Wednesday, May 31, 2017

And Then There's Middle School (and PD)(and Teachers)(& The Work)

Later this week, I'm conducing my lass whole middle school PD at a location that has been working tirelessly to rethink its writing instruction and support of 5th-8th grade writers. We're moving towards a shared language for assessing written outcomes for the kids, but also paying a visit to This American Life's episode on Middle School as a model for organizing thought, developing ideas, writing with a purpose, and connecting with an audience. It's been a wonderful year full of challenges, laughter, self-doubt, partnership, collaboration, struggle, frustration, and achievement. In some ways, I've really had to revisit the craziness of my own tween-adolescence.

As I was putting together the presentation, I realized it might benefit me to recall my own experiences as a middle (what Alice always called 'mental') school student. With my zest for bulleted lists and top tens, I decided I'd give an ol' shot at memory lane. Middle school was,

  • sparked by the creativity of Mr. Finster, his writing workshops and whacky sense of humor and raising-the-bar standards,
  • full of body and mental awkwardness, included the onset of pudginess, gapped teeth, colicky hair, sweaty armpits, zits, and mood swings,
  • a need to be accepted for who I was, which included a zest for exaggeration and excessive talking, even when I didn't have a clue about what I was talking about (I have one vivid memory of talking out of any reality at St. Lawrence River, making up fishing stories that annoyed Butch, my father, but entertained my Aunt Rena. I was 100% obnoxious and deserved my dad's favorite saying, "Your mouth runs like a whippoorwill's ass).
  • cruelty of kids. I remember vividly, in 6th grade, a day when a group of well-known bullies chose to punch a kid from another class behind the knees as he walked down the hall, totally making him buckle and hate that no teachers came to his rescue.
  • the odd body growth spurts, including the day my mom dropped me off at the movies to see 9 to 5 with friends from my class which included dorky me, and a girl named Tony who was FULLY developed, wore parachute pants, and had feather clips in her hair (I can only imagine what my mom thought when she saw the girl I was meeting - a thing I always had for the craziest of girls)
  • the experimentation of everything bad for us. I remember many went through a phase of sharing No-Doze anti-sleeping pills, bragging that the drugs got them high (and on a personal note, I remember my own stupidity thinking Jack Daniels could be my friend on a Sunday morning)
  • the awfulness of feeling stupid, especially in grammar class and when reading literature that was boring and way over my head
  • the power of belonging...for me, at that time, it was Little League and my friends on Amalfi and Bamm Hollow who met on Duncowing for football games and tag
  • the luck of family. I was so blessed to have the love and support at home, with its stability, safety, unconditional love, and RULEs, and finally
  • the opportunities to show I was ready to grow up. This included roller skating parties where we rolled to Another One Bites the Dust and 8th grade dances that soon came at the Junior High School.
Phew. I thought I was old then, but I was a nincompoop simply going through the stages between elementary and high school. I can't say these memories were awful - they made me who I am - but I can attest to the fact that they were dorky, ridiculous, and important.

This, I hope, will be carried with me during the final day of professional development later this week

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lived in My Office on Memorial Day. Purple Blooms Mean That Much More

Second year in a row that the Asiatic purple irises bloom at exactly the right time. Yesterday, it was as dreary as dreary can be, so I hibernated in the vacant and quiet hallway of Canisius Hall. I caught up on a twenty or so recommendations, a book chapter, grant work, book orders, and other logistics. By the time I left, my brain was fried.

Actually, when I left I decided I would grill out because the sun was finally peaking through the crowds. When I opened the fridge and freezer, however, there was no meat, so I ended up toasting up a whole boatload of vegetables, which were delicious.

This effort, though, turned me over into exhaustion and a dead brain. I have a list of items I wanted to accomplish, but there's a point when I am no good to the work I'm trying to do. I simply gave in to sleep.

Glamis, though, was all play. I got her a new squeaky toy and, even after a walk, she seemed to be full of energy.

Today, it's back to work with back to back meetings in the afternoon, kidnapping me from the writing I need to get done. I'm seeing light after this Friday - time to get back to the projects that need attention (like my ankles that are extremely sore...I think my new New Balance sneakers are not the support I need while running).

Ah, but I will think about the blooms and be happy. Blooms and barbecues...tis the season for such glory.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Strawberry Cake and Gifts For This Memorial Day Celebration

My heart leaped from the chest when I received this photograph at 9 p.m. last night. I told Kwame I'd buy him a drink if he sent me a photo of him and Sue while he visited Louisville. Sue did me one better: she sent me a photo first and said I owed them both a drink.

Deal. I am thrilled to know that, for a moment of time, these two amazing influences in my life found a way to be in the vicinity of one another. Go Louisville! Go Brown Hotel! Go brilliant writer-friend of mine! Go words, language, mentoring, teaching, and poetics! I know the magic of Louisville continues and I'm glad to know that Spalding University hosted one of the greatest young adult authors living in our time.

Today is Memorial Day, and I'm celebrating this photo writing a chapter about Kwame's influence on the young people I've been fortunate to teach The Crossover to - three years and counting since it's debut.

Yesterday was spent celebrating Patrick's 30th birthday and although I've made a name for myself with Alice's incredible chocolate cake, I varied the recipe to give the party boy his strawberry cake with funfetti! I replaced chocolate ganache with strawberry and, at least I hear, it was a tremendous hit. Also a hit - at least for me - was the tank top he won all day --- George Bush on a shark with an American flag and a laser bun? Wow! Where'd that come from? It matched the birthday party perfectly.

Gleams was wiped out by the festivities, too. She played with Jake, Mae, and Colby all day, running around the Milford premises for one of the last parties before the house is finally turned over to the new home owners.

Chitunga and I picked up a skeleton t-shirt for Patrick in Montauk last week, and I found a bourbon I've yet to try, Eagle Run, which Patrick says is one of his favorites (so we did good).

The temperatures, though, were a little cool and my stomach isn't quite ready for barbecue season, although the ribs were outstanding and the macaroni and cheese were stupendous. It was the hotdog I ate a few hours later that kicked my stomach into 'yuck' mode.

Sunday, the day that just was, was a wonderful success for the world and I need to use it to energize me for the projects I hope to accomplish today. They are plentiful! I'm optimistic...that's all I can be.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Even With Laptop in Shop, I Find A Way (Thumbs Up To Text Messages)

I didn't know what I was going to write about today because my laptop is still getting fixed and any photos I take on my phone do not sync with this IPhoto on the lender. Even so, my IMessages do, and Cynderballz sent me this classic picture of Chitunga helping my father defrost his garage freezer.

That freezer must be from the 1970s...even earlier. It has stored venison, steaks, pork chops and ice-cream for years. The last few times I've been to Syracuse, however, I've notice there's no room for any meat any longer because it turned into a thick block of ice. I knew it needed to be unplugged and thawed out, and that is exactly what they accomplished yesterday. Chitunga acting as Nanook of the North.

I'm trying to figure out where my Saturday went, and don't feel nearly as productive as family in CNY. I did have a day long teacher meeting on campus, followed by a cake-baking festival, dog walk, and revision of the ol' vita to 5 pages for a project. I answered emails and touched base with summer teachers, and organized a few more plans for the labs. Then I looked up and it was 10 p.m. and I was fried.

I wouldn't mind Hermione's time device to freeze time and/or to be two places at once. I can't get everything off the agenda like I want to. I wish I was able to chisel as productive as Chitunga on my dad's freezer.

Chiseling Chitunga...that's alliteration.

Alright. Time to write. I'm taking the afternoon off for a birthday party (Dolphy Day in Monroe). 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Nothing Like A Day of Seeing An Extension of What You Believe In

 Because of a cancellation of an afternoon meeting, I had the privilege of visiting an after school Friday program called Project Hope, a two-school collaboration where ESL/refugee youth from a high school have spent a year mentoring ESL/immigrant elementary school students after school. The project, designed by Jessica Baldizon and William King, was an extension of the literacy work gained from Ubuntu Academy and spread to yearlong collaboration where young people were given opportunity to continue learning English, even beyond the classroom.

This year, on Friday afternoons, when everyone is ready to shut down the fort and head to weekend relaxation and calm, Jessica and William have offered after school tutoring for K-12 youth.

It was so great to see the 20 young people partnering on building vocabulary, conversation, and writing as the older kids worked one on one with the younger students. This was their vision, and although I was invited to come see the amazing partnership, I haven't have much freedom in my schedule. I finally found a second yesterday.

The kids were happy. They had snacks, exercises, and friendship with their older buddies as they practices reading, writing, and speaking in English. At one point, William went out to the hall and requested each speaker to speak loud enough so he could hear them outside the room. "I don't want you to be quiet and shy," he instructed. "Rather, I want you to be confident and loud."

I imagine that during the regular school days, these young people are often intimidated and apprehensive about speaking too much in class (so not to draw attention to themselves). Here, on a Friday afternoon, however, they could laugh, feel safe, and take changes.

This really is the power of community and support and I'm so proud of two of my favorite graduate students I've been fortunate to work with at Fairfield University. They've embraced Ubuntu, and they've done it with heart, mind, and soul. So, so proud.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Semester Ended, The Summer Creeps Forward, and For Now: Celebration

Yesterday, through the vision of the Bridgeport Public Higher Education Alliance - a consortium of Fairfield University, University of Bridgeport, Housatonic Community College, and Sacred Heart University, Dean Robert Hannifin and others helped to pull of an award ceremony for 130 youth, teachers, staff, and families!

At first, I was overwhelmed by the 400 RSVPs when given emcee duties. I didn't know if it could be pulled off in an hour - that's a mountain of awards! I got creative with the presentation, however, used inspirational quotes, and managed to succeed with the recognition of the10 schools given our quadrant. The other 30 schools were divided to the other universities with a shared vision to accentuate the positive and bring good into the world. It was a tremendous success.

Another highlight from the day that just was came from  delivering 50 copies of Kwame Alexander's The Crossover to 7th and 8th graders at Columbus School, as part of a powerful turnaround vision to enhance reading, writing, and thinking skills. The smiles said it all, especially after the middle schoolers were enticed by a writing workshop showcasing the brilliant YA Lit author's prose. I knew they had to have their own copies to keep the magic alive at the school.

We are only five days away from Fairfield's graduation, but the Connecticut Writing Project is only beginning. We have four more weeks of K-12 support, before our summer of Young Adult Literacy Labs, including Ubuntu Academy and Project Citizen, begin.

At the award ceremony, an ELA teacher from Columbus came up to say, "Well, the kids already began reading the books you dropped off today. I told them I'd give them extra credit, but they seem to be willing to jump into Kwame Alexander's book without the need for any awards. They read a few pages and quickly were hooked."


That is why I knew The Crossover was destined for greatness. As a classroom teacher, I always wanted THIS book to hook kids and to discuss poetic verse with them --- it just wasn't written yet. Basketball was the bonus!

Feeling good about my Thursday. Now, Friday, I have to get to work!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And Then The Rainbow Twirl From Hell Entered My World

I can't even look at the rainbow globe without freaking out. Why? Because I woke up yesterday with that showing on my laptop. I've said for two years now that there's something wrong with eh MacBook Pro given to my by Fairfield University, but the more they probed and prodded they found nothing.

The Rainbow Twirl from Hell comes and goes, and usually she subsides after being awake for 45 minutes. Yesterday, I couldn't use the computer for four hours and, in panic with a report deadline, all-day PD, and an evening presentation for 350+ youth and families in Bridgeport, I knew I needed to act fast.

Lucky for me, I was able to retrieve the items I needed for survival over the next couple of days, and they transferred those to a lender machine, which works so much faster and efficiently, but the screen is 10 times smaller and my eyes are going batty. Ah, I can't complain, however, because I'm able to keep the ball rolling.

Phew. Wiping sweat from brow, but still threatened by the rainbow image of doom.

Today is a challenge of fifth grade writing, followed by the BHEA Award Ceremony at Fairfield University. I would write more, but the scare of computer demise about did me in that's it folks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

So Thrilled To Be Driven By @DeniseDiGrigoli On Her Show. Doodle On!

Drinking Beer From a Straw Is Dumb, But
How Else Can You Start From the Bottom? ~ AnERip
Yesterday, I had honor and privilege with being a guest of Denise DiGrigoli, who hosts The Drive through the HAN Network. I am grateful that she allowed my thinking to be featured at Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall Talks Connecticut Writing Project For Youth. My name was referred to her after I received the Elizabeth M. Pfriem Award for Civic Leadership in the City of Bridgeport, a celebration from the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and Community Foundation of Fairfield (of which I'm a tremendous fan).

Denise DiGrigoli hosts the weekly show in celebration of mindfulness, inspiration, and wellness. She wanted to tap my crazy noggin' about the work I do with the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, and to be honest, I was extremely nervous. The show was live and I didn't know what would come out of my mouth. I am actually pleased, however, by how I articulated myself and give credit to Denise DiGrigoli for her grace and kindness while hosting the show - she brings out the best in others.

Of personal pride, however, was the opportunity to shout out to Mr. Finster, a 5th grade teacher, and to my grandmother, Grannie Annie, who were central to how I think about creativity, writing, sharing words, and voicing my world. My older sister, Cynde, sent me the photo (above) after the show which put a huge smile on my face. This is what I am talking about. My grandmother kept our drawings as kids and wrote verse for them, stories, poems, and memes (before memes were even a thing). We loved them.

Denise DiGrigoli's genius. Boom!
I shared with Denise during one of the commercials that I doodle what I want to write or say before I know what it is I'm trying to articulate (as evident with Three Stanzas for 40 Years, a guest post I contributed to the National Writing Project's birthday).  After the show, Denise sent me a few doodles and mind maps of her own (including the one I post here). Her writing processes are the same.

What I love about such doodles (which I learned from my grandmother and Mr. Finster) is that they express as much as any text I could commit to paper. Part of the storytelling is mindfulness of the images we wish to harness from our brains to the page. It was wonderful to meet a friend of creativity, outside the box thinking, life journeys, and hope.

A few minutes with the host and I knew Denise DiGrigoli was a kindred spirit and easily a universal mentor to others. Writing is therapy. Writing is knowing our way towards truth. Writing is everything and I thank Denise and the HAN network for offering me the chance to say before a camera what has been whirling in my head for years.

Now, time to doodle the next steps for this summer --- off to the office I go!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday Proved To Be Monday, But With Drizzle (& A Nap)

Usually, I'm unaffected by rain, but when it is on a Monday after a week of full-pollen-in-effect, following an end-of-the-semester of non-stop shenanigans, and on the tail of a short Chitunga home-visit, the rain seems to be extremely powerful.

I woke up with a sinus headache and tried everything to get rid of it, including taking medicine that made my blood feel like is was operating in slow motion. Still, I did a long day in the office, visited a couple of schools, attended three meetings, and worked with finance on budgets. By 4 p.m., I knew I needed groceries and I wanted to get my haircut (I accomplished both).

The drizzle, though. Oof.

Glamis didn't want to go outside and after I fed her, she returned upstairs to a bedroom. I thought, "Let me lay down for a second on the couch," which I did, and the rest is history. I actually fell asleep for three hours. That is a nap, right? I napped? I napped! And it felt great.

It's May and the high was 58 degrees. I had to turn my heat back on to get rid of the damp. I snuggled in blankets and rested. I simply was done, cooked, zooted, fried, and exhausted. I listened to my body and let it shut down.

This is all to say that rain on a Monday after weeks, months, and a year of non-stop go, go, go = kryptonite for Crandall. It won and I tried.

Monday, May 22, 2017

4-Day Getaway. Check. Graduation. Check. Sneezing. Check

I'm too tired to do the math of how many graduations this makes, but I'd have to take three years from my undergraduate years, and 12 years from my K-12 maybe I've been doing graduations for 25 years of my life. I have to say, though, that it means more in the ritual of the University. I love marshaling the students in and celebrating their successes - here, graduate school.

Also amazing? The 35 Ph.Ds in Nursing that walked this year. Stupendous. Wonderful. Impressive.

This year, however, I realized how fantastic it feels to be on the other side.  A year ago, Abu and Lossine finished their work at Brockport; Akech completed LeMoyne; Werdi moved from OCC to a 4-year school; Edem graduated from Medaille. It means more when you see those you've worked closely with complete their dreams. It made me think ahead to Chitunga's graduation in a few years, and how much that day will mean to me. It's something.

I didn't attend my two Masters from Louisville, or the program of Bread Loaf School of English - the pomp and circumstance wasn't on my radar. I did attend my PhD ceremonies, though. They were for me and I wanted to soak up every second of the ritual.

And Fairfield's celebration is rather incredible, especially when the weather cooperates. We host everything outside and today was low 60s, no humidity, and a cool breeze. It was very pleasant, making it extra special.

This is all to say, "Congratulations, Graduates!"

For them, it's a step in the right direction and a moment in time. For my colleagues and me, it is a ritual, a rite of passages we relived every year, and a reminder that our investment in education is most important.

With that, I return to work! Much to do...much to do.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Last Stop of the Mini-Break, Target Practice in Monroe

Well, the short-lived rendezvous ended with pulled chicken and friendship in Monroe. Although it was a left hand shot and no deer in sight, Chitunga was able to get his inner Katniss on with target practice.

The house is packed up for his return for a summer class at LeMoyne and the beginning of a new banking internship in Syracuse. He gets to experience a Central New York summer while we deal with the similar months in Connecticut.

Today will mark another graduation at Fairfield University with undergraduates in the morning and graduate students in the afternoon. It doesn't look like rain or horrific hot temperatures, simply a wonderful day to celebrate those who have completed degrees.

Glamis is pooped. She is ready to curl up and call it a trip (and will likely sleep for several days to catch up on the zzzz's she lost out on).

These are the transitions and they are healthy ones. All one needs is a target to aim for and goals to fulfill. Independence is on the radar and what he's wanted all along. I'm proud of him, and this is what it's all about.

He's an incredible human being; I know what matters most.

Cousins! Wyatt Almost Got Glamis Into the Ocean. Almost

We are packing to leave today. Actually, we are heading to my Aunt and Uncle's for his famous pancakes, and then heading east on Long Island to take the Port Jefferson Ferry. The ocean winds have been cold, but two blocks inland, and it was 90 degrees. Running, I was drenched. Got my the ocean, and I was freezing. I did get my ankles in the water and it was, well, winter cold, It will warm up. Wyatt loved it...Glamis not so much.

And so will end my 4-day attempt of taking a break (of course, in these 4 days, the State of Connecticut has reduced my budget by 10% and needed a report in 12 hours of how this will affect our work; an emergency meeting was called with one of the grants I'm working on; 14 people needed recommendations for graduate schools and employment; and summer work is gearing up with parent emails and inquiries.

The only difference of me in Connecticut and me here, is I can pretend I'm on vacation by walking down the street, and enjoying the change of scenery with the Crandalls on this side of the Sound.

I love my cousin, and I love his daughters, his dog, and his home. I'm determined to find a way to raid a substantial amount of money (ha) to build a writing retreat at his house, so I can come and do projects - I simply relax here and feel centered. A few days in and I feel rejuvenated and focused.

I think Chitunga is still processing it all. It's a lot to take in at once, but if anyone can make sense of it with incredible insight, it's him. He sees. He understands. He processes. He challenges. And he makes insight I've never thought about before.

The salt air. Brilliant.

Friday, May 19, 2017

In One Spring Swoop (Easter to May) We've Visited All 4 Grandparents

In April, Chitunga, my mother and I were able to visit the graves of Grandma and Grandpa Ripley. We went to Hamilton, New York, and also had lunch in Sherburne, so he could see Butch grew up. It was a special day for me, and I'm sure it was a special day for my mother, too.

Yesterday, after hiking at Montauk Point, eating lunch, and sightseeing, we stopped by SportsTime - East Hampton Sports Camp to see my cousin in preparation for summer, then drove further east to St. Luke's Episcopal Church where my Grandma and Grandpa Crandall's ashes are buried. I wasn't the one who found the plaques, but Chitunga did. We had a little moment where I shared memories of them both and we absorbed the blue sky, the beautiful grounds, the birds singing and the ocean breeze. There are definitely more rough places one might spend an eternal life. Their souls are in Sherburne, of course, but they are also part of East Hampton, which is pretty remarkable as far as stories go.

I also love this photo because it is our hands (with my crooked finger) and his shoe - the photo has to be flawed somehow.

Afterwards, we attended Nezi's spring tales show, then went to my Aunt and Uncle's for dinner. I realized as we ate that Nezi, Zola, and Chitunga Crandall all have odd names. It makes sense, though - when you consider love, my cousin's work, and the work that I've been fortunate enough to do.

In 2002, I don't think any of our lives could have been predicted. I was showing Chitunga photographs of Mark and I in our early 20s and 30s...seems like yesterday we were post-college hippies.

And, Chitunga received news today that FACHEX, a Fairfield University benefit to attend LeMoyne College, is covering the $32,000 tuition. That is a tremendous relief for us all. The loans will still be substantial, but they won't be what we originally anticipated. He looked at me and simply said, "I don't think you'll be leaving Fairfield any time soon."

Um, I guess not (and he's in a 5 year program to finish with his Masters degree).

Great day yesterday. It feel great to see my grandparents' names again.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thankful for the Kind Words of My Colleagues @FairfieldU

On Tuesday, before Chitunga and I embarked on our cross Sound adventure, Fairfield University hosted its final General Faculty Meeting. There, Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka presented the George E. Lank, Jr. Award with the following words.

George Lang Award 2017
Presented by Jocelyn M. Boryczka
The Tenth Annual CT State Conference AAUP George Lang Award is presented on behalf of the Faculty Welfare Committee, Fairfield University’s AAUP Chapter, in honor of dear friend and colleague George Lang.  George Lang was a Professor of Mathematics and a faculty leader at Fairfield for thirty-six years, as well as an AAUP leader at the chapter, state, and national level.  His colleagues on the CSC-AAUP honor his memory by “recognizing a faculty member at Fairfield who early in his or her career has shown awareness of and dedication to the important AAUP issues such as academic freedom, faculty governance, and faculty rights and responsibilities.” Previous recipients of this award are:  Jocelyn Boryczka, Bob Epstein, Sonya Huber, Deb Strauss, and Paul Braginski.

Joining the ranks of these outstanding faculty leaders, this year’s recipient has been a committed member to the FWC as a pre-tenured colleague who has served on Fairfield University’s Faculty Salary Committee that engages in collegial discussions with the Administration regarding compensation and benefits.  This recipient does the everyday work of making sure that notes are carefully taken at each meeting with the Administration, a key factor in holding them accountable, and increasingly has found a voice in standing up to the Administration on key faculty issues despite his non-tenured status.  Further, this year’s recipient embodies the commitment to social justice that animated our dear friend and colleague George Lang.  He is a tireless advocate on behalf of teachers in the Bridgeport Public School System and of African refugee youth resettled here in the United States.  At this critical juncture in American political history, voices such as this year’s recipient are essential in both arenas of public education and refugee rights.

This year’s recipient is Prof. Bryan Ripley Crandall  (invite to stand with me).

His colleagues on and off the Faculty Salary Committee capture Bryan’s important contributions to their work:

Current member of the FSC, Prof. Paul Lakeland shares:  "Bryan is a humble man who sets a high moral tone for the work that he does. He is not afraid to speak his mind but does so in a way that builds up rather than tears down. He has worked tirelessly this year on the salary committee, always producing minutes of our conversations within minutes--real minutes--of the end of the meeting. It is hard to separate his concern for the faculty and his concern for his students, which is exactly as it should be."

Prof. Sonya Huber and past recipient of this award, conveys the intersection of his commitments:  “Bryan Ripley Crandall has been justifiably recognized many times at Fairfield and in Bridgeport for his commitment to K-12 education through his tireless work with the National Writing Project. He’s a busy guy, and with those kinds of commitments, he would have every excuse to put off demands on his time from his colleagues on campus, especially for the hugely demanding work of the salary committee. Instead, Bryan brings to his on-campus work the same passion for building community and seeking justice as he does to his many other roles and projects. In salary committee meetings, Bryan’s reactions and questions often helped to center the discussion on what really mattered. Whenever I see Bryan in the hallways, I am reminded to laugh, to hug, and to connect with and enjoy my colleagues. His heart and his brain work in tandem to provide us with a wonderful example of true solidarity at Fairfield.“

FWC President and Prof. Irene Mulvey, who is so very disappointed not to be here this event, shared these thoughts, “In the past, it has been difficult to find an Assistant Professor willing to serve in the Assistant Professor slot on our FSC. But, Bryan served a partial term and then (glutton for punishment?) agreed to run and was elected to serve a full three-year term. The time commitment on the FSC is ENORMOUS. And, every year, there is a fresh crisis – willful disregard of earlier agreements, the threat of Board intervention, etc. So, in addition to the time commitment, serving on the FSC takes an enormous personal toll on the members as they work as hard as they can on behalf of the faculty in the face of unreasonable demands, threats of unilateral imposition of terms and, what’s probably the worst for a faculty member, dealing with people who will not listen to reason and who are not swayed by good arguments that benefit both faculty and administration.

Bryan deals with all of this, and takes notes of it all as well. And, as any good academic will do, after getting the lay of the land for a year or so, so now he understands the issues, the threats and what a gain or loss will really mean for Fairfield University long term and, as a result, he is speaking up more. 

The chapter selected Bryan for this STATE AWARD to show appreciation for his willingness to step up and work for the good of the faculty, for his appreciation for genuine academic freedom which allows our nearly 50-year tradition of “collegial discussions” leading to a contract that is brought to the General Faculty for approval to continue to be productive for faculty. We are grateful for Bryan’s willingness to work so hard for faculty, to learn about and appreciate fundamental AAUP principles, and to fight the good fight for us.”

Please join me in congratulating Prof. Bryan Ripley Crandall, this year’s George Lang Award recipient.

I argued with the FWC that I was not worthy of this recognition, but they kept telling me to be quiet and to stop degrading myself. I don't think they understand how much Woody Allen I have inside. I am, however, extremely appreciative of the kindness, especially the prose and presentation of Jocelyn. She was amazing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And Then There Is the Wednesday Where I Have Nothing To Say

By the time this post hits the airwaves, I should be sipping a final cup of coffee and heading in the Hulk with Glamis and Chitunga to escape the pace for four days. While I worked this morning and he got his license changed, I made a list of items we needed to accomplish: dress clothes for his job in Syracuse, Scotch for my Uncle Milford, and sneakers for me (no luck).

By 1 I knew I had to head to campus and I asked Tunga what his plans were and he said, "I think I will clean the bathrooms and work on the yard."

Um, okay.

Then, there were several hours on campus, followed by wonderful ceremonies to celebrate colleagues, followed by cancel dinner plans, followed by my own garden work, followed by the walk of the dog, followed by EXTREME frustration that my iPhone and iPad are synching photos, but my laptop is not updating everything. As I try to solve the problem, too, I get the rainbow twirl from hell.

I'm thankful to have my Apple machine, but this Apple machine has always given me problems. I feel like I'm on a laptop from 20 years has never grooved like my others.

And meanwhile, we're heading in our car to a ferry to a cousin to the beauty of water for 4 days and I can't wait. It's hard for me to relax, but I am hoping I can pretend to be a person who relaxes (at least for a few days).

The weeks ahead...there are no words. I need some rest before they being.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

And I Get A Break. He's Back From School = Happy Glamis Dog

It's a short trip, but Tunga is home for the week (actually, we're not staying home long...taking the dog for a ferry ride to Long Island to see our 'tives for a while) - we might even be able to get beach time if the weather is correct.

If you enlarge the picture you'll see how distorted Glamis's body is. She got into some sort of ecstasy pose as Chitunga scratched her chest. That was her position for most of the evening (except when we picked up pizza and Tunga's friends came through the front door).

I'm wondering, however...did I bring back so much stuff when I returned from Binghamton every summer? And doesn't most of this stuff have to go back with him for his summer job and summer classes?

I guess it was easier to drive it home than to store it in either of my sisters' basements. It's all good.

The other funny thing is that, for the first time since January, Glamis didn't have to wait on the window ledge looking out for Tunga. At 10 p.m. I said, "Look. Glamis is in the kitchen with her toys playing by herself. She must be content that you're home."

It was strange not having her glaring at me all night wondering, "Where is he?"

I don't have the heart to tell her he'll be done in a week. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Throwback Photo, But Evidence That I Got The Job Done

This photograph of my time in Santa Fe, New Mexico was recovered when I was looking for a different photograph off a laptop I retired years ago. When I saw it, I said I was saving it for my mug shot for when I finally finished grading end-of-the-semester projects.

It always takes twice as much time as I plan to get the assessments done, and the only way I'm able to sustain myself is when I remember I used to have five times as many papers to grade when I was a high school teacher. Granted, my University role has me doing a lot more than simply teaching, and so my time for grading differs from the normal K-12 grind. Still, it is always a source of pride when I can say, "Phew. I got them all in by the deadline and now I can concentrate on the other responsibilities I have.

Don't get me wrong. Teaching is a priority and I love it with all of my might. Yet, getting ready for summer programs, tying up loose ends on grants, attending ceremonies, participating in meetings, and keeping up with my own writing mades the pinch of grading at the end of each semester a monumental task. I know how important it is, and I love it, but I now see how valuable time is and how many hours it truly takes to offer feedback to students who worked hard on the objectives that you set forth in each course. Because I want them to be stupendous educators, it is extremely important to offer notes of care to their practice so they grow and blossom in their own classrooms.

This is my post-grading, mean-mug face to say, "They're done."

Now, I am looking at the three meetings on the calendar for today and knowing that Chitunga is in his last exam before heading home for a few days. I need to escape for a little while to process what just was (to put it into perspective) and get my ducks in a row for the bulbous summer calendar ahead. I don't take breaks often and even when I do, the days are full of moving projects forward.

But I'm claiming right here...I need a little get-away. I AM COOKED.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ladies and Gentleman, My View The Last Two Days of the Semester

I slept in until 8 a.m. yesterday and immediately got to work. I finished the undergraduates, but needed to get to the Graduate students. Feeling optimistic, I thought I'd get all but two projects completed in one day. Ah, such a dreamer! At 27 page projects a piece, I almost met my goal, but I will be spending most of today working in similar fashion.

One can see my yellow sneaker which was dressed early in anticipation of getting to the gym as a mid-day break into the monotony of grading. That never happened, however, because I was in a groove and I realized that feedback is a location for the real learning for the semester. I even adopted a rubric format to help assess what the course was after, but knowing my graduate students are going to be future teachers, I realize my patience and care with them will pay off with the 100s if not 1000s of students they teach. I also know that what they accomplish in this course will set them up for the work they will develop into next as they begin unit plans and step into student teaching.

Yesterday was a wash. It wasn't a wash with the grading, because I chiseled away at the task at hand, but it was a swamp as far as weather. It rained all day and the few times I let Glamis outside she came back inside drenched. I don't feel guilty about plopping on a couch all day, but around 3 I though I could use a long nap. Luckily, I overcame that feeling and kept on chugging along.

I thought a lot about Kelly Chandler-Olcott, however, as I was assessing these projects, because as a chair to my dissertation, she oversaw a project that once was 600 pages and she talked me down to a less severe document. I am amazed in retrospect that she had time for my writing, even as she oversaw a department as chair, kept up with her own research and publications, worked with other doctoral students, and TAUGHT. I'm in awe with any and all who can take on that responsibility in addition to the work I've grown to know in the academy. Although she was tough, she always offered me feedback with integrity and grace. I used that all day yesterday as I thought about the graduate students in my care.

Midway through the day, too, I reached out to colleagues simply to ask, "What if we all bring in one product from our end of the semester requirements, and talked with one another about what we're seeing, the objectives we aimed for, and ways we might adapt the assessment to meet incoming edTPA requirements?" Stressed, I'm sure they hated that request, but I was thinking it might benefit us all to reflect on our teaching and to think ahead to teaching next year (it's the Critical Friends Coach thing in me).

And speaking of coaches...HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. Teachers come and go in our worlds, but our mommy's are there through it all. They guide the entire path. Although I can't be in Central New York for a hug, a kiss, and a pat on the poo poo, I've been thinking about her all the time. Her love made my love for what I do possible. I am grateful.

Here she is doing a professional smile shot (trying to teach Dylan, the prom boy, how it is done). Classic shot. Classic love. Classic traditions. And such joy in watching her oversee a 2nd generation of proms. Where does the time go?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Another Grading Day, But Last Night a State Award. Grateful.

Last night I attended a ceremony at Yale University - the Annual Spring Meeting of the Connecticut State Conference for the American Association of University Professors. Colleagues at Fairfield University, including Drs. Jocelyn Boryczka and William Abbott, attended the ceremony with me for the George E. Lang, Jr. Award, which I received, that recognizes a faculty member at Fairfield University who has shown awareness of and dedication to important issues such as education freedom, faculty governance, and faculty rights and responsibilities.

Dr. Boryczka read notes from numerous colleagues written about me and I was totally unprepared for the remarks (Thank you, Sonya, Paul, Jocelyn, and Irene). I simply do what I do with my head down and charge ahead like a ram to fight for fairness. I broke out in a nervous sweat as I heard the kind words. I felt guilty.

It was a total honor, however, to represent Fairfield University at the event and to hear the words of distinguished guest, Dr. Risa L. Lieberwitz, Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Cornell University. On a Friday night after a week of finals and grading, overwhelmed by all left to do during the semester, it was a wonderful to be given the George E. Lang, Jr. Award and to join giants like Jocelyn Boryczka, Politics, Bob Epstein, English, Matt Kubasic, Chemistry, Debra M. Straus, Management, Dave Crawford, Anthropology, Sonya Huber, English, John Miecznikowski, Chemistry, Anna Lawrence, History, and Paul Baginski, Mathematics. It is a pleasure, too, to receive this award on behalf of my colleagues in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and to represent the Connecticut Writing Project and National Writing Project friends.

George E. Lang, Jr. sounds like a remarkable man who touched the lives of many (if not all) at Fairfield University. He was a listener and a mover, contemplative in his nature and shrewd in his action. With much awareness of political realities, he realized that community trumped policy and made it a priority to know every faculty member across the campus. He felt there was more to be done, and although a happy man, worked tirelessly to do right by others and to fight for staff and faculty at Fairfield University. In summary, he offered voice for the workers and laborers who make research, teaching, and service possible - the heart and soul of any campus.

I am grateful for the recognition, even if I am still wrestling with the award. There are so many others at Fairfield University that I admire and who deserve this accolade. I accept and realize it will give me more pep in my step as I grade this weekend, and a mission to ahead with the good fight. Together, it's important to think critically of the hierarchies we belong to. We must ask ourselves questions about equity and fairness every day, very much like the graduate students at Yale University are doing right now - the exploitation of student labor and adjuncts needs to be called out.

To my FSC and FWC colleagues - especially Irene Mulvey who could not attend the dinner at Yale, Thank you. To all I work with at Fairfield University, "I can be me because of who we are together." Ubuntu.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Crandall is on a Grading Rampage. It Happens Every Semester

I have high ambitions for myself, but then the day meets me like an Anvil finds Wile E. Coyote. Up at 7 - I got this - but then email blitzes, deadlines, and 'oops I forgot that dentist appointment' creep in and the goals suddenly get sidetracked.

I almost met them. I've been working on undergraduate philosophical statements for two weeks, but my other responsibilities keep demanding my attention. I thought, "Crandall, if you can get them done Thursday night, you'll be ready for the Graduate students on Friday."

I conked out at 10 p.m. - my brain wouldn't work any more and I knew I was only good for Words with Friends and a beer. There's a point each and every day when I know that my noggin will not cooperate anymore and that anything I read and write will be useless. As is, I know I will be hunkering down on a rainy weekend chiseling away at the curriculum responsibilities (read: assessment).

I always make myself feel good, however, when I compare the grading I have as a college professor with the grading I had as a high school teacher. There is no comparison: grading the work of 130 students is very different than grading the work of 40. Yes, in college they write more, but what is assesses is very different and, given the other responsibilities I'm required to do, I'm thankful it is only 40.

I think what I hate most about collegiate grading, however, is that the 15 weeks, limited time with students doesn't allow for the revision I loved to encourage as a high school educator. When I do final assessments, I am always thinking, "Wow! This kid would do a bang-up job if they only had one more round of editing." Sadly, final assessments come in and the kids move on with their lives.

The real learning, I believe, comes from the assessment and having time to go over the "what next" suggestions for their writing. I'm getting better at incorporating drafting in my courses, but not all the students take me up on this. Rather, if I assign something for midnight, they send it in at 11:59:59.

They have a lot on their do for the next few days I'll be banging my head against the wall thinking, "When will this end? What are we learning? Why are we always doing this?"

I know it is good, but I get numb after a while (and so do my fingers, my back, my neck, and my butt).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Yesterday Was Four Years. Not A Day Goes By Without You On My Mind

My arrival to Fairfield University came with a lot of fanfare and freshness to begin anew. My first year, 2011-2012, I spent many nights in my office finalizing my dissertation and trying to get my head around directing the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield and learning my ways around lots of policies, grants, requirements and the new "normal" of earmarks for funding removed and state support dwindling. With the position, of course, came the greatest sunshine: Lois Minto.

In a very short time, Lois and I began to dream about ways we could continue the traditions of the National Writing Project in southern Connecticut. She was passionate about helping the animal shelter of Stratford and I loved accompanying her to fundraisers and galas. I didn't know anyone, so she'd invite me over for a hamburger on a Friday night or pizza at the Green. When I was looking for a place to rent, I found a house around the corner and up the street. This resulted in a growing friendship where she helped me out and I helped her.

In May of 2013, I was implementing a Writing Our Lives - Bridgeport conference for 125 high school students. Lois was my behind the scenes coordinator for the May 21st event. It was the end of the semester, the stress was high and the exhaustion was plentiful. I went to Lois's house on the 9th for dinner and to help Lois with her nephew. She felt as exhausted as I did, and I remember spending the night trying to make the two of them laugh.

The next morning is when Pam called. Lois had a hear attack and was found on her bedroom floor. "It's not good," she said. "It's not good." She was going to the hospital and she asked if I would go over to Lois's and look after her nephew. I did, until I was called to pick up Kaitlyn and bring her to the hospital to be with family. It was a tense couple of hours and the optimism ebbed and flowed. Then we were asked to enter the medical room. Lois had another heart attack in her room and her body was shutting down. We all stood around her saying final words, praying, and sharing love for a woman we all adored. The Saads, the Kellys, and me. It was an intense, emotional moment, but then she passed...all unexpectedly.

The rhythm and flow of the years have moved more quickly than I expected they would and I hold the words I read at the funeral dear to my hear. RIP & ILY. ILY, indeed.

I am remembering taking Lois around town in a pink bag to have a beer next to a cousin's auto shop and a steak at a Bridgeport Diner where her sisters and I reminisced and listened to Lois's favorite song, Michael Jackson's Rock with Me. At my house, I have some of her plants, a few angels, and the giant "Ducks on a Picnic" painting that she and her nephew made for me on my birthday. They painted over the ugly ducks, picnic baskets, and bonnets with red paint and a lot of crazy lines and circles. The modern art hangs over my bed and I love it.

I moved into my own house, coincidentally on the other side of where she lived, and each day I wake up saying hello in that direction and each night I say goodnight. Each summer, too, a red cardinal lives in my backyard and I've come to call it Lois (although a northern flicker has been competing for the territory and chases the cardinal away).

Last night, we went out for a burger and a glass of wine to toast Lois. Our time as colleagues and friends was short-lived, but special.

I miss her laugh, her humor, her videos and the camaraderie. Phew. This is that life thing that none of us are prepared for. She was so loved and enjoyed by all. Thinking of you, Lowey! Wish you could meet Glamis, as I'm sure you'd love her and something tells me that you and Chitunga would become great friends, too - in fact, I imagine he'd be at your house helping you out whenever he is home.
Look over us. When the sun shines, we know you're up there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Of All Stars, Moonbeams, Star Fish & Appreciation for Teachers

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and on Monday night Fairfield University hosted its annual celebration of Student Teachers and Teaching. What made it extra special was having CT Teacher of the Year, 2017, Lauren Danner with us. She is a science teacher at North Branford High School. It is an evening of shouting out to cooperating teachers, supervisors, faculty, and our students who completed their semester in front of K-12 students.

I wrote "Cheers for the Artists We Call Teachers" three years ago to applaud the great work of educators. It's a short op-ed that got a lot of air play (and I was proud when Diane Ravitch tweeted it to all of her followers - those of us who advocate and understand the profession need to be vocal about those who criticize it and undermine it with for-profit, industrial reasons). I will forever bow my head with respect for any and all who have chosen the teaching profession. I continue to be filled with admiration for the work that they do. That, we do.

It saddens me sometimes that we can't do more to show appreciation for the massive time and energy it takes to do a phenomenal job in our schools. Teachers are used to being under-resourced, over committed, and emotionally wrapped with the ups and downs of the profession. You give a teacher a $100 for their classroom and they can stretch those bills to do amazing work. There are few ticker tape parades or red carpets for educators, however (and the vast majority understand this when they enter the profession - they do it with a commitment for the public good and for the relationships they build with students and their futures). This is what the National Writing Project taught me (well, invested in me) and I'm recalling my "three stanzas for 40 years" post from three years ago when they asked me to guest blog).

Those of us in the profession are accustomed to high-fiving one another in the most economical way (it's like feeding an entire class of seniors before graduation - PANCAKES to the rescue: cheap, cheap, cheap...I have fond memories of the Perfectly Pointless Post-Portfolio Pre-Prom Pancake Parties in Louisville, Kentucky...out of my pocket, and all fed frugally).

On Monday night, I did what little I could to share my appreciation for the student teachers, cooperating teachers, fellow faculty, and supervisors by handing out a gladiola bulb (75 for $6.99) wrapped in a bag with two beads: either a star, or a moon, or a starfish (strings 25 beads are 3 for $9.99 at A.C. Moore, bags are $4.99 for 100, and ribbon happened to be two rolls for 50 cents - ask my mom, I know how to shop and get the most from my money).

Here's the brief version of the story behind the small gift I handed out,
When I first started teaching, my senior students mentored incoming kindergarten kids. The little ones were called the All Stars, and a little boy looked up to me and asked, “If we are All Stars, then what are you?” I told him we were the senior class and he replied, “No you’re not. You’re the Moonbeams. And YOUR Mr. Moonbeam!”   
That began the story of the Moonbeams and the All Stars (a children’s book that received mild publication in our school as we read it each yer to our big and little buddies).  Yes, I became Mr. Moonbeam and that identity has a tremendous place in my heart.
Long story short. 
I’m sure you’ve read the tale of the boy and the star fish. I know that many teachers who blog rant about how much they hate that story, but I was introduced to it by a special human being after he graduated. He wanted me to know that my class gave him hope for the world when he wanted to give up. He was thankful I kept throwing him back in the water. He shared the story with me as he was getting ready to graduate and I've used the tale from time to time since.
Each of us as educators have perennial stories like this -  reminders in our careers of why we do what we set out to do. That is teaching. Each spring, when you want to throw in the towel and spend a majority of your time cursing the Gods for your occupational choice, you have to remind yourself that after cold and harsh winters, the flowers begin to bloom again. As are perennials, so are the rituals of teaching. With the sun and the rain comes reminders of what is most beautiful in life. The investments we make in our students.
It's a simple metaphor: a bulb, a star, a moon, & a starfish - and the hope I have during Teacher Appreciation Week every year. I often joke with my students that teaching is like emptying the ocean with spoon, except they give you fork. It's also a profession where your hands get tied, your mouths are taped shut, and your ankles are shackled, but you're asked to swim across an Olympic-size pool in record time.

BUT, I can't imagine a better, more rewarding way to spend a lifetime. We, the educators of the world, simply need to applaud the work of one another. We need to share our stories and educate those who don't teach about what it takes to do what we do. We must promote the profession for what it is - career-professionals who invest in the future. We are the wisdom warriors and we should be proud.


With this post, I'm off to provide professional development in schools.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I was scurrying between buildings trying to catch up with myself yesterday, when I noticed that Pam must have brought her dog, Jake, to campus for some student time. She had him on a leash outside her office and when I came around the corner, saw them, and yelled, "Jaaaaaaaaakkkkkkeeeeee!"

Then I heard, "Crannnnnnddddaaallll."

Coming up the stairs, coincidentally, was Jacob Knostman, a student I had in EN 11 and EN 12 four years ago. He was heading out of one final into another, and soon will be one of many graduating students from Fairfield to become the Class of 2017.

I need to pause for a second here.

There were three people and one dog in the courtyard when I screamed. The other person besides Pam and me, just happened to be Jake. I took it as a sign from the Great Whatever to use the coincidence to catch up briefly with one of the best, most incredible, and impressive students I've taught at Fairfield. Actually, I often name him in my head as one of the most promising students I've taught in my life. He's pretty amazing and soon will be moving to San Francisco to begin a career (I'm guessing) in economics. Jacob has one of those incredible minds that is miraculously stupendous at everything. He's mathematical, logical, creative, witty, contemplative, philosophical, and deeply interested in this thing called knowledge.

I should mention, too, that Jacob Knostman was a stellar athlete on the Men's Lacrosse team and, as a midfielder, co-captain of this year's team (I drive by a billboard everyday on my way home from work that I think is him - hard to tell with the helmet on).

Wow, it is hard to believe that he's already a senior embarking into the career-world --- I noticed too that he has to shave now...I don't remember that when he was a freshman.

In 2013-2014, I had the privilege of mentoring his academic skills while wrote and researched "Running for Arthritis" and even quoted from my colleague, Sonya Huber, and her essay where she wrote, "If pain is a language, I have the accent on my tongue. I do not yet dream in pain, but a three-year immersion has stripped my skeleton's previous fluency" (p. 1). I remember that Jacob, too, wrote an original analysis of the texts we read in an article he called, "Competition Makes More Than a Part-Time Warrior with Wit," where he explored the competitive and athletic mindset of characters in Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian and Margaret Edson's Wit.

What I loved most about working with Jake that year, however, was his sincere kindness, his interest in the world, his curiosity, and his willingness to give his best to everything around him. I realized he was a one-of-a-kind kid - and, yes, I'm partial to any and all I teach and speak similar praise of his classmates.

Phew. It flies. Zip. Zap. Zoom.

Being Crandall, of course, I had to get a photograph of Jake with Jake (and no, not Jake from State Farm) for the good ol' blog (my online journal of daily thoughts). As we move with the rhythm and flow of life, and people weave in and out of it more and more rapidly, it is always special to be reunited by chance (especially when I was yelling to a dog and a human answered).

I write this post to simply say, "Good Luck, Buddy. You got this. You've always had what it takes. Congratulations on all the celebration to come. You're a special man, indeed."

Your family should be proud.

Huber, Sonya. "A Day in the Grammar of Disease." Brevity A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction. N.p., 13 May 2013. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.