Thursday, August 17, 2017

When the Neighbors Are Away, The Bry-Guy Will Play (with a Water Can)

The Wooley-Sealeys are in Trinidad with their family and this is my week to attempt to be the best side-lined water-boy a good colleague neighbor can be. I knew they had a few outdoor plants, but I wasn't prepared for so many annuals in pots. Let's just say that the green can and I have been tremendous friends this week...

...and I'm thankful for the Ishy toys that pop up out of nowhere to put a smily on my face. Today, the rubber squid monster next to a beautiful glass shell caught my attention. I wanted to take both home to add to my tchotchke collection.

Ah, but I left them. I went to the office knowing that the flowers chuckled at a drink of water before a day of intense tease and direct sunlight.

Even the fake plants got the one-two finger one-over this week. I know what is real and what is artificial.

The leaves on the trees, however, are turning over and I can tell they are ready to turn their colors and fall to the ground (once again trigger my economic plant to find a use for fallen leaves that will make this academic some money. Seems like a waste to only rake them up and put them at the roadside).

That squid, though. What a great friend to have in a household. Jealous!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm Not Sure I Have Words. I Have Awe. I See. History Sees.

This is not the pond I walked around yesterday. I didn't have my cellphone when I hiked...

...I stole a .gif off the internet to replicate the image where I hiked...

...where I processed an incredible workshop hosted by Weir Farm and teacher Richard Novack...

...where I experienced the brilliance of K-12 teachers who chose a profession of entrusting knowledge onto the next generation...

...where I watched a black water snake, perhaps an Eastern Rat Snake, rest on a rock hoping for August sun...

...where I witnessed a Cooper's Hawk in search of a late-afternoon snack....

...where I said hello to butterflies that landed on my shoulder...

...where my luck as an educator afforded me a temporary calm to be outdoors...

...where the calm followed the a.m. tweets of a President who is supposed to uphold American values, but tweets trains instead (then takes it down)....

...where a calm existed hours before returning to the real world, the news, the rogue leadership unhinged...

...where I later walked the dog to process the world I know, the students I've taught, the vision I have for a beautiful nation, and the unraveling (perhaps revealing) of what I thought was mythology from a time that once was.

I wanted to repost a section of Whitman's Song of Myself, but I'm not there yet...I'm revisiting the love I have for this nation, what I hope it stands for, what I believe in, and what I feel is just and right.

My politics have always wavered. That, I believe, is healthy. This is surreal.

And now I must realize the calm arrives from a place of privilege...I can choose this, but recognize that my choice will create anarchy for others. We are being tested, right here, right now.

Cry The Beloved Country. Alan Paton, I'm channeling your wisdom. I'm looking for a way to believe in hope once again. To believe in love...

...the calm I get from a bourbon on ice, wondering what America really wants to be....

...the calm I feel when reflecting on news from my mother that Chitunga made the Dean's list at LeMoyne College, a first-generation refugee kid who believes in the American dream --- one he's always been willing to fight and die for.

We all can use such calm...the shire perhaps. But Frodo met the Orks and Sauron. Potter knows the anti-muggle league. Stormtroopers have their Death Star...

The story continues.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day Two @WeirFarmNPS with @richnovack Reading Landscapes: Writing Nature

I am thanking The Great Whatever that several years ago, I had the fortune of sitting with National Writing Project's Judy Buchanan who not only shared her brilliance and expertise with me, but a passion for working with National Park Services. She planted a seed about nature writing and, a couple of years later, emailed me to say that there was a site near Fairfield University called Weir Farm and they might make a phenomenal partner for a nature writing workshop.

Indeed.

Two years ago, we brought our Invitational Leadership Institute to the historic site to spend a day writing about landscape. Fast forward to this week, a generous grant through National Writing Project support, and the vision of Rich Novack and Kristen Lessard, and WOLA! We have our first ever two-day Reading Landscapes: Writing Nature in the 21st Century teacher institute.

Today, I will be doing a small workshop based off my environmental days working in Kentucky when I earned a Masters from the Kentucky Institute of Education and Sustainable Development and where I wrote a thesis on Environmental English - bringing earth into the English classroom. I'm tapping an exercise from Project Wet (a community-building activity) and making a case for the work I do now with CWP-Fairfield through a philosophy of Ubuntu and our Young Adult Literacy Labs.

Phew. I was young then. I started my second masters at age 25 and in 1998, when I was a first year teacher, I earned the degree and immediately began to make sense of ecological sustainability in terms of urban education, nature, poetry, young adult novels, and outdoor learning.

As I put together the presentation, I couldn't help but walk down memory lane when my hair was longer, my love handles less severe, and my optimism about what is possible at an all-time high.

Here's to the 2nd day of the work - I'm so impressed by the vast region this institute has attracted educators from - there needs to be much more of this work for our K-12 teachers.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another Day of Crunching Numbers in Ol' Canisius Hall

I tallied scores from teaching assessments over the last five years in room 108 of Canisius Hall. For the most part, the courses I teach provided me with wonderfully high scores, both for my teaching and the content covered. There were outliers here and there, with comments that were somewhat constructive, but mostly a little bothersome, but the averages tended to be a 4.75 out of 5, which I'm feeling comfortable with.

Better than the the IDEA forms that students fill out are the comments in emails and letters that come my way, especially after the Summer Seminar for teaching writing of in-practice teachers. They seems to get it, and leave inspired by the five-week institute we offer. In fact, 100% of them feel the content is highly useful and 98% feel it is the best professional development they've ever had. The others claim it is better that the majority received.

I need to work on the narrative portion to justify the work, but the University's system for finding information I needed was down, so I was trapped from getting as far as I wanted.

I decided a good Sunday run and a wonderful walk with the dog was worth more than stressing about the technology glitch in the office, so I took advantage of a wonderful summer day and went home, then to the free concert at Walnut Beach in Milford.

Today, though, I begin the last teacher institute and I'm looking forward to the learning that my colleague Rich Novack will deliver with the environmental writing - a blast from my KY past.

I can't wait to get outdoors to write.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pro-Democracy, Pro-Dialogue, Pro-Love, Pro-Diversity, Pro-Compassion, Pro-Kindness

In 1992, I took what little inheritance I received from my Grannie Annie to go on a study-abroad trip to London, England. It was a program called Literature of Exile and the Black British Experience and it was taught by a phenomenal mentor who woke me up to the United States of America and international race relations.

I was 19 years old. I was naive. I was called Sesame Street. I was young. And I was totally unaware of history on a national and international level. It was that moment in time - as a 19 year-old, honors student who did very well to get into college - that I finally woke up to LEARNING.

When our flight landed at Heathrow, we drove around London for 6 hours. Why? Because the IRA had just bombed London. I looked to a kid sitting next to me and said, "Excuse my ignorance, but what is the IRA?" I learned. A few months later, Rodney King would occur and riots sprung all across the West Coast. My suburban, working class background, I realized, kept me ignorant of human struggle around the world: populations of many races, colors, belief systems, and traditions.  I turned to books to learn. I chose to take classes to educate myself more and to inform me about the world beyond what I was taught in school. Then, I dedicated my life to teaching in urban schools and supporting the democracy of the United States. That's what I do. High standards for all...the desire to leave the world a little better than what I inherited.

I hope my actions speak louder than words.

I am living in my office building this weekend sorting materials, labeling them, and analyzing them so I can make the case that I am somebody at the University level. As I was putting items into binders and updating tables and charts I realized something quickly. The work I do is the antithesis of what some people want and see for America. The egregious behaviors in Virginia this week are evidence for the court: screaming and belligerence that was modeled proactively during the last election cycle, too. Hate is learned. Hate is prompted. Hate is disastrous. I do not stand with the hatred. I do not stand with the prejudice. I do not stand with the ignorance, either. I stand against it.

In my binders put together to outline who I am (yeah, I really am sick of me, too), I am able to say,
  • In five years, I've raised over $500,000 in grant money to support dialogue, diversity, communication, and support amongst youth and teachers (especially with a reminder that America is a nation made up of immigrants...as the Governor of Virginia reminded us yesterday - shoot, even the National Review agrees.
  • In five years, I've published 8 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and 1 review showcasing the writing lives of African-born male refugees, teacher collaborations, summer writing opportunities for youth, grants in K-12 schools, best practices for teaching writing, and hosting institutes for teachers.
  • In five years, the work has been recognized by our campus's MLK committee, Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Fairfield University's President, Fairfield Community Foundation and most recently the Initiatives of 21st Century Literacies Research.
  • In five years, the efforts have been recognized in the news 53 times.
  • In five years, the work I've done with the National Writing Project has reached approximately 3,850 educators, with CWP teachers providing almost 100,000 contact hours
  • In five years, I've been able to go solo, and collaboratively, to present 60 conference presentations, 
  • In five years, my students have rated my teaching rather generously, and 
  • In five years, CWP-Fairfield has published over 12 teacher and youth publications, numerous OpEds and sponsored too many events name and count.
This, of course, has been under the belief of Ubuntu and human togetherness. It may be corny, but when I left the Brown School in 2007 I said, "You can't ever leave such a beautiful place. The beautiful place remains in our hearts and souls wherever we go. It is our responsibility to spread the school's mission in whatever we do."

That's what I hope I've accomplished. I am hoping that my world has been a demonstration of what can be possible through hard work, research, and action. I believe in this, because so many around me have modeled such perseverance. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Well, I Have a Chart To Tell Part of the Story and I Am Sort of Proud.

I spent yesterday in my office creating charts to go with my dossier, and worked numbers of the Young Adult Literacy Labs over the last four years. We've gone from serving 80 or so youth to over 200. In addition, we now work with over 35 teachers each summer. It's pretty remarkable, too, considering that when I arrived to Fairfield, CWP-Fairfield was in the red by $13,000. State and federal grants disappeared, and we established programming that works - I'm able to sustain the work by the innovative redesign.

I'm also thrilled to know that this year, 2017, over 57% of the young people who came were totally funded by scholarship: professional development monies I donated, donations to CWP-Fairfield, and a few grants. The result? Our programs are highly representative of the U.S. population, and not just the 1% of the nation that can afford summer camps and programs for children. In this sense, we've democratized our writing labs.

Also, Ubuntu Academy continues to thrive and those who attend become central to all the programs we host during the summer. Through the contributions I make through PD throughout the year, with the generosity of like-minded donors, and because of the excellence of immigrant and refugee youth in Bridgeport, we have sustained a summer program that is really remarkable. We do this, of course, through ingenuity and creativity.

There's so much to the story of building Young Adult Literacy Labs, and upon getting to the other side of the University process, I'm hoping there will be time to collaborate with my teachers to write the book and/or books about the hard work that goes into our success: publishing the writing of kids, offering an enjoyable summer experience, and sparking a joy in written language they claim is squashed by schools.

I'm going into the weekend with a smile. I left the classroom saddened that I would no longer be teaching kids, but I now see that I have found a way to continue serving them. Not only is their feedback positive and fulfilling, the teachers in our programs report tremendous success, too - to the point that they wish our summer work could be year-round.

I don't know, however, if I have the energy for that!

Friday, August 11, 2017

With Thanks to @mrshoweihs Be Kind, A Great 2017-2018 Motto

I am writing in total appreciation of Denise Howe, a teacher I was fortunate to work with during the 2016 Invitational Leadership Institute and the 2017 College Ready Writers Program. A graduate of Fairfield University's English Education program, Denise is everything her mentor, Dr. Emily Smith, said she would be. When she applied to CWP-Fairfield programs, Emily wrote, "You will love her. She is an amazing human being."

An amazing human being: mother, teacher, and even a winter guard supporter, I've loved every second I've had learning alongside her.

While I was cleaning my office yesterday, I found a package she delivered to my office that I, sadly, didn't see until I was tidying. Denise bought me a gift from Ben's Bells.
For over a decade, Ben's Bells has been infusing the practice of intentional kindness throughout communities. Tens of thousands of citizens are engaged with Ben's Bells educational programming offered through our studios, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. 
Ben's Bells Project's mission is to education communities about the known positive impacts of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness.
I am honored, especially as it is Denise Howe who is too kind. Inscribed in a note, Denise wrote,
Dear Bryan, 
When I think of Ben's Bells and the "Be Kind" movement, I'm reminded of the kindness you have shown me. I appreciate your confidence in me, a renewed confidence in myself to continue to pursue my passions.

Inspired by National Writing Project work, the love for her daughter and her son, and a drive for social justice, Denise has been heading toward a trajectory of fulfilling her want for a better world and a more equitable classroom. She is a gifted educator and a wonderful human being.

When I opened the present, I simply realized this needs to be the motto for 2017-2018, especially as Pandora's box has reopened internationally and fear, hatred, envy and spite have spread like wildfire, especially across the U.S. in ways I didn't know was possible.

Driving from work yesterday I heard a report about the power of negativity and the toxic ways it becomes rampant amongst people and friends. When surrounded by negative thought, it is easy to jump into similar misery as a habit of mind. I'm joining Denise to counter such a movement and looking to joy. I'm thankful for my gift and will look at it daily for inspiration and the reminder that love should always be the answer.
 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Work We Do Is Sometimes Messy and Disorganized. It Gets Done

I returned to an office that looked like an unkept storage closet. The summer did the space in, and a week away delivered even more chaos to room 115 Canisius Hall. I am now on day 2 of sorting and putting things away. I keep telling myself that the unpacking, filing and organizing is also a subliminal way to focus on the real work that needs to be done before a new semester begins.

Yes, I know of articles about clean desk vs. awful ones as a testimony to creativity (my colleague Sharon Kane at SUNY Oswego, in fact, shared that she too has an assortment of everything in her peripheral view. I have a sister by Lake Ontario (one I admire).

The truth is, I like minimalism and clear spaces to do my thinking. There's enough wackiness in my head, so I don't need an environment to personify this where I sit to actually think. I know I must clean before I can actually process, and that is what I've been doing.

Ah, but cleaning paperwork, budgets, and forms - that's a different story, because that material needs to be provided to other offices on campus so everything in grant land goes forward. I can say, though, that I have lived this way on campus, so it doesn't filter its way into my home life (which has stayed moderately calm and non-chaotic).

I can't believe I'm actually thinking about this, as I'm embarrassed that any of my spaces can get this crazy with stuff: so much stuff, but this is what running a National Writing Project site looks like (and what supporting teachers and kids becomes in the day to day routine).

I will say, too, that my office no longer looks like this. I'm ready for the conference call this morning, meetings, and time to actually write. I simply need to move the paperwork onto the next phase of their existence.

(On another note, I used my DVR for the first time last night for Big Brother. Who knew fast forwarding and rewinding could be so difficult?)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Returning to a Blooming Garden and a Blossoming Heart

This was one of those summers with abundant rain. I knew I'd have to mow the lawn when I returned, but I didn't expect to return to a garden so vibrant with butterfly and hummingbird life. This is the 3rd summer, so the seep, creep, then leap motto is in full effect. The backyard is taking off and now next year I'll be able to divided and conquer.

I spent a vast amount of the day (7 hours) putting away and sorting through materials from the five weeks, 230 kid bonanza that were Young Adult Literacy Labs. When I opened my office door knowing it would be the trashed room I left it to be, I failed to remember that I also ordered several books that arrived and were piled onto the stacks that were already there. One more teacher institute and I can say Summer '17 is finally at its end...well, one more teacher institute and several days of back-to-school professional development.

Leo and I went to Pam's to do some drill work, hanging items that she needed around the house. Bev, Leo's husband, presented me with a gift she picked up at a Milford art show. It was a tie sewn by an organization working with refugee women and in between drill bits and battery packs, she tells me the tie was made by a local woman and her biography was in the package. When I pulled out the card I said, "I might know her."

Guess what? I did. It was Akbaru's mom, who is supplementing their family's income by sewing these ties to make extra income. I couldn't believe it and knew it was an extra special gift. I immediately texted Akbaru who responded, "Wow! That's my mom! My mom made this."

I will definitely will wear it with pride (and joy). It was made by Our Woven Community.
Sauda is originally from Burundi. Sauda lost her mother and siblings due to violence. She escaped Burndi with three children [twin boys and, of course, Akbaru] and fled to a refugee camp in Tanzania. She spent 15 years there before arriving to the United States. Sauda enjoys being a part of OWC because she gets to meet new people and can help provide for her family
I am touched and honored to wear such a special gift that was made from the heart, and purchased with such heart.

I'm entering my Wednesday feeling reentered by love, community, and the goodness that sometimes exist. Both my mind and heart blossomed yesterday. I am feeling lucky, indeed.
 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

One Last Stop On My Way Out of Syracuse - Solvay Bank with a Wegman's Sub

It's always hard to leave Clay, New York, especially at the beginning of a new semester where - despite trying to put work off for 7 days - the work simply piled up and you know what you are retuning to. Sadder than leaving, however, is the fact I came back to a very quiet home. No Chitunga, No Pam, No Abu, No Lossine, No Ali, and No Kanye. It's eerily quiet.

I did clean before I left so I would return to freshness, but it still is odd to come back to a house that isn't moving and shaking with next steps, food needing to be made, items needing to be organized, schedules aligned, and rooms to be cleaned. The space is simply vast and hollow.

That's when it hits me. The cicadas have arrived. School is heading its freight train back into this direction and the summer is over. The crazy Crandall chaos of summer has come to an end.  Now it is time to leave the love and joy of the work I do and to return to the academic side to make a case for it scholastically. I'd rather make phenomena than study it, but while in Rome, I need to be Roman.

I couldn't help but stop, however, and get one more Wegman's sub to bring to the kid at his job in Solvay or to snap a photo of him at his booth with his name. I love that he has a name plate, is in a tie, and that his supervisors came over to meet me to say how much they enjoy working with him. I gave him a handshake and headed out, knowing (1) that he's a worker, (2) that he's lucky to have a solid summer job to learn more about the finance field, and (3) he is safe and happy. The third is most important, though, especially as he finishes a rigorous summer course and ties a bow on his own summer. I just wish I had more one on one time to talk and catch up. We communicate silently - we just know that a strong work ethic is what it takes and that a belief in the American fortunes need to be celebrated and appreciated, not scolded or scoffed.

I downloaded a few podcasts from a wide variety of sources for the ride home and listened to a few stories on immigration: the mythologies, the fear, and the absolute hate that made my skin crawl (I guess this is research, too...to hear and listen to the stories that are opposite of what I experience each and every day in Connecticut). I try to stay away from politics, unless it is directly tied to education - and right now, it is the worst it has ever been - but the interviews with people across the U.S. in relation to immigration and the wackiness of a fake news society made me very anxious in the car. I wanted to punch a hole through my windshield.

It's one thing to be ignorant. That's normal and okay. But if the ignorance continues over and over again, then you move into stupidity territory. The only thing I could think about on my drive home is that everyone should be encouraged to use their local libraries and take advantage of the free library cards they give out. Rather than fill their hearts with hatred, bias, and irrationality, I want to encourage them to read more, to have more conversations with people who don't look and think like them, to initiate more dialogue with the world, and to question their news sources more so that people don't react out of fear , but with the rationality . Of course, story after story after story, I realized the internet has created a society of fabricated information and absolute hysteria. It's astonishing. It's horrifying. It's real.

And that's where we are as a society.

In the meantime, I will look at this photo above and know what is possible through love and support. I see what can be accomplished when the American dream is trusted and democracy is upheld. I will go to my grave in support of love over hate and spite. Hate and spite cripples people.

I can't change that, but I can do my best to live by example. It's a constant battle to have hope in human beings and to have absolute disgust. Hearing the wrath on my way home while listening to stories made my stomach turn. I thought, too, it might have caused Glamis's uneasiness because she did not settle the entire ride (as if she was listening to the reports I downloaded).

Okay, Tuesday. Be kind to me. It's hunkering time and back to the grind.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Perhaps The Biggest Secret To Live in the United States - The 1,000 Islands (actually, 1,864)

As a late elementary, middle school kid, my father and I (sometimes my Grandma Vera, too) would head to Aunt Rena's on the St. Lawrence River. At times, my father would leave me at the camp and head into Alexandria Bay for their night life - I didn't see what that night life was until a few years ago when I visited A-Bay with my little sister. We didn't do the night scene, but a boat tour with my mom.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my little sister and I took the boys to the 1,000 islands for a boat tour and to walk the grounds of Boldt Castle - one of the most beautiful locations I've ever wandered. The history of the area is remarkable, but the absolute beauty of sky, water, greenery, and island homes is simply breathtaking. Of course, we hit it on a perfect day where the air was cool, the sun was hot, and the sky was patterned with perfect clouds.

It made me think back to the years where I would sit in my Aunt Rena's cabin, read her pile of dirty jokes books (that were in her magazine rack), and counted the ships coming towards Lake Ontario from the Atlantic Ocean. I remember all the days, too, of riding our little fishing boat and trying to hook into Pike or Muskie - every year Aunt Rena bought me a red dare-devil lure and every summer I'd try to hook a fish with it for two to three days.

The air, too, was so clean.

And when we returned, my father and I took Glamis for a short walk to visit Pete, his friend from the airlines, and the father of one of my best friend's growing up. I guess the day was one for memory lane and how fortunate I was to grow up in such a beautiful region of the United States.

I will hold onto these sights until I return again.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Some Oneida Lake Time - One of CNY's Best Kept Secrets (LOVE)

We don't have a boat on the waters any more, and I don't think I have any friends left in the area, but Borios still exists and they had pike on the menu for mom (dad had frog legs - yuck), so it was a great way to have dinner looking out at the water.

Casey and I arrived early with the boys, so we wandered into the gazebo and by the water - the gray skies and intermittent sunlight created wonderful colors on the water as we ate. Showers fell in some locations, while sunshine danced in others.

I finally had chicken riggies, too - the Utica dish, and I have to say I loved it, but wish it was a side dish and not a main course...it's a bit much.

The boys, Casey, and I also hit the miniature golf course and I was triumphant. Casey and I were tired halfway through, but then it all fell apart for her (ha ha).

The evening finished with a couple beers at Cynderballz, while Chitunga and Mike got engrossed in a Will Smith movie and I napped.

Oneida Lake, though. I am missing that space (always a dream to be able to look out to that water on a daily basis). It's so beautiful. Such a luxury and secret to the area. Would love to be out there fishing on a daily basis.

Maybe someday. Maybe not.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Deck Party in Blue. A Long Overdue Tradition With Much Modification

Cynde, Chitunga, Nikki, & Sean-Man, '17
It wasn't the large fiestas of yesteryear, the beer pong, late nights, screaming, intoxication, anarchy and humor of our youth. It was, however, a gathering with the intention to be wild and crazy - just more family style and low key.

Mike and Cynde had a modified deck party of pizza, corn hole, Moscow mules and Labatts. Everything comes full circle and the majority of us now want to be in bed by 10 p.m.

The occasion did present itself, though, with several photographs that came our rather nice and that I'm sure we'll all cherish for years (cough cough, except for me - wasn't included in a single one).

Cornhole was played, laughter was established, and a good time was had by all. We do what we can with the energy we have (which isn't much).

And we also get to sleep in...sort of.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Big Brother with Little Sister Cuz I'm The Big Brother, That's Why

Finally made it east to Manlius for Barnwell night, the day after, for a couple rounds of corn hole, ribs, corn, salt potatoes, and zucchini bread. The food was delicious (and I was thankful I didn't have to prepare any of it). Also great to spend time with Chitunga, although he was tired from work all day (end of the week stuff).

Then there was poor Dixie. She had a cyst taken off her tail and needs to wear the cone of shame for a while. In the meantime, she uses it to bump into everyone and every thing, including glasses of water.

Chitunga and Shaun monopolized the corn hole tournament while Jake and I led cheers from the side..."You need to buy Charmin, because you both play like crap."

We did get an annual selfie in and, man oh man oh man, have I become gray!

We followed with the 9 pm Thursday Head of Household show where I learned that Casey only allows silence during the viewing. ABSOLUTE SILENCE. So strict are her rules that she make this precious little guy cry in absolute fear because of her wrath (she's always been this way and it took all the self-constraint I could muster not to antagonize her outburst more). It's hysterical - That's my KC!

But I get it. It's an intense show, and picking on my little sister is this Big Brother's duty...

or in the case of the corn hole playing....DOODIE.

It's Friday and I'm looking forward to Chitunga having free time! It begins at 5:30.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

It Was Hump Day, But Now It's Thursday & Big Brother Is On Again Tonight

Glamis, Max, and Bella
Best part of yesterday? Backyard barbecue and puppy dogs. Delicious chicken, grilled vegetables and the ever-so-tasty Moscow Mules.

Earlier in the day, I surprised Chitunga with a Wegman's sub at Solvay Bank, I picked up Kanye to meet my parents, and we took Dylan for a driving experience (before he went to get a haircut).

I also got a run in! That works for me.

Now, I'm letting the day pass by so that we can see what's next on Big Brother (I'm an addict. I admit it). As mom says, "These are the fastest hours of the week."

Speaking of mom, she's halfway through Solo and she sent out her first video tweet this afternoon (actually, I recorded and I sent it out). I think she enjoyed her mules and I know it helps her that I am able to run up and own the stairs quickly for refills and to get the rest of items for dinner.

Did I mention how good the chicken was? Man, Dinosaur BBQ sauce I tell you...and Cynde marinated hers with Speedie sauce. You have to love CNY flavors.

Ah, but today is Thursday. There isn't much on the radar but meeting up with Chitunga and heading to my little sister's house tonight. I know Glamis would like a walk and I need another run before the day is over. Maybe the sun will stay out and I will get into the pool, too. That would be a blessing.

I am liking my new work until noon motto of my CNY stay. I actually get R & R time, too.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Not a CNY Visit Without A Bar Stool, A Chicken Wing, & a Labatt's Blue

Little sister visited. Older sister visited. Puppy cousins visited. Did a Wegmans trip. Got a haircut with my mom. Took a nap. Put out fires via email. Ran around the block. Jumped in the pool. Ate ice-cream.
Decided to make molasses slab cookies.

And went to Chubby's. I had to go to Chubby's. It's what has been the ritual in Papi Butch's world for a couple decades now. You know, your local neighborhood bar built out of a barn where you can get ice cream, cigarettes, pizza, and whiskey shots. Oh, there's candy, too, and a pool table.

Good ol' family joint, where if you have too much you can always walk home - I think that is the success of the joint (and you get to meet all the fun neighbors). Last night was a corn hole tournament, although I didn't play. I ate Val's wings, caught up with one of my dad's friend's son, and chatted with the Perras (although I wish we had more time).

It's not a return home without a visit to Syracuse's strangest joint. At this point, it's so much a part of the ritual, that I don't even question it any more.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Managed Half A Day Without Work And Am Proud Of This

Mustapha making his corn hole debut on Amalfi Drive.
Reports. Reports. Reports.

Emails. Emails. Emails.

Fires. Fires. Fires.

That's what I do, especially on a Monday morning when everyone returns to work. But I'm not there. I'm in Syracuse (and my parents watch my frustration as the work comes in and don't understand why I can't just draw a line). It's the position. It gets old, but I really do love it.

By noon, I was able to go for a run, and by 2 I was helping to clean the cabinets. I was grateful for Lauri, who came over to join my mom for a cocktail, which inspired me to run to the store and get ingredients. By 5, Rhiannon came over and by 6 I was on the grill. The twins wrote they were on the way, too (and didn't show up until 7:30, because they picked up Mustapha who was still at work).

We got a few corn hole games in before the mosquitos ate us alive.

By 9, Chitunga joined us looking for food, and by 9:30 were inside to get away from the bugs and to catch up with Sue and Butch.

Long story short, it was all laughs, as always.

And by 10:30, I had a bowl of ice-cream (see, I really can relax from time time to time).

Bring on Tuesday.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Trading Places, Returning Places, Relearning Places, and Home Again, Once Again

And on the 1st day off in a long time, I drove to Syracuse, to return boys to Syracuse and to see family in Syracuse. I don't think my car could have been any more packed, as Glamis had to sit on Ali's lap and there was not space enough for a piece of rice. They road well together, but I felt horrible for both. He starts a new camp in Albany this week and Kanye is staying with a friend. Challenging, indeed.

It's crazy now to visit Syracuse when Chitunga has his own place and routine, so it feels like I'm a guest in his world. It's also tricky because he has a full agenda: work, school, and studies, so my time off doesn't coincide with time to play and catch up. I guess this is the way we all transition. I had to check where there is space in the week so we can actually catch up. It will happen.

Without Ali and Kanye in the house, however, I'll miss the modeling and posing (here, I jumped in to make fun of the kid who doesn't take a bad picture. I had to ruin it for him).

And I'm thinking about this morning. Will it really be a Monday where I'm not up getting things ready to go at 6 a.m.? Can I just sit staring out my parent's window, being nosy observing neighbors as I sip my coffee?

Why, yes I can! And I will.

The only problem is I don't have my fan that I love to have when sleeping. I'm laughing, because I'm wondering how we would have fit that into the car.

Okay, Monday. Let's try to chill Bryan out (he laughs, knowing that at 7 pm he as contacted by the State to say a report is due tomorrow. Really? 24 hour notice. I can't catch a break.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Road Trip, But First An Important Poem Written With Our Lakota Friends This Summer

Somehow, yesterday, the agenda was met. In fact, I said I was going to clean my house, too, and at midnight I finished the task. Why? Because I like to return to a clean house so it feels like I'm moving into a hotel. It was a mess, too.

The morning was spent in my office chiseling away at the items needing to be done by Monday (but I missed several)...I just can't keep up.

Meanwhile, as I was typing away, our Lakota friends had a 4 a.m. pick up for their flight back to South Dakota. This was their first time away from home, on an airplane, and in a new state. They were scared to death, shy, and apprehensive, but they came around. They were incredible and I applauded their every move in Connecticut, especially their trip to New York City where they "Stood Up To the Bull" with the Little Girl. That's what inspired the poem.
I was most pleased when they reported, "We'll be next year for sure. We can't wait." I was excited to hear the news.

So, today as I drive to my homelands I wish them the best in theirs. Ashanti, Juanita, Sunni, Erika, and Autumn - Here's to you! You should be extremely proud for your accomplishments and success. Go and achieve the world!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Thought About Posting Me Spread Out With X's In My Eyes, but...

There's only one more, two-day teacher institute scheduled for later in August. Yesterday, however, we culminated two weeks of Ubuntu Academy, the literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth. Attendance was up this year with 23-27 kids attending daily, but the success of the program was amplified by 100. The karma of the kids was stupendous and the friendliness was out of this world.

Ubuntu, coupled with the teacher institute for College Ready Writers Program, was much of the focus, but so was Project Citizen: Flying lessons from the Prose.

We've run the program as a weeklong session in year's past, but National Writing Project support, we extended an additional week, doubled enrollment, and hired an even more dynamic teacher force (if that was possible). In total, 26 kids from a wide variety of backgrounds cowrote, wrote independently. and proactively discovered their voices. The teachers, upon leaving yesterday afternoon, said "this was was amazing. The work of the last two weeks will be on my mind for many years to come." Kids agreed. I've already received emails from several stating, "Dr. Crandall, this was the best experience in my life. How can I keep doing work with CWP-Fairfield? I don't want to lose touch with these amazing teachers and kids?"

I feel, however, like I'm under a pile of rocks, just seeing that there's oxygen out there and room to think. All of us are overwhelmed by the amount of greatness that resulted these past two weeks.

I will be posting a collaborative piece produced by Ubuntu youth and Project Citizen that summarizes everything magical about our programs, butI will not do this for a while (stay tuned). During presentations yesterday I got overwhelmed with emotion not once, not twice, but at least 12 times. It was truly amazing to see what the teachers and kids accomplished in such a short period of time. The rest of 2017-2018 is to analyze this.

My desk is covered. There is no room in my office. Paper is everywhere and digital spaces are loaded with the work they created. I have food, gym equipment, books, bags, and copies of readings everywhere. It's too much to process, so I'm going to let it go for a week or so (when I drive the boys back to Cuse).

I am, though, 100% happy with the success of the programs. We receive so few complaints, and although they are substantial, they do not represent the other feedback we get. Yes, I was on campus until 7 p.m. in search of a book bag lost by an Ubuntu kid that morning, working with security to see where it might, but I have to say it was all worth it. Two hours sleep due to John Legend? Well, that was my fault.

And we found the book bag after quite the collaborative search.

I feel somewhat buried alive, but the photos above and all the greatness that isn't captured here just yt makes it all worthwhile.

"Dr. Crandall," one writes. "How do you make this experience last forever?"

Ah, it looks like I have a new challenge to tackle ahead!

Friday, July 28, 2017

John Legend, Ubuntu, LRNG, CWP-Fairfield, Friday Morning, Scratching My Head, Well

 I am writing this post a couple days ahead. Why? I know that five weeks of summer programming ends today and that, well, the John Legend concert scheduled in late June was altered to late July because the singer had a headache.

Long story short, because of LRNG work a few years ago, John Legend's people remembered the CT work and wanted me to coordinate teachers to attend his concert at Foxwoods Casino. We did an all call for a June date and only a few could attend. So, we booked tickets, but Abu and Lossine decided they were in Syracuse all summer, so we pulled in Kanye and Ali. Then the concert was cancelled.

Now, it's back on and it was last night. Legend sent us tickets. I knew that I was likely to get home super late and, being today is the last day of CWP-Fairfield events for now, I wouldn't have time to post...so I pulled together photos to be place holders and promise more to come.

Seriously, 5 weeks of authors, writers, teachers, and kids culminating with John Legend. Um...
Who would have ever thought this for a dork from CNY?

So, take this post as my Friday placeholder. I am feeling like a Lucky Son of a Butch, indeed.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

There Are 1,000 Posts I Could Write Today, But I Am Going With This One (Because)

I'm going to begin with Kelly and then I will end with Kelly.

This summer, CWP-Fairfield collaborated with Simply Smiles and a NWP SEED Camp grant to bring Lakota youth and one teacher to Connecticut for a two-week literacy lab we re-imagined (from one week of argumentative/political writing, to two). The program is called Project Citizen and we built off Shaun Mitchell's vision to encourage CT youth to write for social action. This year, however, we have 25 youth in attendance with 15 kids on scholarship, including 5 Lakota Sioux from S. Dakota and their teacher, Kelly.

I will get back to Kelly. I'm in awe. Phenomenal.

Right now, Ali (Somalia) is in my house trying to finish the last two pages of Matt de La Pena's We Were Here. Kanye, having just finished Kwame Alexander's Solo (frustrated by the ending) is filling out applications to continue to support relocated refugee families in Connecticut. (NOTE: Bryan is balancing between Ali's reading of We Were Here and Kanye's application process while trying to process his world right now in a blog).

Today, 26 relocated refugee youth worked with stellar educators on reading, writing, and understanding their place in the United States. Today, 15 educators through a College Ready Writers Program grant met with 26 students in a Project Citizen Lab (some funded through a Supporting Effective Educator Development  Summer Camp grant) to discuss writing, citizenry, and the politics of storytelling. Today was hard/is hard to capture in words.

Back to Kelly.

As part of the funding, the Lakota youth were brought to Fairfield to participate in our summer work. Teachers and youth, separately, ready Tim Tingle's story in Flying Lessons & Other Stories about the storytelling-Uncle who shares knowledge/wit/embellishment of a big-foot creature. The goal for me, however, was ARGUMENT, and to unite several communities through the Project Citizen/CRWP framework we designed.

Boom. Back to Kelly.

As part of our challenge to the danger of the Single Story, we chose Ellen Oh's collection, which included Tim Tingle's story. Fairfield University will have an exhibit later this year on the art of Lakota Sioux and other Plains, as well (of which we have previews). Out of nowhere (Great Whatever?), though, Kelly mentions that her art-teacher background is totally aware of the art pieces, and she shares with teachers and students the history of the ledger drawings. The notebooks come out and everyone is learning...taking notes...enthralled and most importantly, educated.

My point was to discuss the Big Foot narrative from an argumentative stand point. I wanted to discuss how such a creature is universal, but storytelling (written, nor oral) has often been routed in a Western European traditions.  Ah, but then Kelly outdid my expectations by offering her wisdom of the drawings we had on display, and making a larger case about the history of writing (which worked wonderfully with the wisdom of Henry Louis Gates - a quote I had in the presentation).

Who owns the story? It shouldn't be me. It should be the kids - and these are the kids united in our programs who represent many angles of the U.S. experience .... these are the kids working with our CRWP teachers to share their own flying lessons!

I am forever thankful to the knowledge Kelly delivered. I could write more, but I know this will cover the territory of my intentions for now. I'm happy to sit back and let history of this moment right many of the wrongs of our past.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trying Something New In A Collaborative Workshop Today (Big Feet & All)

It's hard to believe that much is at the summit of CWP-Fairfield and things are coming to a close as quickly as they began. Today, teachers in Argument Academy (College Ready Writers Program) and youth in Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose) are getting together for a workshop on argumentation and to offer feedback on student writing composed over the last couple of weeks. Tying in Native American art on exhibit this fall at the University and a short story from Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Tim Tingle seemed to be a good way to go.

Tingle's story is fun and I'm not sure I understand it with 100% of my being, but that's the way I read everything. "Chocktaw Big Foot, Midnight in the Mountains" is one of many stories in Ellen Oh's edited collection from the We Need Diverse Books movement. My argument this summer has been we need diverse classrooms and experiences, as well.

Project Citizen set out to pluralistically blend youth cultures as they spent time discussing voice, writing for empowerment, and action.

Tingle tells the story of uncle Kenneth the storyteller. He gathers children to embellish his own tail of Naloosha Chitto, a big-foot creature with origins to the narrative. It is also a story of the Chukmas, elf-like creatures who pester humans with their mischievous smallness. I love the universality of the tale, but also the positioning of who tells a story, whose version is told, and how storytelling is multicultural.

As I put together a slide about Big Foot in my life, I remembered how my father and our Utica, New York neighbors used to share a story about a hairy beast who lived behind our houses. I forgot the name so texted my sister and just as I wanted to time it into the slide she responded, HARRY POOCUS! And I remembered. The creature used to keep us up and night and we always worried he'd take us away if we were too naughty.

In truth, Tingle's story parallels the larger point we are trying to make with kids: Tell your story, before someone tells it for you. For teachers, we're trying to make the argument that everything is an argument. Thinking intelligently is a mindset of questioning everything and positioning one's opinions in believe systems, facts, and truths (that may or not be told in our schools).

It's mid-week and I'm exhausted (especially after the magic of the last few weeks), but I'm really excited about this workshop. There's nothing better than united student and teachers on equal playing grounds during the summer!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Unboxing The Way We Do Things Each Summer @CWPFairfield

It's hard to believe there is only 4 more days left of CWP-Fairfield summer programming (well, and another two-day institute in August), but that's where we are this Tuesday. I spent last night talking with others hosting summer camps for youth and reflecting on what is working with our individual programs). When I got off the conference call, I realized that so much of the work cannot be measured.

When I came into my office on Monday morning, I saw the stacks of art pieces created from the writing youth did last week. As I was pondering it all, several more students brought me their art work because they wanted to take it home to work on it more and to finish it (including this piece by a 9th grader named Poppy who expressed, "Inside the box is a safe, comfortable place. Please let me stay here. Outside the box is rough around the edges, but it is beautiful" In both, the balloon is trying to fly away (that is here flying lesson).

It made me think about how 'out-of-the-box' ways of knowing has become a cultural norm for us. It's typical for refugee youth to interact with Native American youth and urban youth and suburban youth and teachers and professors and undergraduates and graduate students in a two-week program, no? It's typical for authors to SKYPE to the kids to discuss what they wrote and to encourage them to express themselves creatively and politically? Kids are used to buffet style lunches, snacks, and buckets full of writing supplies as every visitor wants to know what they're thinking and writing.

And art is infused. That's normal, right?

Actually, it's all beautiful and I wish there was a way I could capture the heart of it all in a post. Instead, I offer glimpses into the work of our summer. This piece by Poppy is what caught my eye for the day...of course, there's fireworks in my eyes and a lot is sparkling these days.

Time to make the donuts!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Celebrating a Birthday With A Spectacular Woman At Walnut Beach

I tell myself every Sunday that I'm going to sleep in, but for some reason, my body always wakes me up an hour earlier than usual, so I was up at 5. The good news is the boys don't have this problem and they slept until l0 giving me plenty of time to read and write, so when they got up, I simply went for a run. We then set an agenda for the day which included the New Haven Flea Market (boy, that is people watching to the billionth degree), followed by a tour of Yale University, then a visit to Walnut Beach for an impromptu Beverly Robinson birthday celebration. We met Pam, Kaitlyn, Leo, Patrick, Jake, and Pam there for the Sunday ban, light food, and a final weekend gathering.

It's hard to believe that the CWP-Fairfield summer programs are in the last week after 5 weeks of crazy. We have two labs and a teacher institute. There's only one more teacher institute to go this summer.

I'm excited about Wednesday, when we bring teachers and Project Citizen together for a lesson on arguments, but also as we workshop the pieces they're working on for their own publications.

Finally, we went from 90 degrees and sweat buckets to needing sweatshirt and feeling like football season. How did that happen?

It just did. Can't complain, though - I'm warm-blooded and prefer the cooler temps.

Happy Birthday, Bev!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Then, The Next Day, You Discover You Never Titled the Post

I am hoping to extend barbecue season into November, but for now, I simply will do steaks for summer guests who stop by on a Saturday night for cocktails and corn hole. Lucky for us, we had enough steak (as this was what was left when we finished).

Okay, so leftovers are gone, but it' all good.

It's Sunday. The temperature today is a high that is 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. The front coming through, too, will bring no storms. I'm curious how this will happen.

The day is supposed to be dreary and low key, too. I'm simply hoping to finish couple books and to get ahead for the last week of Young Adult Literacy labs.

I did one last trip to BJs for the week and I hope I got enough materials to finish off dining on Mt. Pleasant for the summer (meat, meat and more meat).

Lawn's mowed. Car's washed. Laundry's done. Now, perhaps a day of rest before Big Brother begins tonight. Might even head to the movies.

We shall see.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

It's Saturday, It Was a Phenomenal Week, I'm Happy, But I Need to Big Time Veg!

Yesterday, I began the day watching Dave Wooley lead a hip hop lyrics workshop with Project Citizen, seeing Colin and Michael offer advice for final college essay drafts, and witnessed Jessica, and her smile, playing a beach ball game with Ubuntu Academy, with prompts getting them to have dialogue with one another and to practice their English.

This is CWP-Fairfield. This is summer. This is a love and you for investing in young writers and stellar teachers.

We also welcomed Aimee Jette and Art in Common, Inc., to do really awesome collage work with drafts of their writing and their thinking. The end project will be Project Citizen - the book, and Ubuntu Academy - the book: collections of artwork crafted with their words to inspire what they created. It was a fun (and as Shaun said, "therapeutic" day).

When we got home, Kanye and Ali immediately hit their beds and I just sat in the heat numb. On Fridays, I can't put together a coherent sentence and all I can do is recollect the week that just was and hope the two days will re-energize me for the work that is still to come.

In the end, though, I am thinking about photographs like this and totally loving the work we're doing. Tim Huminski of Joel Barlow High School came by to see what was occurring and seemed to be a bit awestruck. It is rather awesome, I must admit.

Happy Saturday.

Friday, July 21, 2017

YA Lit Trifecta for @CWPFairfield: @kwamealexander @crowechris @MaryRandHess

Kwame Alexander
There is magic during the summer months, but then there is MAGIC. It's not "Look at my magic wand, Dumbledore" or "If I wiggle my nose, I can clean my house" magic, but something more special. It's the magic of brilliant minds willing to share wisdom, expertise, writing processes, creativity and poetic storytelling with high school youth, graduate students, and teachers who are part of the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield family.

Because of a tremendous heart and vast generosity, CWP ordered early copies of SOLO to use with a special National Writing Project camp this summer called Project Citizen - Flying Lessons from the Prose. We are also using Ellen Oh's Flying Lessons & Other Stories, too, and asking the participants to 'go solo' with 'flying lessons' they have for their own imagined readers.
The goal, too, is to discuss how language is always political and writing one's life is a great way to counter what Adichie called the 'single story.' My love for diversity was behind the program, too, and I used National writing Support to hire exceptional teachers from a variety of schools and
Mary Rand Hess
purposefully mixed urban, suburban, and rural youth. We have 24 students, including a team of 5 young women who flew from S. Dakota and are members of the Lakota Sioux tribe. They brought with them an extremely supportive teacher, as well, and a desire to bring their world to Connecticut.

Music, and dance, have united with poetry and Op-Ed to unite kids on a mission to right what they see are local, national, and global issues. The writing will be published in POW! Power of Words, and included in a special website being creation by NWP.

The joy of yesterday, however, was the coincidence and luck that three authors offered their time to speak with young writers about their craft, their stories, their work with youth communities, and what they hope for next.
Chris Crowe
Kwame Alexander offered his usual wit and although he jokes about his genius, we all agreed after reading SOLO - the guy is a genius. We've all committed to a writing life in Panera Bread, too.

Mary Rand Hess added even more flavor to the day, sharing her humor, her dedication to rock & roll, poetry, and collaboration, a commitment to Blade, and a tremendous talent of not being a 'spoiler' for those still finishing the book (Man, oh, Man. Kemoy really wanted to discuss the ending - cough cough cough....and it was pretty unanimous that sequels are desired). For me, I simply thanked her for being the missing ling in young adult literature - providing narrative prose and language play to the game of reading with kids!

Finally, Chris Crowe, a fellow National Writing Project director, SKYPED from Utah to share his love of historical fiction and the choice of writing DEATH COMING UP THE HILL in haiku form (everyone left the conversation with new desires to write zombie poetry and, after a challenge to write a 5/7/5 poem with one word per each line: 5 syllables/7syllables/5 syllables, to think outside-the-box about the stories we share ... and the genres we use to share them). "I think I can do a book about the Congo," said a young woman attending Ubuntu Academy. "Tell my story of coming to America" (and when she does, I'll send it to all 3 writers).

University
Autobiographical
Curiosity

Phew! Wipes sweat from brow. I did it, Chris! This is a summary of CWP-Fairfield's summer objectives: We are pushing curiosity with young writers as they explore autobiographical interests in making the world a better place. Boom (maybe a stretch).

Seriously, though...I am forever grateful to three stupendous writers, awesome presenters, kind human beings, and tremendous champions of kids and teachers.

Ubuntu! Ubuntu! Ubuntu!

It's time to order pizzas! Friday proms at CWP!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

And On Day Three: Haiku, Ubuntu, and Dance Dance Dance

It was another day where I experienced, experienced, experienced, and I experienced and couldn't absorb it all. I simply kept thinking, "I wish educators all across the United States could experience all of this."

We united Project Citizen with Ubuntu Academy for an afternoon of dialogue, dance, and relocation stories. On Tuesday, Kanye and I watched the opening of So You Think You Can Dance where I was inspired by so many genres of dance being performed by such talented movers. I made the case that dance, like song, is universal (and we sank happy birthday to one of the kids). We made the case that storytelling is also universal, but language barriers keep some from communicating. Adichie helped us with this, "Be careful of the single story."

From there, Ali and Kanye shared their stories of how we met, how they've achieved, and where they are heading (inspiration for the kids just arriving and educational for everyone else born in America).

We ended with asking Lambert to teach us some African dance moves, which he did (followed by Jessica and William, which struggled from the audio difficulties). Still, it was miraculous to see kids from all walks of life enhancing language with one another and become part of a united front.

Earlier, I worked with Project Citizen to prepare for Chris Crowe's talk later this afternoon. We discussed haiku and I modeled an epic one about my own passion - using Ubuntu to bring communities together to write.  And with that, I will let my wonderful older sister present the poem (click it enlarge it)







Wednesday, July 19, 2017

We Are Citizens! We Project Voice @WritingProject @CWP-Fairfield @FairfieldU

When several teachers and I united to dream up a two-week collaboration with NWP support, we weren't quite sure where it would take us. What happens when you hire a digital, Ted-Talk Diva, a playwright and Op-Ed enthusiast, and a hip hop artist (all who teach) to collaborate in a special program called Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose?

Truth is, no one knows! But we are finding out.

In room 009 of Canisius Hall, the three teachers, one undergraduate assistant, and a special guest teacher, are leading a super diverse community off learners from urban schools, suburban schools, high-powered wealthy schools, and impoverished schools. Included, too, are special guests from a Lakota Sioux tribe reservation in S. Dakota. We are uniting the kids to discuss democracy, language, books, and the power of writing. We are seeing what we will get.

Yesterday, we united Project Citizen with several seniors in a College Essay lab to see what would happen if we discussed language and the power of sentences together. Out of nowhere, to prove a point, I simply listed the alphabet on a white board, A - Z. As the kids responded to a different prompt, I drafted a quick poem using all the letters of the alphabet to prove a point.

"To have a voice in the United States," I discussed, "one simply needs to remember the alphabet...and then with letters come words. If you know who you are, who your people are, and what you believe in, you can find language - using the alphabet - to write your world."

I challenged the kids to see what they could do in a few minutes and the room went quiet. This was not a chosen exercise, but spur of the moment to show the diversity of language. BOOM. 35 minutes later they were all writing, inspired to tell their own story in poetic, alphabet style (in the afternoon, I learned that the kids really loved the activity...shoot. I didn't get to what I planned. Such is the teaching life).

I honestly wish I had someone to record everything that is amazing about CWP in the summer. I can't be everywhere at once, but this is the scene (photo above) of every room. KIDS WANT TO WRITE. WE SIMPLY NEED TO WRITE THEM.

Super Diversity, 2017.

My "Alphabet Poem"

A merica is
B odacious shenanigans,
C alifornia to Maine,
D eleware to Washington, a
E volutionary, revolutionary hodgepodge,
F rick-frack, knick-kack, tally
G agging crick-crack of 
H eaven and hell on Earth.
I am, because we are…
J ust us, this surplus of diversity &
K nowledge swirled at a college
L earning to laugh and laughing at what we learn. 
M y desire? What I yearn? To earn more
N incompoop status,
O nomatopoeia fat a@@! who is writing
P oetry in symmetry, a cacophony of 
Q uixotic serenity, this 
R idiculous complex simplicity, 
S imple complexity
T ying us all together…
U nited fates of America—
V arying states of America —
W hacked chums & mates of America,
X-tracting hate from America…
Y es, you is, America. We are! We is…with a 
Z illion and one possibilities of fulfilling funky joy. Oh Boy.
I am heading into Wednesday loving everything about everything I do. Lucky. Full of hope. And appreciative of what the Writing Project has made me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mesmerized by Youth, Phenomenal Teachers, Humbled Togetherness, and CWP-Fairfield Work

I didn't sleep much Sunday night. Why? It is when all the monkeys started tap-dancing and squirrels began racing around my brain. Did the kids from the Lakota Sioux tribe make it Connecticut okay? Will the bus pick up the kids at Bassick and Harding? How many will arrive for Ubuntu this year? What if kids complain on the first day? Will technology work?

I worry for a reason. So much can, and usually does, go wrong.

We made it through Monday, however, with only a few incidences: the bus forgetting to pick up the kids (and then getting lost) and one lost cell phone.

Otherwise, Ubuntu Academy , College Essay, and Project Citizen went by on day one with awesome magic, few complaints, and a whole lot of collaboration, cooperation, and learning. I love when I hop from room to room to room, and kids quickly inform me of what they are doing. I caught this during Project Citizen- they were creating community definitions of shared terminology. All the kids (from diverse, heterogeneous backgrounds) worked together and established a core for the week. One even texted me afterwards to say, "This is really great. I'm loving it."

Here's my one gripe. Rather than have all my classes and programs on the same floor, they have me on three different floors...the ground, the 2nd, and the 3rd. Of course my office and supplies are on the 1st. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 4, I am up and down stairs 40 to 50 times a day. I chalk it up to exercise, but boy oh boy, does it tire me out.

It's impossible for me to capture all the greatness that is occurring every second in every room, but I know that the smiles in Ubuntu Academy says it all.

Once again, I am feeling very blessed to have the job that I do.

Monday, July 17, 2017

And So It Begins...Project Citizen: Flying Lessons From the Prose (Two Weeks)

Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day and I am glad I remembered at 9 pm. last night after Big Brother, that I actually bought ice cream to celebrate the holiday. It as a day of beaches, lawns, workouts, Corn Hole, badminton, spaghetti and biting my nails.

Today, 30 young people come to campus for Ubuntu Academy, another 27 join Project Citizen, and a 3rd crew unite for college essay...a total of 73 high school readers and writers.

Although we've run Project Citizen for the last two years, it is new this year with National Writing Project support with the intent to mix up communities and to invest in knowledge gained form the experience. Shaun Mitchell, original designer of the program, will pair with Dave Wooley and Kim Herzog to bring kids from all over Connecticut and the United States to have a conversation about what it means to be political as a teenager in the 21st century. I'm excited, too, that we will be united Simply Smiles kids from S. Dakota Sioux Lakota nation to be part of our work.

Also, I'm looking forward to uniting another cohort of Ubuntu Academy and to welcome the College essay writers. I am looking for a way to unite them all for a workshop to bring all of our voices together. If the buses arrive, and lunches go as planned, I will be able to offer a HUGE sigh of relief. We had so many kids this summer than I actually ran out of Writer's Notebooks and had to get more!

Ah, but my carts will be emptied because a lot of materials will be handed out to the teachers and students. I might even see my office floor.

Phew! A year's worth of grant writing, networking, professional development, fundraising, and passion has led to the work of this summer, especially the next two weeks. I love that I've been able to invest in phenomenal educators who are passionate about writing and totally enthusiastic about kids!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Burgers, Gardens, Elm City Soccer, Bourbon, and a Championship Game

Was invited to my friend Kathy's house last night for burgers, salad, bourbon, and soccer. She and Mike, her husband, as well as Sal (Bassick High School soccer team coach) and his son, invited Ali, Kanye and I to the Elm City Soccer Club game (which was a championship game for their bracket).

We were there to cheer on Tavoy "Bull" Morgan, who played for them one year as a senior in high school, after he arrived to Bridgeport, Connecticut from Jamaica. Most recently, however, he was the MITRE National Player of the Week.

After they let him in the 2nd half we could see why...he scored within seconds.



Kathy, who is now a vice principal and was once an art teacher who taught Tavoy - hence, her garden (where everything is positioned creatively) - provided a wonderful space to kick off the event. All I had to bring were chips, hummus and brownies, and Michael handled the grill (perfect cheeseburgers by Mike). Kathy made a great salad, too, before the game (which was a lot of fun because they played on Yale's field and the seating was up close and personal. It made the competition that much more interesting).

As the game began, Kathy said, "The start off is always my favorite part. The huddle. It is where everything comes together for teamwork and community."

I said, "Yep, it's Ubuntu."

And it's Sunday. Think I will get some rest? I hope so...I can use it.