades.

Can you say Brown School? Hmmm. Seems I'm not satisfied unless I'm in a community of extreme diversity.

There are times I wish I could put my research hat on more, but the teaching and community service hat has me putting scholarship in action more than words (and yes, I know I'm in Rome and need to do as the Romans do). So, that's what I've been working on for Nashville....

...turning the corner from the knowledge gained with 8 African-Born Relocated Male Youth, and studying a summer program where immigrant and refugee youth have become central to teacher conversations about teaching writing.

It is Ubuntu, and Beauty said it best: Motho Ke Motho ka Batho Ba Bangwe. Here's to Opryland.

Monday, November 28, 2016

You'd Think I'd Learn That I'm Not a Griswold.

Glamis, Getting Ready for Her Holiday Show 
Pacing myself in November is a bit tricky because of conferences, teaching, and these holiday events. I promised myself that if I caught up on Fairfield work, and diligently wrote for my Literacy Research Association presentation on Wednesday, that I'd award myself with two things: a run and putting up lights.

I did run, but I didn't begin the lighting event until 9:30 p.m. - as always, strands are dead, the ones that work don't fit the windows appropriately, and throughout the year, I stole all the tacks I used to hold them up last year, so I had to scrounge drawers to replace the hanging apparatuses this year. An hour in: tangled lights, blinking lights (when I want them solid), and different light hues about killed me. I grew frustrated and had to sit down and rethink strategy. All in all, I only got the bay window and side window ready.

For some reason, all the light strands that work are the ones that stretch across three rooms (and those are better for the back porch, front patio, and fences). I thought Chitunga and I would find time to do those outside today, but we only managed to bag the leaves we raked up over the last few weeks.

After a day of geeking out academically, I though the light ritual would bring me serenity and calm before heading to sleep. Nope. They brought me a pulsating headache. Glamis doesn't mind, however.  For her, it's the return of her Broadway Musical and Christmas where she can entertain all the passing cars and onlooking neighbors with kick-lines, show tunes, and holiday melodies.

You'd think I'd learn every year not to add the celebratory rituals to the busy conference season, but it does provide calm and something less cerebral...when everything calms down, however, I will love sitting in my living room singing the twelve days of Christmas.

Fa la la la la la la la la.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Celebrating the 21st with a Tree Lighting Ceremony and Spur of the Moment Fun

Saturday was a shifting Thanksgiving fiesta, yard pick up, total gutter wash down (wet leaves smell horrible, as does the soot underneath), putting away summer tables and chairs, bringing out the snowblower, shifting the lawnmower to the shed, etc. and getting out the Christmas decorations. We decided to do a spur-of-the-moment birthday gathering at my house to finish left overs, which also inspired us to put up the tree.

We saved Chitunga's first ornament for last and had a special moment before he hung last year's gift on the tree. The smile is genuine.

Leo, Bev, Kaitlyn, Pam, Patrick and Stephanie came over with cake for Chitunga and he was able to blow out the tea-light candle in the Buddha statue (it's all we had) to make it an official birthday.

We also had a mad UNO tournament, where instead of Draw Two cards, there were DARE cards that made people sing, dance, bark, and meow. I never knew the game could get that competitive.

Jake and Mae came, too, to entertain Glamis and the play simply wiped her out...actually, it wiped all of us out. Ah, but today is Sunday (not a fun day) as I need to work miracles on the work front and accomplish a lot in a very short time. I can't complain, though. Gatherings such as last night (and the Thanksgiving feast of Thursday) are what it is all about.

There's nothing like the lights of a tree to warm up a house. And I still have my Snowman tree which has been my holiday decoration for over twenty years. Now I simply need to find a Christmas music station to play in the house and everything will be all set.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Phew. One More Round of Conference Presentations. Still Feeling Like a Turkey.

It's fun to entertain. You simply inhale, and know that the hours are a non-stop prayer that everything works out well, the food is good, everyone is comfortable, no one is TOO stressed, fist fights subside, the dogs play well, there's enough food, no one offends anyone else, and everyone is simply thrilled to be in presence of the other.

This Thanksgiving season makes me thankful.

My parental units came from Syracuse and reunited with their generation of family from Long Island. My father, Butch, got to spend time with his brother, Milford. The two Sue Crandalls got to reunite, too. Meanwhile, my cousin Mark and I got to get Nez and Zola together with Chitunga, while spending time with our parents, together, in the same house. I wish that Casey and Cynde were with us, too, but we can't have it all.

Wyatt and Glamis loved playing tug-o-war with Glamis's chewed stuffed animals, and it made me happy to see Butch eating apple pie for breakfast, Aunt Sue eating an extra helping of stuffing the day after, and Nezzi loving the fruit tray my mother said, "Are you sure you want that? It's kind of pricey."

Meanwhile, Tunga came from one job (on his birthday) to get a quick meal (which he loved - leftovers rocked) and my parents, who took off early, made it home safely (and in record time). The Long Island crew went with me on a tour of campus and we actually got some shopping done at TJ Maxx and Burlington's. Guess what? My father's expression for shopping is exactly the same as Uncle Milford's! They're not meant for crowds or normal, everyday experiences.

Mark simply winked at me and I got it.

Truthfully, though, how wonderful was the last 24 hours where family reunited (albeit not everyone) in southern Connecticut. It's a lot of work, and I now have total appreciation for all the progenitors before me who have hosted, housed, and accommodated many simply to bring various portions of family together. It is a hard, but worthwhile endeavor.

As I write, Glamis is still sleeping (where she's been since 4 pm when I began grading) and I still haven't gone for leftovers for dinner (and it's almost 10 pm). Tunga, the birthday boy, is working both jobs (only had a slight moment to high five, replace a break light, and give him a few gifts), and I'm simply ready for bed as soon as I can find a moment to say, "Crandall, you caught up some."

Hilarious. Tomorrow, we must get the house ready for winter and think about putting up the holiday lights! It's all good. I am hoping for more than six hours sleep. It will be the first in over a month!

Oh, snap. I need to prepare for Nashville on Tuesday.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The day after - the actual day - we successfully hosted the turkey, the stuffing, the pumpkins pie, and the cornbread. 'Tives from Long Island and 'Tives from Syracuse conjoined in Stratford to eat clams, pop open a few bottles of wine, eat green bean casserole, and enjoy squash.

Highlight for me yesterday was the phone call with Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Dick in California. It was a Facetime call.

Milford: So how is ----?

Dick: Oh, he died. His mother died, too, and so did his little brother.

Milford: No, you don't say. How about ---- and ----?

Dick: Oh, she's dead, too. And ---- is in a nursing home with alzheimers. Ever since the stroke there's been a little problem with the heart. You know.

Milford:  And ---?

Dick: Now that's a really sad story. Yes, dead, too, but the allergic reaction to pineapple on they cruise in the Bahamas was a little rough.

Milford: You don't say...

It was a beautiful day. Too much food (that's the way it is supposed to be), but wonderful company. So awesome to host my cousin Mark anI till bed his girls - they're so self-sufficient and carry themselves with tremendous grace and etiquette. It will be awesome to see them grown up over the next few years...

as for us...and this...yesterday...I am so grateful to have a home to bring my family together, to unite my father and Uncle Milford together. to bring the Sue Crandalls to the same table, to fold Chitunga into a new ritual, and to see Glamis playing full-force with her cousin Wyatt.

The dining room went from feast fest to bedroom rather quickly. Girls retired first, followed my dogs, followed by mom, then the rest of us.

Ah, so wonderful to be with family.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gobble Gobble Gobble. Make Your Feast As Special As You Can and Enjoy the Day.

It's a new holiday for Mt. Pleasant and this Crandall character - Thanksgiving. Normally, I play this holiday low key and use it to catch up from one conference, prepare for another, and think ahead to the rest of the semester.

This year, however, I'm bringing a reunion together between my father, Butch, and his brother, Milford, in Stratford, Connecticut. I'm also going to get my cousin and his daughters into town, too.

But the turkey? It's a first for me and this morning I need to take it out of the brine it's been soaking in, and move forth to what the next steps for the day will be. As a distraction last night, I make scallops and shrimp with pasta (whoops, are we supposed to eat that good the night before a mashed potatoes and gravy?). Also had time to sit with Chitunga, watch Rush Hour, and think a little ahead about his role peeling the potatoes.

The parents, however, crashed early. I think the drive from yesterday caught up with them. They lasted longer than Glamis, however, who crashed around eight after a day of not being able to nape and then playing with Jake and Mae when they visited.

Now, it's time to get up form the coffee and begin the soiree of the next few hours. I don't know about turkey comas, however. No time for that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Assessment and (Re)Vision On a Tuesday Night Before Turkey Comas and Parades. Bring on the Stuffing

I could have cancelled the graduate course the night before Thanksgiving break, but I'm a jerk. Yes, we met from 7:15 to 9:15 on the day before everyone is free for an extended weekend to overeat, to shop, to fight with family, and to think about Santa Clause. I know that next week I'm in Nashville, so I didn't want to let go of this precious time together.

Why? We looked at vision and (re)vision. More importantly, we covered a series of national rubrics for assessing writing, and also applied feedback to the rubrics while looking at authentic student work.

An ESL teacher in Bridgeport supplied several college essays written by young people who have only been in the country for two or less years. My prompt to my graduate students was, "Here's the rubric, these are the kids. What feedback do you give them?"

The veteran teachers in the room laughed at the pre-service teachers noting, "Ah, this is real. You get out of college and collect the first group of essays and you think Oh, man. None of my classes prepared me for this." We looked at the writing and talked about Best Practices for evaluating student work, with much consideration of rubrics, and even more attention on how do you conference with students to offer them the best advice to rethink (and re(en)vision) the first drafts they turn in.

PQP. Praise, Question, Polish.

And the debate over rubrics ensues. I used to be frustrated by them, but now I see the importance they provide when consulting with students.

Ah, assessment. Feedback. The volume of student work. It seems so interesting to initiate beginning conversations with educators who haven't experience a room of their own yet. Yet, we have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Feeling Like the Turkey Of All Turkeys This November Season. Gobble Gobble Gobble

Post-Atlanta, pre-Nashville, and end-of-the-semester, pre-holiday chaotic, I am now preparing to host my first-ever Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I purchased a turkey earlier this month, and ran to the store after visiting a school in New Haven today to get more on top of the fact that I actually have to cook this bird.

I am feeling dog hair on everything, wondering about the CNY weather and the apples my mom and dad want to bring, and wondering if I have the hutzpah within me to actually pull off a successful bird roast that will appeal to all the appetites of family.

The roasting pan was purchases during the Writing Our Lives-Syracuse event, and soon after I got the actual turkey. I did a liquor store run today and am currently doing laundry. I have to teach until 10 pm today, and last night around 7:30, I thought, "What the heck am I supposed to feed Chitunga and I tonight, the parental units tomorrow and Wednesday, and I immediately fell into a total appreciation mode for anyone who has ever hosted a feeding gathering for the holidays in any home.

Back in the 'ville, I usually ended up at Alice and Charlie's, and for the last few years I've mooched off of Pam who loves to cook for her family. While in Syracuse, I was able to partake in the Barnwell love of Manlius, so a big Macy Day Thanksgiving shenanigan simply fell into place with minimal effort on my part.

I think that what comes around goes around and this year I'm being offered a chance to prove myself. Um, I'm scratching my head and pacing the dog-fur lined wooden floors saying, "I can do this. I can do this. I got this. Really, I got this."

The grading, the writing, the reading, the planning - they're on the agenda, too, but I also have to think proactively about celebrating all that I am thankful for, which is family (and I wish my sisters were able to join us in Connecticut, too).

The winds and chill aren't making it easier, because I simply want to build a fire (in a wood burning stove I don't have) and hide under a blanket.

I picked up Tunga a meatball grinder, so we were set for last night. Today, it's planning for class and cleaning, hoping that there's enough of a thaw that my parents can make it out of Syracuse.

But a turkey coma in my own house? Where are we all gonna fall apart and sleep? I guess that awaits to be seen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Goodbye #NCTE16 and Thank You, Atlanta, For Sharing Your City With All Us Literacy Peeps

It felt great to sponsor these six teachers at this year's NWP Annual Meeting and NCTE Conferences - an investment easy to make in celebration of the CWP-Fairfield accomplishments. In total, we targeted our conversations towards seven demonstration/presentations/ and workshops between the two conferences. Several years ago, Jean Wolph of the Louisville writing project took me under her wings and introduced me to the art of the national conversation. Now, it feels great to do the same for Connecticut teachers I'm fortunate enough to work with along the Long Island Sound.

We presented on LRNG work with the Innovative Educator work funded by John Legend, National Writing Project, and McArthur foundation. We offered insight on using YA novels/sports texts with refugee and immigrant youth. We highlighted Young Adult Literacy Labs at Fairfield University and also addressed yearlong, collaborative projects with ESL classrooms in the city of Bridgeport. In short, the teacher leaders had opportunities to be even greater teacher leaders (even being inspired to submit chapters for various writing projects my national colleagues introduced to them).

I love the photo taken in my hotel room because they were rather subdued and calm for this photo - it doesn't capture the tomfoolery that followed or the wild, energetic, we need to have a great time, release that soon followed. I kept telling them that I felt like I was the chaperone and they were my middle and high school students wanting nothing to do with the chaperone.

They deserved the week in Atlanta, though. Teaching is hard work and educators seldom get a ticker tape parade or round of applause. The collaboration with professionals across the nation was all the celebration they needed. They are energized. They are excited. They are ready for the incredible work ahead.

And we all made it home safe - at different times, from different angles, and with varying levels of exhaustion. Here's to them. Here's to CT schools. Here's to all of us together.

In a week of giving thanks, I'm definitely thankful for this wonderful group of teachers.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bring on the Holiday Season, No Matter How You Decorate For the Festivities.

I love that in Atlanta, the trees are not strung with lights on the outside of the foliage, but that the lights are decorated on the inside of the trees, along the bark, so the greenery is highlighted to capture the dazzle of the holiday season.

All throughout the city of Atlanta, the holiday lights are strung in such a way that all the trees POP with holiday festivity.

My teachers and I did two more presentations for NCTE and after our conversations, we were able to walk the streets of Atlanta to see the spectacle that is a southern Christmas, including the special way the white lights are strung in the trees.

We have one more day of celebration of English teachers across the United States and I have to say that the hospitality of the city has been extraordinary. This is a booming American city and I am returning to Connecticut with a sense of joy that was provided over the past week.

I am also thinking that we may have been stringing our Christmas lights in all the wrong ways (outside the trees, rather than along the bark). Regardless, I am thrilled to be kicking off the next few months (as frigid as they may be) with a newfound innovation that lights are meant to dazzle, and we should be strategic with how we place them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Loving This Photo at #NCTE16 with the @CWPFairfield Teaching Crew. Another Day of Presentations

The Connecticut crew moved down the road a little from the NWP Annual Conference to NCTE - National Council of Teachers of English. Day one, we completed two presentations with two more on deck tomorrow and another on Sunday.

We didn't know what to expect with our LRNG Innovation Challenge award presentation at NCTE where we highlighted the six school collaboration that reached 360+ students.

Shaun was able to present solo on some of his work at Central High School, and William and Jessica went on their own to discuss their part in Ubuntu Academy and teaching English language learners.

We went out for barbecue, SOUTHERN BBQ, and it was outrageously delicious - Twin Smokers Barbecue.

Also had time to run around Atlanta in the a.m. with Jen (a nice clip) and to see many friends at the conventions center: Jason Reynolds, Laurie Halse Anderson, Marcelle Haddix, Steven Bickmore, Jim Blasingame, Cynthia O-A, and many many more.

Here's the honest truth, though. I was in bed by 8 p.m. watching college basketball. I couldn't keep my eyes open and knowing I start early this morning, I knew I needed more sleep than I've been given. It's still an incredible time in Atlanta. It is such a wonderful location of the U.S.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Most Wonderful of Wonderful Reunions With A Friend #NWPAM #NCTE16Wusah!

After I finished my first Masters at the University of Louisville, a woman named Amy Parton (singer for the band King Kong) walked onto campus in a pair of combat boots, a funky pink sweater, black tights, and some sort of floral arrangement or print in her hair. She caught my eye and I said, "Yup, we'll become friends."

We did.

She taught at one high school and I taught at another. We occasionally got together, loved one another's spirit, and simply had a fantastic time whenever we were around one another.

Then the Humana Cambridge Scholars program sponsored by the English Speaking Union of Louisville announced they were funding three teachers to attend Cambridge University for a summer of Shakespearean scholarship. I applied, not knowing she applied. We, and another woman, were selected. Amy and I took the prize and used it for one of the most fantastic summers of our lives - three months in Ireland, Scotland, England and Denmark. It was the last hoorah of our youth and we loved every second of it.

Imagine my surprise when a twisted face-selfie landed on my phone during the National Writing Project's Annual Meeting while Elyse was speaking. "Amy?" I thought to myself, "Is Amy here?"

It turns out that my friend who I haven't seen in over ten years (except for Facebook) will be co-directing the Louisville Writing Project next summer. This was her first conference and we just happened to be wearing, as she called them, "our mustard outfits."

Naturally we matched.

That is what I love about NWP and NCTE. It brings beautiful people together in celebration of words, literacy, teaching, and purpose. Amy could only stay for the NWP conference but it kicked this weekend's pep and step in the right direction.

Ah, life. So so beautiful to see my ol' friend....if only for a moment. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Well, Hello, Atlanta. You've Got Yourself a Mighty Fine City! #NWPAM16 #NCTE16

After a mechanical failure on the tarmac, an hour delay, my flight from Connecticut to Atlanta, Georgia still managed to arrive 5 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. A special shout out to the pilot who must have climbed to incredible altitudes to make up for the lagging departure.

And it was worth the wait. Why? Because I'm with my people now - the National Writing Project people and already with one evening I've become inspired, rejuvenated, educated, and put at ease. The network is one of a kind and it is thrilling to be surrounded by dedicated, enthusiastic, innovative educators from across the United States who understand (and believe with all their might) the healing, action, reflection, and empowerment that comes from writing with students and our colleagues.

Today, my teacher team and I are scheduled for two sessions:
Writing Our Lives Through TedTalks, Radio Plays, Blogging and Ethnographies - WE WERE HERE (Session A)
"Who Do You Think You Are? Ubuntu and the Young Adult Literacy Labs at CWP (Session B)
In our annual gathering, we'll be able to share the incredible yearlong work with did with the LRNG Innovation Challenge (inspired by Matt de la Peña's We Were Here) that united six urban, rural, and suburban high schools (N=365 students) and to highlight the Young Adult Literacy Labs (N=198 youth) who participate in our summer writing camps. There's no other word to describe the energy of NWP-supported work than AWESOME.

Here's to all in attendance, those that weren't able to make it but with they could, and the ongoing conversation about writing practices that work. It remains the best professional development in the nation and our work matters now more than ever before.

Time to present!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Argh-u-ing Like a Pirate About Pet Peeves, #NCTE16, Graduate Courses, and Opinion Writing.

One of my favorite courses to teach each year is the one on teaching argumentative writing in K-12 schools (National Writing Project style). Somewhere along the way, I picked up 1,000s of pirate patches so my arguments are now argh-uments, and I have have enough ammunition to make the class dedicated to opinion writing the 'speediest' one of the fall semester - seriously goes by fast.

From Zobmondo, to debating Cats, Dogs, or No Pets, to speculating why Dinosaurs would be great friends, to modeling what several young men composed after an exercise of deconstructing Trayvon Martin political cartoons that led to a student publication, and to analyzing teacher pet peeves which led to Special Report: Education, Change, and Diversity in Fairfield County, a partnership exercise for publishing teacher Op-Eds, the entire evening flies by and light bulbs seem to pop on over and over again.

Ah, writing is communication. Ah, writing is putting thought to page. Ah, writing requires developed through and referencing of those who wrote before us. Ah.

We are argumentative creatures (cough cough, post-election chaos, cough cough) and some tools that some writers use are more effective than others. Through analysis of several opinion pieces, we were able to think of our own arguments we need to make in the worlds we live. We simply need to make the choice to put our ideas before others and make the case for what we believe.

Special to this year's conversation, however, was a graduate student's closing event at the end of the class (I ask students to open and close the curtain each week with a mini-writing activity) where each of us were given a Norman Rockwell painting and asked to analyze it, explain what the artist's argument was, and make the case of what the  artwork meant for America. The student chose the "Four Freedoms" series by Rockwell, and stated he plans to have his students think through what it means to be American in the 21st century and what they'd argue is the most important right and freedom they should be granted. My student teaches 6th grade.

Save Freedom of Speech, Save Freedom of Worship, Fight for Freedom from Want, and Fight for Freedom From Fear.

The student was interested in what these three 1943 paintings might mean given the current political landscape of today. It was easily noted, too, that the paintings representative of American values, depicted particular people, and weren't indicative of the diverse nation of the time (race, religious, ethnicity, etc). His intent, he explained, is to have his students make arguments for what rights ALL Americans should have (and, for that matter, who makes up this great nation).

But for now, this morning, I'm leaving on a jet plain and heading to Atlanta. It was good to get my inner-pirate on last night and to Argh-ue for a little while. Yes, I'm silently opinionated, and not one for confrontation, unless it comes to me through reading......that was part of the conversation, however. Some of us, by nature, love to argue more than others and thrive on conflict. Not me.

This, however, might not be the strongest way to be as the great American experiment moves forward.

I can't wait to be reunited with friends in Atlanta! #NCTE16

And with that, I should pack. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Packing My Bags for #NCTE16 and #NWPAM16 in Atlanta, Georgia - Just One More Night Course To Teach

It's hard to believe that last January, CWP-Fairfield teachers and I uploaded the possibility of presenting at the 2016 National Council of Teachers of English Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the summer, we heard that several of of our collaborative proposals were accepted in a wide variety of ways: research talks, round tables, seminars and even a special session on our 2015 LRNG Innovation Challenge Award from National Writing Project, MacArthur Foundation and the John Legend Show Me Campaign.

Couple with that, the National Writing Project scheduled us to share our work on Thursday, as well. The result? The last few weeks have been organizing handouts, presentations, sharing of responsibilities, hotels, airfare, registration, and arranging for substitutes.

And we're breathing.

This year, through success with CWP-Fairfield's Young Adult Literacy Labs, we're able to bring to these conferences 7 teachers from southern Connecticut to discuss their practices, research, collaborations, and partnerships. The best part of this, however, is having the opportunity to share their brilliance with stellar colleagues from across the nation.

Nothing rejuvenates us more than feeling the energy of the profession at large! The high fives, discussions, learning, advocacy, and innovation is all part of the energy and experience. In some ways, I feel like it is Christmas morning and I can say to my hard-working colleagues, "Go open your presents. You deserve it."

Additionally, I look forward to meeting up with many of my authoring friends to see what they've been up to and connecting with fellow researchers from colleges and universities across the United States.

I've been in full t-dotting and i-crossing mode (yes, I intended the switcharoo on that). I simply need to get through today, attend 6 or 7 hours of meetings, teach a graduate course, pack, sleep, and take off. I'm ready, and I know my teachers are, too!

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Roads," He Told Me. "Roads Are the Difference. If You Have These Roads Everything Will Be Okay."

Driving to and from Syracuse, I kept commenting on the incredible landscape, leaves, hills, trees, skylines, light and the ways the highways meandered through them. I stated, "Yes, the jargon will be omnipresent on television and radio, but on the road we can see the power of Mother Nature and recognition of the cycles she presents."

The roads, however, are mankind's interjection that we have some sort of semi-control in the grand scheme of things. In the United States, the empire is built with a tremendous interconnectedness of roads, highways, airports, bus stations, railways, and paths. It is a nation united by the potential of getting from point A to point B as quick as possible and rather safely. This is the threading of the American people. We are divided by regions, ideologies of lived experiences, but your infrastructure is one to keep us bound together. At some point, all the fear-mongering and anger will have to be reminded that in the end, this really is the United States. It is the land of the free. It is the land of liberty, with spacious skies, from sea to shining sea. If it implodes, well - there goes that, but I don't think it will. I still have faith that we are smarter than we are being portrayed.

In Kentucky, before James Akech was murdered by punk American kids, he was mesmerized by the roads. He said, "If a nation has such roads, it will be okay. It is a land of progress."

I hope that is true.

Once I became a home owner, I realized the power of nature when grass started coming up through the sidewalk cracks. I could weed whack or put down a chemical, but it is pointless. Nature wins. If the time has come for the human species to finally go ape-shit and totally lose its sense of self-control and we lose it all, it's okay. It will only be the end of mankind. Nature will still prevail and I'm okay with. It can still be miraculous, beautiful, majestical and spectacular with or without homo-sapiens on board to claim it all for their own, marking it, owning it, denying it, and using it to oppress others and promote others.

In the end, I'm with the Ents. I'm with the Groot.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Day of UnArmed Truths and Writing Our Lives. Two Workshops Down and Many Reasons to Celebration

The following was drafted between two workshops launched by Attallah and I at the Writing Our Lives-Syracuse event yesterday. I was thrilled to have my nephew in attendance with the other youth participants. It was tremendous to return to Nottingham High School, too, where I spent much time over four years earning my doctorate.

The workshop Attallah and I hosted combined word play with script writing and poetry. Participating as a writer, I did what I mentored the kids to do - played with word. Here's what I doodled on the board as a result of two sessions at the conference (I went with script in one and a poem in the other).

Marcelle: Yo, Bryan

Bryan: What's up?
Marcelle: These kids.
Bryan: What about these kids?
Marcelle: It's magic.
Bryan: We already know that.
Marcelle. They're magic.
Bryan: We need to teach them to know that, too.
Marcelle: But school is so mind-numbing. It's like they are forced to attend drool factories.
Bryan: We know this, too. So what are we gonna do about it?
Marcelle: How about a conference called Writing Our Lives. A location for a Sista-scholar, magician,
         conductor and writer to braid the Syracuse community together.
Bryan: The I-81 traffic? The snow plows? the Orange fans? The laughter from school hallways?
Marcelle: Yes, bring a fabulous family together to #TellYourTruth, to feast on words.
Bryan: You can do that. Can I share the poem I wrote in the last session?
Marcelle: Take the stage, Crandall. You got the hot spot light.

I am a poem,
a professor, the Carrier Dome,
who takes socks from the dresser
to be funky and spunky in everything I do.

I am Syracuse, how about you?

A love poem, so true, singing the
song of friendship and standing strong
like the snowflakes and sassy winds
that take control of our CNY seasons and beliefs.

I am the power of vocabulary,
a dictionary of salt water,
Dinosaur Barbecue and the
vivacious air fresheners
that try to put words in my mouth.

I am Ubuntu,
Me, together with you,
do as any Syracuse fan would do,
thundering like a summer storm,
a brother and sister crew,
joining arms within other arms
and creating a world
better adapted for hugs.

I am family who tells my truth through writing,
and as long as we have each other
we can fight for tomorrow...
.     ..push away the sorrow...
(Cuz Ya Gotta Write! Aright?)
and there can't be a flight ---
instead we must show our might with our words.

Marcelle: Ah, you and the stardust of your words: caring, dreaming, and blaring life into the

           worlds we live.
Bryan: It's only magic because you've provided a location for magic to happen. Here they can
            scribble their ideas, doodle their brilliance, tap their passion, and speak their minds.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thrilled to Be in Syracuse For the Writing Our Lives - Syracuse, #TellYourTruth, Conference with Friends from CT

Seven years ago, Dr. Marcelle Haddix and I received a few small grants to launch the first ever Writing Our Lives  conference in Syracuse, New York - a Saturday workshop for middle and high school youth that brings writers, performers, and activists together to encourage young people to write their lives in a wide variety of genres. We expected 50 or so young people that first Saturday in 2009, but over 100 showed up. This trend has not only occurred in Syracuse but has transitioned, too, to Writing Our Lives events in southern Connecticut.

We haven't tallied the numbers of young people these writing conferences have reached, but we have the data collected. It simply is a gathering of individuals who write and create in their professions, coming forward to share their professional knowledge in workshop settings.

This is the first time I've brought part of my Connecticut team with me, and I'm proud to have Alisha Smith and Attallah Sheppard at my side to experience the Syracuse phenomenon and to share their worlds with the young people of Central New York. I'm also thrilled to know that my nephew, Dylan - who has ventured into his own world of online writing - will be joining us for the day.

Our session will go forth twice: Unarmed Truths and Unconditional Love: Scripted and Composed in a World of Words. We will fuse spoken word with script-writing, and prompt the young writers to draw from the language they know to communicate a part of their history and truth. Variations of this work have occurred in Alabaman, Louisiana, Chicago, New York City, Kentucky, Bridgeport and Syracuse!

It is a thrill and honor to return once again to the cold winds and fall beauty of Syracuse. Looking forward to a great day!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Checked Out a Human Book @FairfieldU and Was Lucky to Learn From Margaret. @WritingProject @NCTE

Margaret, Fairfield University Sophomore and Write
During my student teaching days, and later in my first year as an English educator in Louisville, Kentucky, I had the distinct pleasure of working in a K-12 public school that celebrated diversity, inclusivity, high standards for all students, respect, democracy and equity. At the time, new to a teaching career and wide-eyed to learn from the young people in my classrooms, I met a young man named Corey Nett, who most recently ran for the Louisville Metro Council, District 8. In my English course, Corey began writing a novel and had an ambition to study journalism at Western Kentucky, famous for its photojournalism program. Corey had a fantastic mind and was a favorite amongst his peers.

I am thinking of Corey this morning, because last night I participated in a phenomenal opportunity at Fairfield University inspired by the Human Library Project.
The Human Library is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The Human Library is a a place where real people are on loan to readers - a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.
The "Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover" event was hosted by Fairfield's DiMenna-Nyselius Library and provided opportunity to check out any number of human books who were willing to share their lives: a straight edge kid, an adopted kid, twins, a survivor from Syria, a Jesuit Priest, an adult learner, a Muslim immigrant, a man in the military, a video gamer, etc. Students and faculty lined up to await for a book to be available, and when one was ready to be "checked out," readers and human books were relocated to hear/read/experience the story.

My undergraduate Philosophy in Education course was assigned to read John Dewey and Jane Addams this week, and the educational philosophies for embracing diversity, democracy, listening to the stories of others, and an emphasis on human experience seemed to fit perfectly with the evening's agenda. After processing some of the philosophical writing, my class and I meandered to check out a human book at the library event.

Fortunate for me, one of my students, a graduate student in another of my courses, and a stranger who           joined our group, were able to check out Margaret, a sophomore creative writing major whose description read as follows,
I was born with a physical disability called Cerebral Palsy. I have experienced many stereotypes throughout my life but my family has led me down "the road less traveled by" through encouraging me to follow my dreams despite any obstacles that may come my way."
Margaret shared her experiences on a college campus, including tales of people calling the Department of Public Security on her when she ventured, unchaperoned, from her dorm to the campus bookstore. She described how people on and off campus look at her with assumptions that she is disabled and not capable of academic work, even though she proves again and again to be extremely ABLE. Margaret shared her accomplishments of making the Dean's list, being named to honor societies, winning awards, and her overall desire and ambition to be a writer. When one of the readers asked her what kind of writing she enjoyed most, she responded "comedy." The saddest part of the experience was when a docent came to our table and said, "I'm afraid you're going to have to return your book back to the shelf. Margaret is in high demand."

By the time I arrived home from class, I students had already responding about the books they "checked out" and learned from. Melissa, one of my undergraduates who was part of "reading Margaret, wrote,
Tonight’s class was, as you said approximately 15 minutes ago, one of the best experiences I have ever had at Fairfield University. Honestly, I would add it to my list of “Top 10 Experiences that made me Who I Am.” It was an experience that was not only eye opening, but also that taught me more than any class could....I have always been fascinated with empowering stories such as the one that she was about to tell. However, I have never really been given the opportunity to sit with a “disabled” individual and be able to listen to the story in person and to be able to ask questions.
Melissa also reflected on the technology that Margaret used to communicate her story, and the impressive way the storyteller shared her world through modern technologies. Margaret's expressions and enthusiasm for sharing her world were contagious. Melissa, like me, was inspired and empowered from the book Margaret graciously shared with us - the book of her life.

Corey, who I began this post with, used to write essays and reports through assistive technologies that seem antiquated compared to the one Margaret proficiently used. I remember while teaching Corey that colleagues at other schools scoffed at the materials he composed saying, "There's no way he could write that. He must be getting help."

Um, no.

Corey, like Margaret, simply has amazing talents and with the right assistance and with enough human respect, is always able to put the human he is before the disABILITY people scribe upon him. I shared with Margaret the incredible education I received at Syracuse University through the influence of a disABILITY studies program. In fact, under the leadership of Dr. Beth Ferri, I penned an article that was even accepted for publication, "Adding a Disability Perspective When Reading Adolescent Literature; Sherman Alexie's The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."

Clever. Witty. Sharp. Focused.

In twenty minutes of checking out "Margaret" I realized I wanted to read more of her world and I grew super excited that she hopes to write books some day to inspire others in the way John Green penned The Fault in our Stars, her favorite book. Yet, perhaps the most beneficial part of the evening were the ground rules placed before every reader before they could check out a book.
  • Borrowing is based on mutual respect. 
  • The Reader should return the Book in the same mental and physical condition in which it was borrowed.
  • The Book or the Reader can decide to be returned early. 
Listening is a talent our nation desperately needs right now. Differences should be viewed as bridges, not barriers. Anyone who makes broad claims about any one group or type of person should step back and check their humanity. It's as I Tweeted out yesterday, "For every minute we spend living in fear and with hate in our hearts, we lose 60 seconds of making the world a better place."

We're all human books. We must read each other. We must turn to the first page and begin to explore and learn. Period.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's As Billy Joel Sang During My Junior Year of High School, "We Didn't Build the Fire. It Was Always Burning."

I found myself singing a song I remembered from my high school days as I totally chose to avoid the world yesterday. Actually, I didn't avoid the world - I simply used the day to stay away from social media, television, and human interaction, so that I could catch up on grading, prepare for this weekend's and next week's conferences, and get my strength to maintain a calm when I reenter the world. In Joel's song, he sings,
We didn't start the fire / It was always burning / since the world's been turning / We didn't start the fire / But when we are gone / Will it still burn on, and on, and on
A graduate student did a neat exercise with our class on Thursday evening where she highlighted three historical events that happened on the same day (November 8th - the night of the election). On this day, she stated, Abraham Lincoln was elected for a 2nd term in his presidency, an attempt on Hitler's life failed, and the X-Ray was invented. She asked us to choose one and to write about how the world might have changed if these events did not occur. It was quite a prompt to kick-off a class, and I wrote about Lincoln and how I couldn't imagine my world without his promotion and success of emancipation proclamation. In fact, I admitted that the work I've done throughout my adult life directly results from Lincoln's leadership, albeit still central to the divisions in our country today.

I talked with a few friends from my past who have extreme opinions on both sides of the political spectrum, still trying to figure out which way the flame is burning. One of my friends said, "This has never been about hate, no matter what political party tries to get you to believe that it is. These reactions are based in fear."

And I think that is correct. Fear, although not one of the evil's flying out of Pandora's Box, is established by the others: sickness, death, turmoil, strife, jealous, hatred, famine, and passion. Today's fire, like those burning yesterday, have fear acting as a wind.

I finally turned on my t.v. late last night to catch up. I just shook my head, not because I am jumping into this side or that, but because the human condition continues. If we've ever felt it died for a second, we haven't been paying attention to our world.

As always, there's a tremendous amount of work to be done. For every 60 seconds we spend with hate and fear in our hearts, we lose 1 minute of making the world a better place.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In Order For The Light To Shine So Brightly, The Darkness Must Be Present ~ Francis Bacon

I've been amazed twice in my life - I mean REALLY amazed. The first time was September 11th when events happened that my generation was taught could never happen in the United States. I saw that moment as a wake up call that America cannot be isolated from the global issues nor lack of privileges that exist elsewhere. The fact these events occurred struck awe in me because I thought they were impossible. I did not expect to ever see such hatred for the American dream so symbolically attacked.

It happened, though, and I spent the following years reading, writing, thinking, questioning, and inquiring as I set out to find answers for why and how it happened. Perhaps the search led me to choose love and hope and maybe it is why I instantly began working with relocated refugee populations who arrived to the U.S. - a great addition to the young people attending the urban community where I lived and taught.

Last night at 1 a.m., however, I found myself amazed once more.

For months, I've trailed a movement that has mesmerized, yet haunted me, and found myself reading, writing, thinking, questioning and inquiring once again. Economically and, perhaps, even politically, I anticipated the outcome we woke up to this morning. Socially, emotionally, and spiritually, however, the results are numbing and frightening. Until this morning I could say, "I've never not voted for the person who was elected president." Until today, I was 100% with my voting record, and although I didn't start out as a fan of who I casted a vote for this year, a campaign of fear, vulgarity, viciousness, lying, and outright ridiculousness pushed me toward the direction I didn't necessarily want to go. As the election went forth, I started to see amazing leadership and perseverance in one candidate over the other. I couldn't imagine being on the receiving end of the vitriol she had to endure. Each and every day, my respect for her grew stronger. I didn't necessarily agree with what she stood for, as much as I totally could not comprehend anything the other candidate espoused.

Ah, but vitriol is who we are. We are love and we are hate. It's in our DNA and it's up to us to react. The fear option throws negativity into our hearts and spite in our speech. Fear helps us to flex muscles. The opposite is hope, and as I've written over and over again - I love / to believe/ in hope.

I woke up this morning with an image of the Statue of Liberty holding her face in her hands. Her shoulders were hunched and she appeared downtrodden and worried. A thick fog hovered over her and darkness draped the NYC skyline that stood in front of her - the same skyline attacked September 11th. To me, American democracy means there's power in the people and that votes of a majority make a choice for the direction of all. I don't think there's a person in the United States this election season who wasn't saying, "Something needs to change. The two America's are getting out of control." And a decision was cast by almost 50% of voters to win the electoral votes necessary to create a new history in the White House. Although the message to get people to vote for this accomplishment, I believe, was the antithesis of what a multicultural society should be destined to become, it was the will of the people - half of American society - to uproot what any of us have known as normal: government, media, economics, and ethics. New York Times labeled it a New World Order - let's hope it isn't as apocalyptic as the rhetoric that won him the votes.

I woke up this morning with another image, as well. The darkness was still ubiquitous around the Statue of Liberty, but then a single light began to shine from the distance. Soon, another light appeared. Then a few more. The lights began to come from all over, all of them out of the darkness, and they headed towards Lady Liberty in order to spell the word, "Hope," as the lanterns they carried were placed at her feet.

Hope is all that Pandora left us, and the only way to battle evil is through arming ourselves with hope.

I ran out of coffee this morning, a sign that I'll likely be grumpy and frantic all day. Yet, I had tea to tie me over as I woke up thinking about  9/11/11 and 11/9/16 and the reminder that hate is real and  often entwined with fear, a lack of global knowledge, and ignorance.

For me, however, I will continue to choose love. I will set out to help others. Life is too short and I can't live with hate and anger in my heart. Instead, I will live by my actions and continue to embrace the communities that have made me the man that I am (a majority named as communities needing to be destroyed by the man our nation elected as President). So, today I promise to stay committed to adding an 'o' to God and to look for 'good' in the world. It may be harder to find now, but I still believe it exists. Although I self-describe as an optimist and a believer in the good of humanity, it is important to be reminded that human beings are human beings - and this comes with canines, weapons, and spite (we can be vile creatures). I, for one, will try to be like Walt Whitman - singing America and handing out butterscotch candies to those suffering and in the most need.

This morning, I realize it's time to do more good and to be even better. I can only hope that everyone else will set out to do the same.

Actions speak louder than words. The America that has been a part of my life for 44 years has always been great, and I intend to surround myself with Americans who dedicate themselves to making this world a better place. Period.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

May All Us Ecological Bastards Freeze To Death In The Dark (Or It Once Was Stated).

I seem to be in love with 68 degrees as the perfect temperature and yesterday I had a Nest thermometer installed. It is one that can be controlled from my cellphone, laptop, and/or IPad and it operates with WiFi and modern technologies. I am thinking of my work with my brother-in-law, Mike, and how much he'd be intrigued by this technology. Changing the temperature in my house has never been cooler; in fact, I got a message today while at work that said, "The Nest noticed that you haven't been moving about your home, so you must be away. We adjusted the temperature down a few degrees for you."


I was thinking all day, too, about the sticker that hangs below the thermostat in my father's man cave: May All You Ecological Bastards Freeze To Death in the Dark. His room is cold, so I totally get the sentiment he had while I was growing up - and it was Syracuse, after all.

Actually, after talking with several friends in the area and meeting with representatives from Solar City, I decided to have solar panels installed on top of my house. For the last two years, I've seen a HUGE increase in panels while I'm running and I've been working through the economics of using them as an alternative energy resource. The company actually uses my house to create energy for it and it is sold back to the electrical companies. Because my roof sees much sun for long periods of the day, they designed a plan for both sides - I learned yesterday, however, that the electric company wouldn't approve both sides because I'd overproduce energy and they'd have to send me checks. So, they did half of the roof and this should work out to being equivalent to costs during the winter, but much cheaper during the summer months (I am picturing my friend Leo writing out a check for ten cents last July for his electric bill).

I had to walk down the street to see the panels, because my house is tall and it is difficult to get a rooftop angle. I was told by the installers that the side they chose would maximize the solar power my house gets atop its noggin. I'm sure there won't be a difference in billing until late spring, but I'm hoping to reverse the need for electricity from an electric company, with self-sufficient energies from the panels (with a push of electricity back to the grid to be distributed to my neighbors).

We shall see if this was worth it. Homeownership is a bizarre identity to have, and slowly and surely, this is becoming more and more in line with my values and thoughts of how to live an economically and environmentally sustainable life.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dog Sitting. The Neighbors Said To Me, "You're Lucky They're Not Human Beings." They Are Raising Little Ones

I've been dog sitting for a colleague this week while she's in Michigan with family and working through the challenges that life often presents to us. It was the least I could do to show my support and appreciation for the human being that she is.

Many have tried to convince me that I should have two dogs, a playmate for Glamis, and it would be so much easier if she had an everyday playmate.

This is true. Unless I'm talking on the phone, Glamis and her friend, Scout, are totally independent doing what dogs naturally do: wrestling, pulling toys out of each others mouths, eating each others dog food, contributing to the same hole to be dug in the back yard (if we both take part, he won't know which one of us did - um, I saw both of them collaborating together), and craving attention.

When I settle in my chair to work, I now have two fuzzballs jumping in my lap, licking my face, and placing paws on my keyboard.

The neighbors saw me double fisted and walking the dogs yesterday and they asked, "Did you get another?" in which I responded, "No." I did acknowledge that the two run through the house playing almost every second of the day and it's nice not to be noticed unless I'm on the phone. They were quick with reply, "Oh, I wish our kids were this way. You're lucky they're just dogs."

Then Daylight Savings Night, Saturday, I finally gave in and let the two mongrels in my room because they were whining high pitch shrills outside my bedroom door. Normally, Glamis is okay sleeping downstairs. Exhausted, I opened the door and they ran into the room. At first, it was WWE wrestling on the hardwood floors until I finally yelled, "Get on the bed. Enough with the nails."

They jumped up quickly.

Then, it was an evening of who could push in closest to me, kidnapping my pillows and hogging the blankets while claws dug deep in my skin in resistance. I tried to kick them off the bed, but they weren't having it.

I see the benefits of having two, but I'm unsure I could handle it - they prank each other, tease each other, whine at eat other, bark at each other, and play so enthusiastically that I'm afraid for my belongings. The mud, the dog hair, and the nose prints on windows - well, that come with the territory, too.

They're damn cute, though...when they're resting.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Training Jedis - That is the Call of K-12 Educators and Yesterday Was a Celebration of Many Communities Supporting the Profession

My sister sent me a photo of my nephew and God Son while he participated in a Jedi training exercise at Disney. I will always remember the scene when the Dark Force swept into the training camp for young Jedis and wiped out "the force" because it was a threat to their nefarious desires (which is a metaphor for the larger democracy that the United States has been allowed to experience in its experimental, yet fruitful, mission in global politics).

Teaching. It's preparing Jedis for the future through offering them the superpower of mind, body, and soul. It is offering them all the force that we can so that they are prepared to face any violence, any evil, any hate, any discrimination, and any cruel darkness that might want to persuade them to turn from the light. The point of the Star Wars films are to remind us that in all of our hearts, darkness also exists. We hope we fight for the good...the light. In Star Wars terms, it is the unification of many: Ewoks, androids, Wookies and even humans. It is a unification of those who believe in a safe Empire for all....a unification of diversity.

Same is true for Lord of the Rings as many unite against the Orks and Sauron. We are stronger together. Divided by fear, we are weakened and wiped out.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I participated in the
Vicki Soto 5K to provide support and scholarship to school aged children and their teachers. In total, over 4,200 runners participated in the race and stood in memory of a classroom teacher and the young children who lost their lives during the Newtown tragedy. It was an event to stand up against hate and violence.

Similarly, I attended the the Daniel Trust Foundation fundraiser for offering mentorship, scholarship, and academic assistance to hardworking, dedicated youth who happen to live in impoverished communities where the resources are few. Daniel Trust and Vicki Soto Foundations are investing in teachers and youth to make the world a better place. They are, in this sense, investing in Jedi training and offering support for the youngest warriors to be able to fight the ugliness likely to be experienced in a world of human beings. We are not at a place of interacting with other planets, but if that day comes, teachers will be just as important. We teach tolerance and civility, not the ugliness of division and hatred.

I am entering my Sunday feeling hopeful that good triumphs...I have to remember this from yesterday's experienceI'm hoping the force will be with us. I want the force to be with tomorrow's children, too.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Revisiting A Theory About How and Why We are All Evolving Into ExtraTerrestrials (BRC Phone Home)

As a senior in high school, I became obsessed with the idea that one day I might be kidnapped by extraterrestrials and brought to another galaxy for experimentation. I read Whitley Strieber's Communion, and met a woman who worked at Estee Lauder in the mall (across from my shoe section) who convinced me that "her" species lived among human beings and they were scientists making observations on primitive forms of themselves. She said that we were planted on Earth so that her kind could study the evolutionary process of how they came to be. It sounded intriguing, and I began to think that as we became more and more hooked behind screens, we would likely develop larger brains and bigger eyes. We wouldn't need ears or noses as much, as our futuristic selves would rely on visual stimulation.

I feel like I'm turning into an alien now.

I wake up, am behind screen, go to work, get behind more screen, come home, and return to more screens, and go to bed thinking about the screens I've been behind all day. It is constant light being thrown at my brown eyes and when I look away, I see stars and flashing lights.

After 14 hours, though, I begin to get batty. So much font, so much text, so much illuminated communication and processing of the world. It has taken over way too much - even beyond the ways of yesteryear when I first came up with my harebrained hypothesis.

Still, I do believe there's the chance that I might one day be beamed up to another world for questioning, and after Tuesday's election, I am thinking it might be a good day to take me away. Depending on the results, I might be able to say, "Here's what I think happened - here's where this particular experiment of earlier versions of ourselves truly failed. It's all random, and no one could have predicted this year's election, but there's much to be learned by the behaviors of human beings in the freest nation on our planet. We tried. We really, really did try. But in the end, we're animals. I'm sure you already knew this."

Then they can inject me with a serum and toss me to the side (or I can visit my friend, Charlie, who had experiences with anal probing back when I lived in Kentucky).

Friday, November 4, 2016

Education, Community, Culture, Support, and Vocabulary - a Digital Project with a Special Partnership

It's not always easy to run a service learning course after school, because transportation and the arrangement of kids is a little rough. We've been successful, but Mr. King, an ESL teacher in Bridgeport, and I have had to think of other ways my students at Fairfield could be of language use to his beginning English learners who are just arriving. We decided on a 'Big Word' project that would introduce one THICK work for his students to learn, but also an introduction of students in college: their educational history, cultures, communities, and philosophies.
Yesterday, my students presented their mini-digital projects that can be sent to their partners in Mr. King's classroom. They've met face to face, and now they can meet electronically, where Mr. King can show a video a day and teach the English they are hearing and the Big Word being presented.

My students hope, however, that Mr. King will find the way to have his students create brief videos of their favorite word in their own language. We used Adobe Spark, online, and it took only a short while to put together a video story. We modeled the work from Pechakuchas, 20 slides and 20 seconds of talk per slide --- sort of like TedX haiku.

I'm excited to see what comes next. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Yeah, I Know It Was Monday Night, But I'm Just Getting Around To Thinking About It Now.

I thought I was clever. I stored leftover bags of food (over 250 bags of Goldfish, Pirate's Booty, and Popcorn) in my basement in anticipation of Halloween. Feeling a little wary, I also bought 6 bags of Skittles and Starbursts just in case. Last year, we had a few kids on a Saturday night, and my friends and I made a party about it. This year, however, it was a madhouse. Actually, it was a parade. The first kids came around 5:30 and it was a steady flow until 8:30.

Every time I sat down to concentrate on my laptop to get work done, Glamis would whine in her perch in the bay window, leaping towards the front porch with excitement that we had guests. This exercise exhausted her and by 7:00 she when upstairs and grimaced, "I'm out. You take care of these fools."

What caught my attention this year was two-fold. (1) I was rather excited so many people participated in the bizarre American tradition. It make me think that individuals are feeling safer about American than I have been feeling lately - with all the hate in this political campaign, I figured people would be cautious to protect their kids. (2) There seemed to be a lot more adults, not dressed, also walking up to the door trick or treating. I'd ask if they were collecting for a kid in a car or someone who was shy and they would respond, "No. It's for me."

Hmmm. Maybe they were grocery shopping. I thought it was strange.

I remember my father cut us off from trick or treating at a young age. Then, I thought it was strict, but now that I'm an adult I think, "Good for him." The number of teenagers coming around in the later hours was rather abundant. I could hear them screaming the entire way and I thought, "Um, shouldn't you be working?"

Different times, I guess.

For the young ones, though, it was a fabulous night. I love seeing the kids dressed up and hearing from everyone, "Oh, we always look at your house to see if your dog is in the window. It's so great to actually get to pet her." Glamis was very much a part of the distribution of candy/snacks until she through in the towel as if stating, "Screw these people. They're not bringing anything to me."

And I'm thinking Monday night is a bit much for Halloween. Just what everyone needs to kick of the start of a work week - an evening of more work toting your kids around or working the door. I didn't even dress up this year: too overwhelmed and exhausted to keep up with the idea of festivity.

But I participated, and that counts most.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Writing To Learn and Inquire Through Difficult Texts. Inspired by a Philosophy Educator at a Community College

On Monday, I visited Housatonic Community College to show teaching support for Ed Fians, a philosophy educator who participated in the 2016 Invitational Leadership Institute of the Connecticut Writing Project. Ed has one of those minds we all wish we had and his creativity, innovation, thirst for truth, and inquisitiveness for ideas leaves most he interacts with inspired.

He participated with CWP-Fairfield because he wanted to tune the writing instruction he offers his non-traditional students, especially in a tough course on ethics. During the summer, he worked on a Woulda/Shoulda scenario, where he wanted to design a prompt that would get his students interacting with difficult texts as they apply decision making to scenarios of choosing right or wrong.

After the 1.5 hour observation, I said, "I'm totally stealing this for my graduate course on teaching writing." Why? I couldn't believe the engagement of his students: youth fresh out of a wide variety of high schools, mothers returning to school, career men trying to advance their intellectual knowing, English language learners improving their English, and workers wanting to find the next step for their life. If it is in the world, it was in his class.

And Ed Fians was teaching Foucault - Panopticism, of all things, where the students read about the plague and the history of prison systems. He had the students write in, "Would you rather live a life under total surveillance 24 hours a day for safety, or live free for ten years, no surveillance, but knowing you would only live ten years?" His students, like my graduate students, were divided about 60/40 on what they would choose. The debate was a precursor to the reading.

In my observation, I acknowledged that he had 100% engagement the entire time and I asked him why this was. He said, "It's the writing. I changed that this year. The students expect it, they get personal with it, and it helps them to connect to the texts we're exploring."

I decided I would do an experiment with my graduate students by offering the same prompt and giving them a selection to read (this is a Developmental Reading course for pre-service teachers). Gallagher notes that writing to learn means we have youth think through the difficult texts we assign. He speculates that a first reading will offer limited comprehension, but a second will bring a little more. He acknowledged that writing about the learning, however, emphasizes even more comprehension. This worked for 11 of my 12 students. They write their way into understanding the text.

I asked my graduate students what writing has to do with inquiry and knowing. They speculated a number of ideas, and then a French teacher said, "Writing is everything for knowing." Everything was my answer, too. From there we brainstormed projects for the course and tuned the questions we wanted to ask to guide students towards written outcomes that were pertinent to their writing objectives for students.

I owe a round of applause to Ed Fians for bringing summer learning to life and implication to the classroom - National Writing Project implication. When his students left they said, "Professor, why aren't we writing our way out of the room today?" He's created a culture of effective practices. He ran out of time, but they expected it.

"Writing," said Ed. "Writing is the secret. The engagement comes from the prompts. It takes more time away from my direct instruction, but the benefits far surpass any other way of doing this work."

In the classroom, K-12 students are expected to push difficult reading onto kids and to scaffold ways for them to interact with such text. Most simply assign. For Ed's students, and for my graduate students, however, a text isn't a text with new ideas until there's opportunity to write about and with the them.

And there it is. I'm kicking off my Wednesday with a bit of an Ed Fian-inspired jig. I want everyone to have the opportunity to take his class.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Every Time I Get Surrounded By Negativity, I Jump Into The Need For Positivity. Sometimes This is Challenging

I tend not to jump into the bandwagon of daily affirmations and quotes to live by, because the comedian in me, tends to find loopholes in such mentality, cracking me up and finding the opposite  to preach. Maybe this is my way of staying on my toes and trying to keep two feet on the ground.

I am thinking back to back-to-school kicks-offs in Kentucky when motivational speakers were hired to do district PD to get everyone ready for the challenges ahead.

There were challenges. Many. The happy-go-lucky spirit, though, did little for when this Bambi encountered Godzilla as I tried to empty the ocean with the fork they gave me.

Still, I've always been one to stop and list positive accomplishments in times when everyone seems frazzled by the world being reported around them. That is why I appreciated the community support of many in-practice teachers, agencies, Bridgeport residents, and administrators who quickly brainstormed the incredible work that was going on in support of a district that too often gets in the news for all the negative reasons. In a matter of seconds, 20 individuals listed the following ways that organizations and universities are contributing positive energy into local K-12 schools. Listed by these collaborators were (and I will leave it as is, before heading into work for the day).
  • ·      Fairfield University College of Arts and Science Poetry For Peace tradition
  • ·      CT Mirror and Fairfield University Collaboration, MLK Essay Contest
  • ·      Fairfield’s GSEAP partnership with Cesar Batalla
  • ·      Fairfield University Athletics Partnership with CWP-Fairfield for Literacy4Life
  • ·      GSEAP Turnaround Partnership with Columbus K-8 School
  • ·      38 Bridgeport youth with a Fairfield University scholarship
  • ·      Bassick High School Senior Fridays at Fairfield University
  • ·      Cesar Batalla’s Jessica Baldizon and Bassick High School’s William King will present workshops at National Writing Project Annual Meeting and National Council of Teachers of English
  • ·      Tauck Family Foundation – Collaboration of Funders
  • ·      OCT 19: PSAT/SAT preparation – College Board Ready Assessment
  • ·      University of Bridgeport  – enrollment in UB’s graduate school, working with diverse populations (Reading and Educational Leadership)
  • ·      Sacred Heart University’s Horizons and summer enrichment program: 200 students from BPS and BCS for math, science, social/emotional, and physical education with the goal od increasing math/reading skills.
  • ·      Literacy Clinic at Sacred Heart University: tutoring, literacy consultants
  • ·      Classrooms without Walls at Sacred Heart University: 4th and 5th graders from Madison Elementary and Trumbull to build skills and positive social interactions.
  • ·      TSTT – Tech Conference at Sacred Heart University 11/3/16 Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers Tech Conference
  • ·      University of Bridgeport’s STEAM Project – Dr. Nancy DeJarnette received grant from CT Space Grant Consortium to train Pk-8 teachers in building STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts and math) (in collaboration with Discovery Museum)
  • ·      University of Bridgeport Mentors in Roosevelt School 
  • ·      University of Bridgeport Weekend workshops for science teachers
  • ·      GEAR UP SAT Prep Classes on Saturdays (60 students) – hosted at University of Bridgeport
  • ·      GEAR UP College Boot Camps: Common App, FAFSA, Essays
  • ·      GEAR UP parent/student out of state college tour in Western Massachusetts
  • ·      Parent Leadership Training Institute
  • ·      RULER: Parent training, district success, community trainings
  • ·      Apple Schools
  • ·      Turnaround Arts
  • ·      Restorative Practice workshops
  • ·      OSS Pilot
  • ·      Claytor Academy
  • ·      Bridgeport Public Education Fund: MAACS College Grads and Alumni Group
  • ·      Bassick/St. Vincents College Collaboration
  • ·      HCC/Manufacturing Partnerships
  • ·      1st Day BPEF Books to all 1st Grade students.
  • ·      BPEF Inspiration Awards and Teacher Recognition
  • ·      Daniel Trust Foundation’s Youth Council
  • ·      Fairchild Wheeler Engineering collaboration
  • ·      BHEA’s coordination of Student Service Resources for District through coordinating directory.
  • ·      Housatonic Tutoring Program
  • ·      United Way’s Youth Summit: 300 volunteers, 1,800 youth, 85 committee members – Port of Opportunity