Thursday, August 31, 2017

I Know I Look Twibble, But I Am Getting a Hair Cut. Tweet Tweet @MarcHoag

I came late to the Twitter-sphere. I remember an undergraduate trying to talk me into the power of Tweeting back in 2008 and I simply thought, "What do we need a 140 character platform form?" Still, I knew I was going to write everyday, because I've done that since I was 19 years old (I'm 45). After doing the Louisville Writing Project in 2001, I moved from text-only journaling, to writer's notebooks and then, in 2009, a high school student told me, "You should try blogging."

"What's that?" I asked. I thought I'd give it a try and for 365 days I wrote about happiness. The trend followed for the next 9 years focused on different themes (quirkiness, community, commodity, etc), equaling 10 years of blogging and transitioning to thinking daily not only for my own sake, but for the sake of an audience beyond my own id, ego and superego. Why hog my thoughts to myself? Right?

I used to kid that some days I had one reader (thanks, Mom) and other days I had 1,000s. Then I read about TwitterFeed and I thought, "hmmm. What if I Tweeted out my blog in addition to blogging?" The result was that every morning 140 characters started my day. The number of readers continued and I was in awe of how many individuals my writing actual reached. Alas, the free TwitterFeed disappeared, but they wrote an email recommending Twibble. It charged a reasonable fee for the feed and so that is who I have been going with ever since.

Yesterday, I was contacted by Marc Hoag of Twibble about an inquiry I made with posts. He asked questions about my experience and I simply said, "Let me blog about it."

Here's what I can assert. My go-to audience will always be family, teachers, students, schools, the National Writing Project, the National Council of English, literacy researchers, and anyone interested in my daily reflections. I love knowing that every day I write, and the Twibble group Tweets out what I had to say, keeping my writing routine and with an active audience (Readers for 2017 haven't been updated...I usually do it at the end of the year).

I don't have a huge number of followers, but I do believe that my daily tweet, now via Twibble, helps me to make my daily thinking available to the Twittersphere. I know Marc's father is an academic, and I also know that academics would not find such writing valuable to scholarship and empirical studies, but I find it therapeutic and as a platform that works for me. I couldn't be happier.

I finger tap on the keyboard piano on a daily basis and if it catches the attention of one person each day, then I know my online writing is effective. Before, my writing journals were for me and my shelves. Here, I'm able to share my humanity a little more with a larger community.

It's Ubuntu.

It works.

And when there isn't a daily post, I'm shocked my how many people text and email me to say, "Where's your blog today? Is everything okay?"

I am, because we are. Thanks, Twibble (even if I have a Twibble headache from the stress of a new year - that's a Tweety Bird joke, I'm sure you've heard it all before).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DYLAN! Keep Writing Your Stories online, too!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

For My K-12 Teaching Friends Kicking It Off @WritingProject @Cwpfairfield @ncte

Here's to you.

No, seriously. Here's to you.

You are amazing, and before anyone tells you differently, get it into your head, "YOU ARE AMAZING." You teach, therefore you are. I am channeling Taylor Mali here. He gets it. He knows. I feel it, too, from Linda Darling Hammond, Kelly Gallagher, Diane Ravitch, Mike Rose, etc. and all the others who champion educators and spend their life advocating for the profession.

Teaching is the work of mad men and mad women emptying the ocean with a fork. BUT YOU DO IT. You do it with passion, flare, dedication, commitment and purpose. I am guessing, too, that if you have a Twitter account and are reading this right now, you are also connected with other professionals  in the field who are also in search of the most effective and best practices for your schools and for your students.

For this reason, I'm applauding you.

I'm entering 40th grade this year, meaning that I've never left this idea of school and have always made school my life (well, from birth to 5 I wasn't formally in a building to be educated, so I'm not counting those). I still come home at nights and shower, trying to wash away the profession. "I am not a teacher. Yuck, Crandall. You did not choose to live your life this way. You have not become everything you hated about being a student and you are not doing to them what so many did to you."

But that is only on bad days.

Most days I hold my head up proud and say, "I teach." Actually,  I say, "I stand to celebrate teachers and their students."

Yesterday, I worked with a faculty of 20 English educators at Darien High School in Connecticut with writing initiatives they are kicking off at the school. My colleague, Beth Boquet, led the way to discuss the potential of a student writing center and the power of conferencing with youth. I was in awe of these teachers. I told Beth on the way there that is is EXTREMELY difficult to start off a new year with so much PD. A good educator simply wants to get in the room to get organized. Ah, but that's not teaching. Every second is taken by the needs of others. That is teaching. Imagine if a dentist or a doctor, or a lawyer or an investor, came back from vacation and were told, "You can't have your office, or your chair, or your table, or your stock market because we've brought in experts who will tell you better how to run your office, use your chair, work on your table and tabulate your stocks."

That happens to teachers.  It happens on the days before a new year, in afternoon meetings, on breaks, and even in the summer. And they take it. They absorb it. They put their fork into the ocean and empty as fast as they can. That is how they survive.

I'm now at a University and first to admit that it is extremely difficult work. It is, however, different work from that of K-12 teachers. No one but teachers can understand what their work is. It is amazing work. It is challenging work. It is necessary work. It is impossible work. It is rewarding work. It is 24/7, 365 days-a-year work. There is no clocking out and, despite the rumors, no such thing as a vacation. There are books to read, conferences to attend, plans to be made, and reflection to occur. It is a way of life. It is all-consuming.

The work of teachers is immeasurable and, sadly, it goes unnoticed too often. The labor is scapegoated, abused, blamed, harassed, challenged, and belittled. Yet, teachers persevere. They build supportive communities, they head to the library, they talk with others in the field, and they recall that very moment when a student, in their care, has an a-ha movement.

I used to hate the expression of "being in the trenches" when I taught high school in Louisville, because I never felt like I was at war (at least with my students....the bureaucracies of state departments, assessments, administrators, etc - that is a different story). Yet, now that I'm in a different location where I don't have the demands and expectations of K-12 teaching (and can reflect on this), I see how true the "trenches" really are. I try, as much as possible, to be in the field with them and hope not to make a career of theory, publication, and disconnect with the practice; rather, to be a part with teachers (and youth) to bring theory into practice so that it works and makes a difference. Nancy Cantor at Syracuse University referred to this as Scholarship in Action.

That's what I believe in.

And as someone who has never been out-of-school and who continuously works tirelessly in-school to invest in the future and to make a difference in the lives of young people, I want you to know that see you. I see the value of everything you are doing each and every day. I'm cheering for you. I'm high-fiving you. I am hearing you, and recognizing that the work you are doing is nearly impossible.

Yet, I love that you refuse to believe this and that you are setting out for another wonderful year.

Here's to you...my teaching friends: the artists, the warriors, the dreamers, the doers, the writers, the believers, the thinkers, the meaning makers, the care-takers, the graders, the jokesters, the pranksters, the curmudgeons, the visionaries, and the listeners. In our current world of natural and man-made disasters, I realize that our young people need us more than ever before. Nothing sits still and, although there are those who like to claim otherwise, there's never ben an absolute answer to any of this...it doesn't sit still.

There are, however, fabulous questions and these questions deserve to be explored with those enrolled in your room. Ask them. Encourage those of others. Explore together.

Believe in the power of learning, and aim to reach those who are most reluctant and defiant. Why? Chances are, they will teach you as much as you are able to teach them.

Good luck. You got this.

Ubuntu,

Bryan

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Looking Forward to Providing PD Today: Conferencing with Student Writers

I pulled this one out of the files from a few moons ago. Why? My colleague Beth Boquet was invited to do PD in Darien today and she, in return, wondered if I wanted to join forces. Beth coordinates our Writing Center and is a go-to expert on peer-to-peer writing, conferencing, and writing instruction. I was honored to be asked to join her (as we also think about regional writing center support).

Our workshop today is on initiating practices with young people that encourage them as writers, beyond the actual writing that is handed in for this or that assessment. Interesting to the two of us is the fact that in Best Practices or Handbooks of research on writing, scant attention has been paid to the ins and outs of a writing conference. Anyone in a classroom knows their importance, but what is to be said on what works best (and why).

Lucky for us, we have the National Writing Project and much foundation provided during the great surge of writing research in the 80s. Since then, across the nation, so many have been able to build wonderful programs. Alas, in the time of NCLB and Race to the top, the nation has somewhat lost its way in K-12 writing instruction. I'm thankful to my colleagues and especially to Kelly Gallagher. Ah, but how do we know what works best with one-on-one conferencing. Better yet, how do we train students to be good readers of each others writing so that they build a community of writers where the teacher is lead mentor helping to build the written outcomes they want?

That's what we've been thinking about for a few weeks and this afternoon we will share our thinking with 20 educators who teach high school - some with tremendous expertise and a few just beginning their careers.

Linda Darling Hammond has just announced NWP work as exemplar professional development, and that is our aim for today's workshop....to build a foundation of trust between teachers, University scholars, research, and practice.

Ha! About the picture above. I knew I wanted to a photo of me conferencing with a student and lo and behold, look what I found. A conference with Chitunga during first semester of his senior year. Time flies (and look at those dreads!)

I am hoping his conferences served him well as he's taking a literature course this semester that (cough cough) looks to be challenging on all levels. Let his writing mentorship come through!

Monday, August 28, 2017

10 Years Ago I Reflected on 13 Years Ago, Which Means 23 Years @VisliselSue

Sue and Bryan, Spring 2007
For the heck of it, I decided to look at what I wrote 10 years ago today on my first blog, The LilyPad Chronicles. On this date, ten years ago, I wrote a post reflecting on 13 years ago that date (which must mean that August 28th is a day for me to reach back into the past - there must be some sort of cosmic, Great Whatever pull to keep the day on the radar).

Sure enough, in 1995 I was working as an intern at the Beargrass Creek Task Force through the Louisville Nature Center where I ran a nature camp for teens and met Lauri Wade. Lauri, a teacher at the Brown School, talked to Sue, an  English teacher, and told her she needed to meet me. Sue, a walker and dog lover, decided to do just that. I was leaving our shed (yes, we worked in a brown-recluse infested shed) when I saw a woman walking a dog and part of my Nature Preserve duty was to inform people that dogs weren't allowed. Of course, this is humorous now as Sue became one of my best champions and Harley has a special place in both our hearts.

Fast forward, I began doing observations in her classroom and then was a student teacher the following spring. The bond was instantaneous and, in 1997, I attempted to fill her large shoes at the school and our relationship grew stronger and stronger and stronger. She remains the best mentor/guide I've ever had and remains my Louisville mom. She took me to dance performances and I made her go to U of L basketball games (where she saw the athleticism as a ballet, too).

It's somewhat surreal for me to think about that magic 23 years ago, when the two of us met. I knew as soon as I entered that building that I found paradise and a fairy godmother who continues to be a sage and angel. Phew.

The photo above is of us at a last gathering before I departed Louisville to earn my doctorate. It is amazing how much happens in such time....Juliette...Baby...Ditto...Glamis....and Pilot.

Yes, Pilot...that's who Sue's been for me, helping me to steer in the right direction when my flight gets a little wonky.

So here's to Sue and our anniversary. 23 years today. It doesn't seem possible. She may be a few states away, but I carry her brilliance, advice, good will, energy, and laughter with me wherever I go.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bored Dog + Stressed Dad + Innovative Mind = New Glamis Toy


Okay, dog. So I've been working a lot. I get it. It's totally understandable.

I know, I know. But it's not like you are ever waiting for me when I get home, either. It's not like you are overly anxious for company and play time. Nope.

You're in bed and don't even greet me. I even have to get you up to take you for a walk. I have to get you excited to go 3 and a 1/2 miles. You act all bothered and troubled when I get your leash out (although I know you love the walks because you think you own the universe).

Then, after the long walk, you drink water and immediately go back to bed. I know. I know. I missed National Dog Day by one day. Get over it. You're sleepy. It's hard being furry, fuzzy, and clawed.

Of course, 9 p.m. always hits and then that turns to 10 p.m. - You do your ritual search for Chitunga by sitting in the bay window. You think every car is his, but they're not.

I know. I know. I miss him, too. But guess what? He's doing well. Dean's List in fact (we got the certificate and letter today from LeMoyne).

And you stare. You crawl towards me with those puppy eyes. You crawl towards me, inch towards me, creep towards me, with the tiny gerbil whining. I know you want to play and yes, I know I spend all my time on the computer. "It's dossier time," I tell you. "I need to do this because it is an investment into future biscuits for you."

You don't care. I grab a beer and it tastes good. So I grab another. Then I remember that a few days ago I did a ritual of going through old t-shirts that have seen better days and turn them into running shirts by cutting off the sleeves (I hate sleeves in the summer). I throw all the sleeves in the garbage, thinking I might use them for dust cloths, but no I never will.

I think, "Wait. You love chewing on old socks and every time I buy you a squeaky animal toy, you shred it to bits."

So, we go upstairs. You run after me like it's the most exciting experience in your life time. The anticipation in your tail, whimpering, and facial expressions let me know you are thrilled by what is about to happen. I take the shreds of sleeves and begin to tie knots. You show little patience and begin to scratch on my leg. I say, "I know. I know." And I keep on tying. You grow more and more excited because it is like Christmas morning for you....like your birthday.

And I say, "Hey, these are CNS colors. Northstars. The alma mater," then realize some of the shirts you cut up are from your high school days of green and blue." After twisting, knotting, and tying, I show you the gift and you immediately jump up and grab it out of my hands.

For 20 minutes I throw it and you retrieve. You play tug-of-war with me. You threaten war.

Then you collapse and it's over. You go up onto the bay

window and look out wondering "This is great and all, but I really wanted Chitunga to come home."

And you sigh.

I simply say, "I know. I know," then I write this Sunday post to wish the kid the greatest semester and to send my love and encouragement for his Fall. He works too hard.

Then, you look at me and grunt. You are intuitive. You imply fallen apples not far from trees.

Then I think about Mikey and how, yesterday, at a planning meeting with my colleague, Beth, I sent a special treat home with her for National Dog Day. He loves 'shoulder rests, airplane pillows', so I found the next best thing! One that also squeaks!)

Then I see that look in your eyes. "Gave that toy to another dog, did you?"

Yep. It's the dog days of a soon-to-end summer.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Okay, Harvey. You're For Real, But The Metaphor Is Real, Too

Dear Harvey,

I don't live in Texas, but your brothers and sisters who visited us in Connecticut during my final stages of dissertation remind me of the craziest period in my life. My first year of teaching at Fairfield University, your sister did a number on me, psychologically, because I needed electricity and, worried we'd be without power, I drove 5 hours to Syracuse so I could write and make progress towards completion in a location I knew I'd be safe.

Academic life is this way.

You are a natural disaster, but so much in academia is self-made, man-made disastrous because those of us who have noses in books, research, teaching, and service tend to be a particular breed of human who take on too much, attempt more than they should, and worry they're never doing enough.

I continue to chisel away at this dossier gig, but at the end of teach day I realize how much more I still need to do. Part of the stress comes from capturing all that has been accomplished, part of it from forgetting items, and most of it in properly articulating it for peers to evaluate. It is a lot. I'd say it is too much but I know so many others before me have accomplished the task at hand and many who follow will have to do the same.

Still, I can't help but think your symbolism is timely, like Sandy, and that you are a symbol of the academic work we take on. I know you wreak havoc on millions and my dossier is only wreaking havoc on me, but I'm ready for recovery, repair, and healing. I look forward to the aftermath, post-traumatically as it is, so I can realign my purposes in life to be more aligned with family, friendships, and the teaching I love.

Be kind to my friends in the Gulf of Mexico. Don't take too much out on them. I promise to do the same for myself as I continue this quest/phase/hurdle in my own professional life.

Today is Saturday. I have two important meetings and more time in the office. It is one day at a time. This is the way history has always been.

Peace,

Bryan

Friday, August 25, 2017

Slowly Getting There One Day at a Time. Chisel, Chisel, Chisel

Room 108 of Canisius Hall has become my home away from home. Today, I pulled apart my Service binder (an appendix of my dossier) and started to rearrange the work so that it makes more sense and details the work I've done with the Faculty Salary Committee, the World Diversity Committee, Bridgeport Higher Education Association, Hoops4Hope, Literacy4Life, GSEAP Advisory Board, MLK Celebration, and Poetry for Peace.

As I combed the material, the items that stand out the most are the student publications, the Writing Our Lives conferences, the free workshops I've done with GSEAP's partner schools, the Student Teacher Celebrations, the faculty search committees, Writing in the Limelight events, National Day on Writing, National Digital Learning Day, and, of course, commencement.

I remember hearing a Dean at Syracuse University once state, "Academia is a way of life. It all flows together in a consortium of research, teaching, and service." A National Writing Project Director's role, too, allows me to fold in many corners like a giant origami piece of art. There are many folds to the organism.

Today, I will edit and write. I will catalogue and count. I will produce an official Table of Contents and get graduate students to help me create labels and tabs for the items I'm missing.

And I'm dreaming - I'm dreaming of a summer vacation, any vacation, and a location where I will no longer have to spend every second I can find working on demonstrating what it is I do at work. The rugs of our building are used to my steps and pace. I'm thankful for those who stop by to give me words of wisdom and encouragement.

I am almost done with this exercise and go-around. Already I am thinking, "So what are the next big projects I want to accomplish." First and foremost, I want to have space to take a break sometime in the near future.

A guy can wish, right?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Did I Win? Did I Win? Did I Win? Win What? Anything? It Would Be Nice.

What do you think? Was it me? I bought tickets on Sunday when it was at 480 million, but it's gone up some (and yes, I know it is a crapshoot, but it might as well be me).

Actually, I got to thinking about numbers and did some simple math to learn that this incredible win for the individual who gets it (it will change their life), is only a fraction of what is spent on protecting a president year to year, especially when they have so much property. Oof. Here was thinking that 700 plus (400 take home) was a chunk of change that could really make a difference, but then I learn that, to put it in perspective, it is what is spent to employ protection for the leaders of our nation. Punk change!

Yikes.

Seriously. If it goes to a winner, I hope it goes to someone who deserves it. I know what I'd do: I'd invest in the National Writing Project and, perhaps, founding a school like the Brown that would carry forth a mission of democracy, inclusion, diversity, and high standards. Alas. I will have to do what I do what (appreciated) grant at a time.

But if you won, and I didn't, would you give me a call? I was thinking about what I might do for schools, yes, but also what I would do for my family --- might even take the first real vacation in 6 years....like one where I really do relax.

Ah, the dreams they tease us with. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

So @NikkiIsgar, With Love For You, Your Mom and @ContempColor

A couple of years ago, while eating chili and macaroni and cheese (that is winter guard food, I suppose) in gymnasiums across the country), my older sister, mom and I had the fortune of meeting David Byrne who was at a New Jersey regional building a foundation for a musical event he envisioned for Toronto and New York City. The vision was Contemporary Color and my niece, who competed first for the Northstars of Cicero-North Syracuse, and then for the Brigadiers (who were invited to participate) was to be part of the performance.

The Brigadiers had a great show that year and she and her teammates were extremely excited to participate in David Byrne's vision. For my mom, brother-in-law, and older sister, a special trip to the Barclay Center in New York City also added to
the excitement (although my ease/pace with navigating the city sparked a fight with my older sister that I wasn't anticipating...I left them to find my mom and I in a pub while it was pouring outside).

Mom did great the entire day (which, well, we tend not to expect because, well, history and mishaps typically occur with her on such occasions). Mom managed Metro North, the NYC subway system, and the foot traffic of Brooklyn like a professional tourist, guard mom, and determined grandma. The show, as a live performance, was also spectacular, especially because part of the show narrated the history of the sport and the musicians/performers represented an eclectic, diverse arrangement of musical arrangements and stories. They were asked to create audio to accompany the shows that were already completed (and competed) throughout the season. The performers simply had to adjust their equipment work to match the new music/audio they were given. It was a fun experience for all, especially those who have been part of the @WGI world. Actually, it was incredible.

The music and concept, however, was peculiar, in a good way, just like the artistry of David Byrne and the passion of all those who compete in the sport. The Crandalls have a long history with marching units as my dad competed with the Brigadiers marching band, my older sister competed with the Northstars, and Nikki followed in both of their traditions. For those who know that world, the opportunity to work with David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, Money Mark & Ad-Rock, Zola Jesus, Dev Hymes, Tune Yards, Ira Glass, How To Dress Well, Lucius, St. Vincent, and Nico Muhly was somewhat astounding. As many said in the movie, it was unimaginable.

This weekend, while de-stressing from academic work and two, 14-hour days of analyzing data and writing, I pressed the On-Demand button, and what appeared for $4.95? Well, Contempoary Color. So, I ordered it. Actually, I got a beer from the fridge and settled in.

I heard reviews from CNY that it wasn't what was expected, but I viewed it and absolutely loved it. Why? I loved the artistry of the production/documentary, the odd arrangements, the interpretative moves of cinematography and the togetherness.  Would I do it different? Of course. But I am all for multiple variations of sharing what is possible.

It was interesting to me to see production choices and to question why they chose to present the color guard movement as they did. I couldn't find fault with their version, especially with knowledge of the sport, the practice it takes, the emotions that go into it, and the interpretation of music through movement, twirling rifles, flags, sabers, and dance. It was extra special, too, to see my niece and her teammates on the big screen (well, my small television that everyone makes fun of). I thought it was beautiful and having over 30 years of memory in gyms and from shows, I was touched by the 'narration.' The Mechanicsburg floor dads hit it out of the park - they were real (as my memory as a floor uncle taught me). Remember Phoenix when we unraveled the mat upside down, Mike?). My niece's coaches do.

I was thumbs up for the movie, even emotional at times, and most definitely proud of my niece and the others who put so much into the artistry. I still love the Ira Glass portion best (both live and in film), but that may because I'm partial to words, storytelling, and radio shows (having met him at Syracuse University during my doctoral studies). I love the way his brain works.

I don't take breaks too often, yet throughout my life I've allowed the winter guard world of my family  become a temporary pause in the pace I keep - an excuse of sorts (I wonder how many books I actually read in the gymnasiums of Syracuse in the years Nikki went from JV to Varsity?).

In a constantly conflicted world of those who wish to restrict, confine, draw lines, and place parameters, I'm thrilled by those that promote outside-the-box thinking and performance. Everything about Contemporary Color achieved this and that is why I say, "Bravo." Keep the interpretations, choreography, precision, creativity, and beauty coming. Keep the @WGI world peculiar.

And with that, I'm going back to my office to nerd out some more, imagining the universe with choreographed interpretations and athletic colorfulness.



So @NikkiIsgar, With Love For You, Your Mom and @ContempColor

A couple of years ago, while eating chili and macaroni and cheese (that is winter guard food, I suppose) in gymnasiums across the country), my older sister, mom and I had the fortune of meeting David Byrne who was at a New Jersey regional building a foundation for a musical event he envisioned for Toronto and New York City. The vision was Contemporary Color and my niece, who competed first for the Northstars of Cicero-North Syracuse, and then for the Brigadiers (who were invited to participate) was to be part of the performance.

The Brigadiers had a great show that year and she and her teammates were extremely excited to participate in David Byrne's vision. For my mom, brother-in-law, and older sister, a special trip to the Barclay Center in New York City also added to
the excitement (although my ease/pace with navigating the city sparked a fight with my older sister that I wasn't anticipating...I left them to find my mom and I in a pub while it was pouring outside).

Mom did great the entire day (which, well, we tend not to expect because, well, history and mishaps typically occur with her on such occasions). Mom managed Metro North, the NYC subway system, and the foot traffic of Brooklyn like a professional tourist, guard mom, and determined grandma. The show, as a live performance, was also spectacular, especially because part of the show narrated the history of the sport and the musicians/performers represented an eclectic, diverse arrangement of musical arrangements and stories. They were asked to create audio to accompany the shows that were already completed (and competed) throughout the season. The performers simply had to adjust their equipment work to match the new music/audio they were given. It was a fun experience for all, especially those who have been part of the @WGI world. Actually, it was incredible.

The music and concept, however, was peculiar, in a good way, just like the artistry of David Byrne and the passion of all those who compete in the sport. The Crandalls have a long history with marching units as my dad competed with the Brigadiers marching band, my older sister competed with the Northstars, and Nikki followed in both of their traditions. For those who know that world, the opportunity to work with David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, Money Mark & Ad-Rock, Zola Jesus, Dev Hymes, Tune Yards, Ira Glass, How To Dress Well, Lucius, St. Vincent, and Nico Muhly was somewhat astounding. As many said in the movie, it was unimaginable.

This weekend, while de-stressing from academic work and two, 14-hour days of analyzing data and writing, I pressed the On-Demand button, and what appeared for $4.95? Well, Contempoary Color. So, I ordered it. Actually, I got a beer from the fridge and settled in.

I heard reviews from CNY that it wasn't what was expected, but I viewed it and absolutely loved it. Why? I loved the artistry of the production/documentary, the odd arrangements, the interpretative moves of cinematography and the togetherness.  Would I do it different? Of course. But I am all for multiple variations of sharing what is possible.

It was interesting to me to see production choices and to question why they chose to present the color guard movement as they did. I couldn't find fault with their version, especially with knowledge of the sport, the practice it takes, the emotions that go into it, and the interpretation of music through movement, twirling rifles, flags, sabers, and dance. It was extra special, too, to see my niece and her teammates on the big screen (well, my small television that everyone makes fun of). I thought it was beautiful and having over 30 years of memory in gyms and from shows, I was touched by the 'narration.' The Mechanicsburg floor dads hit it out of the park - they were real (as my memory as a floor uncle taught me). Remember Phoenix when we unraveled the mat upside down, Mike?). My niece's coaches do.

I was thumbs up for the movie, even emotional at times, and most definitely proud of my niece and the others who put so much into the artistry. I still love the Ira Glass portion best (both live and in film), but that may because I'm partial to words, storytelling, and radio shows (having met him at Syracuse University during my doctoral studies). I love the way his brain works.

I don't take breaks too often, yet throughout my life I've allowed the winter guard world of my family  become a temporary pause in the pace I keep - an excuse of sorts (I wonder how many books I actually read in the gymnasiums of Syracuse in the years Nikki went from JV to Varsity?).

In a constantly conflicted world of those who wish to restrict, confine, draw lines, and place parameters, I'm thrilled by those that promote outside-the-box thinking and performance. Everything about Contemporary Color achieved this and that is why I say, "Bravo." Keep the interpretations, choreography, precision, creativity, and beauty coming. Keep the @WGI world peculiar.

And with that, I'm going back to my office to nerd out some more, imagining the universe with choreographed interpretations and athletic colorfulness.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Red Cardinal Was With Me & I'm Praying For My Neighbor

In the house across the street to the right live an older couple. Chitunga and I once tried to help the guy with his driveway, but he didn't want any part of us assisting. Occasionally, I see him walk his wife to the car for doctor appointments. I've guessed she's had a stroke or something, because she comes out rarely and when she does, she moves very slow. There is little to no movement at their house, and I always worry about them, wondering if their world is okay.

Yesterday, I was drinking morning coffee when firetrucks and ambulances arrived out front. They tried to get into their house, but the black car wasn't home and I wondered what was going on. A crew of around 7 people walked around the house and they were gone for a while. Eventually the front door opened and they wheeled the woman out in a stretcher - she didn't look good and wasn't moving. I wondered where her husband was, and 20 minutes after they left I heard him speeding down the road and screeching into his driveway. He went in quick and then took off rapidly. When I got home at night, his car was still gone. My heart dropped and I am hoping for the best for them.

At lunch, I went for a four mile run in Stratford and as I ran, a red cardinal flew alongside me, hopping from tree to tree singing, and watching my slow, 45-year old, painful pace. I've begun to see red cardinals as Lois, as she returns from time to time to let me know she's thinking about us all. When I got home, I immediately contacted Pam and my mom to check on them and to be sure everything was okay. I worried that the bird might of been telling me something I needed to know. It was an eclipse day, and everything about the day was a little awry.

Everything was okay with Pam and my mom.

I'm now thinking that the cardinal was following me letting me know it was with me for my worry for my neighbor. I continue to hope everything is okay and will extend my generosity again when I see them at home. I've worried about them both for sometime, and when she was pulled out on a stretcher by herself I immediately began sending prayer out to the Great Whatever.

Such events are never fun and they trigger so many thoughts in my head. They are on my mind.

Monday, August 21, 2017

No Solar Eclipse on My Radar (But I am Wishing All Who Admire Well)

Strange marble we live on, with all the strife and chaos of day to day life (and I wish I had goggles and time to stare at the sun and moon today at around 2 p.m.).

Alas, my goal in my two-day, weekend drive to accomplish dossier completion was not fulfilled, so I will be hunkered over my laptop for many more hours trying to make sense of the work, the earth, as I've known it the last several years.

I'm excited for the eclipse, but need to prioritize my personal agenda to get the materials together that I've set out to analyze since CWP-Fairfield's summer work ended. I'm getting there, but the time it takes to mine the publication, service, and teaching doesn't happen as quickly as I thought/hoped/wished it might. Phew! It's exhausting (and distracting from actually getting work done!)

This is the nature of the work we do, however. It's all good. I'll have time for intergalactic miracles at a later date I suppose. I'm delighted to even have space on this marble to process the miniature influence I might have (which is slight).

On another note, I'm thrilled that my perennials are in full bloom and providing nectar for hummingbirds and migrating monarchs, buckeyes, and swallowtails. When I think about it, I'm prouder of the time I took to put greenery into the ground that is currently providing sustainability for bug life. That I feel is a tremendous accomplishment. Grants and conference presentations - not so much. Feeding nymphs...miraculous.

Be good to your eyes today people. It's not worth blinding yourself. Enjoy the phenomenon, but remember that studying and watching it is one thing, but CREATING phenomena for yourself is something else entirely. Invest in the possibilities of tomorrow.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This is My Dossier Face - Trying To Find Humor in Justifying My Existence

Anyone who knows me, knows in order for me to concentrate, something has to be tied on my head to contain the thoughts. I prefer it to be silly. I didn't have a fidget spinner this weekend, but I did have a binder clip that I continually twirled in my fingers until it finally landed on the bill of my cap. Silly enough.

Strengths in my teaching. Weaknesses. Perks of my courses. Complaints.

I guess I should be happy that of the 250 evaluations I went through today (of the 280 I taught in evaluative courses) 76% had no suggestions to make my teaching better and 78% reported there should be no changes to the courses. The vast majority of comments seemed to enjoy the creativity, flexibility, feedback, knowledge, technology, books, lessons, and support they received. Many noted the courses were they best they've taken in their educational careers and one even noted, "I went to law school, too. I learned more in this class than all of that combined" (that's a bit extreme). The notes like that are overwhelming. It's the other ones, although somewhat rare (.002 - .005%), that I want to address. These are the ones that stick with me. They are occasional, but they stick to my brain like flies to fly paper (bad analogy....like ground vetch tot a t-shirt?).

For a tiny few, creativity and a sense of humor are wonderful in the class, but it distracts them at times. They reported they wanted more direct instruction, more structure, more step by step lessons on what to do to be a better teacher, and more relevant practices (rather than theory). For some of my classes, where the writing workshop is central, and a small minority was totally turned off. "There were too many workshops," a couple reported, "and I didn't see how they can help in my own teaching."

I don't mean to scratch my head. Yet, the vast majority reported comments that made me want to dance for joy with my instruction. The tiny fraction that didn't get it, though, that didn't feel they learned, couldn't quite connect to the teaching - these are the ones that sit at the top of my nose for me to explore and interrogate.

A few complaints are warranted. There are those that LOVED the readings and those that HATED them. Some preferred the theory and some wanted more practitioner based reading. In-practice teachers, who take courses designed for pre-service teachers, sometimes reported they needed opportunities to be challenged more. These negatives, I should point out, appeared on only 9 or 10 evaluations. The vast majority loved the flexibility and willingness to make assignments become beneficial to them. Then there were one or two who said the assignments were too restrictive and pointless (the best -or worst?- of them stated that creating lessons plans was pointless....um, isn't lesson planning what teachers do?). I get stumped!

There might be something wrong with me, but I found myself tallying the negative comments where I could find them - and man, oh woman, oh man - the couple that were there over the last five years could be harsh (but always with notes that I was an awesome teacher, sometimes the best they ever had, but they wished I was more helpful in making them a better teacher). So strange.

The positive notes, as I noted, overwhelmed me and I wonder why they were so kind. For this reason, I chose to accentuate the negative in my processing of them all.

And I'm trying to figure out why I would do this. I think it is because I really do want the best for my students and for all of them to feel successful in my courses. That a couple (and I tried thinking of them as outliers) noted ineffectiveness, was enough for me to wonder how I, in my practice, couldn't do a better job to teach them.

Of all the complaints, the one I agree with the most was in the content literacy classes I teach. The math and science people wanted more objective assessments, like tests, and felt the examples were great in class, but they focused more on English and history content. I can take that. It's deserving.

One of the areas that also has me questioning its power, is the multiple intelligence night I sometimes put together towards the end of the semester. In short, I want to conference with students on their final projects and create space in the two hour block of time to do so. Students move through stations  that help them prepare for their final projects with attention to the theory (and yes, it is a theory) that people learn in different ways. Meanwhile, one of the stations is a one-one-one with me to talk about their work. This evening often shows up as a favorite part of my courses: useful, inspiring, important, and fun. But then there's the 2 or 3 that despise it (perhaps proving the point I'm trying to make).

I wonder, too, about transitions, as many of my students are moving from the total student role toward thinking like an instructor. That's hard. They want right answers, truths, facts, and guaranteed promises for the classroom. I always teach Best Practices in the texts I choose and the lessons I create. Yet, this is not enough for them. They want full-proof absolutes that will make them 100% successful. Hmmm. I'd like that magic wand, too.

I guess the 75%/78% that reported not to change my teaching or classes will be as close as I can get. If I was in a perfect world, maybe I'd get closer to the A+. Teaching evaluations are fascinating.

You can't win them all.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fog-Brain for the Frog-Man Who Is In Need of Lightening-Sharp Wit

I had a successful Friday in my office getting one step closer to scratching out bigger items on the to-do list. I know I have to sacrifice more this weekend and keep the pace, but I got home yesterday afternoon and realized, "My brain is not working right."

One...I know that I need to have my eyes checked. 20 years of Lasik surgery has been stupendous, but in the last few weeks, I feel I can't focus on words on the screen or paper (and driving hasn't been as crisp, either). Two...I'm fried from the summer work, but I can't be, as reports are due, grants have timelines, and I have my career-work to highlight. Three...it rained all day and, at night, created a complete dreariness in southern Connecticut. It feel like it was midnight by 7 p.m.

Then, after a quick salt potato dinner, my stomach decided it wanted to churn like it was making butter (or mashing those taters). I simply threw in the towel and called it an early night.

Boring. I know. But sleep is good to restore the brain cells I need to write my way through the last five years.

I hate when a summer ends, and I realize the summer is ending without enjoying the world as much as I might have. Alas, I'm blessed with the work I do and this means robust opportunities for kids and teachers when others have more freedom in their schedule.

So back to the grind I go. That's what it takes! Total ram-mode.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Five Arms To The Star of Kindness. I Was Extremely Touched.

Last year, when I toured Weir Farm Historic Park, I learned of the plaster stars that hung in the barn - unique additions put their by Julian Aden Weir as part of his artistic touch in his studio. The stars hung (and now hang) on the ceiling and are for sale in the beautiful site's gift shop (something I would never think about buying myself).

On Tuesday, Kristin Lessard (who was our right-hand extraordinaire during CWP-Fairfield and Rich Novack's Reading Landscapes: Writing Nature in the 21st Century) handed me a box to thank me for bringing this opportunity for teachers to the facilities of Weir Farm. She presented one to Rich, too.

Kindness. Generosity. An unexpected gift.

I was and remain touched.

I haven't hung my star up yet, but was thinking about the five arms and how so much of the work I've been doing through CWP-Fairfield has only been able to occur because of the many arms that help me to accomplish the goals. These are unsung heroes who process the paperwork, who act as liaisons in support of teachers and kids, and who do not take part in our programs, but allow our programs to be what they are. I am thinking about my administrative assistant, Caryn Sullivan, the staff in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and the hard workers upstairs who work with local, state, and federal grants. I may be the one who received the gift, but I can't do the work without all their arms reaching towards me and helping me out.

Yes, I'm overwhelmed right now with summer reports, a dossier, a new semester, budgets, and the daily grind of living a life, but I see the Weir gift as a reminder that nothing shines without a complex arrangements of coincidence. The work gets done because of all those who embrace the vision. These are the arms that make it possible.

I am forever grateful. 

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.