Monday, November 20, 2017

The Scholarship of Emotion - Sometimes They Can't Be Quantified or Qualified @NCTE

My mother makes a newborn 
with tears and pain, 
I wish it could be painless. 
I wish I didn’t cry 
when I came into the world, 
I wish the world would know the reason, 
the newborn comes with tears.
I wish sad people would not lament; 
Happiness would wrap their heart, 
repair their broken pieces. 
I wish equality and justice would be for all, 
Then every man would know that we are created in parallel.
I wish there were no poor nor wealthy,
 no worker nor boss, 
Then we could all possess the same. 
I wish one religion would run the world, 
And all people would pass in one way. 
I wish we had one single day of death 
and noone would miss his lover
I make a wish, 
My wish should touch only the ones it concerns, 
I wish only you and I would heal the world. 
I wish we should be wise and worldly, 
That no one could be wounded. 

In the Summer of 2016, something special happened at CWP-Fairfield and we all knew it. The magic happened, we achieved our goals, but we never got back together to reflect on it. It wasn't until preparing for the 2017 NCTE conference in St. Louis that I realized that what we did on our campus was somewhat miraculous. For two weeks, 15 teachers and 24 immigrant and refugee youth wrote together in collaboration with the Fairfield University Art Museum and artist Rick Shaefer. With knowledge that his charcoal tryptic was premiering on our campus, we had much smaller replicas made and, together, began to deconstruct his artistry to make sense of the global refugee crisis, relocation, and the human struggle. From the art work, a reading of Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave and Lopez Lomong's Running for My Life, and the music of Emmanuel Jal, we discussed scars, war, poverty, migration, immigration, democracy and the hope for peace. Each student and every teacher wrote in response to his art work and, as a culmination, we recorded our stories into podcasts to be heard as visitors saw Shaefer's work.

That was way over a year ago, but in preparation for the NCTE conference, we resurrected our collaboration. We presented on Saturday morning as a team with a tremendous audience of devoted, interested, passionate, and motivated educators.

I didn't plan for the tears to come when a male participant, Rich, read Akbar's poem and, with genuine emotion, began to cry as a result. I knew that I wanted to go from the reading to the music of Frederick Johnson who turned the young poet's words into song. What I didn't know was that the song was going to spark emotion in the rest of us, especially with images of the collaboration, writing, artwork, and work with Ubuntu Academy (CWP-Fairfield's Young Adult Literacy Lab for immigrant and refugee youth). Some of the members in the project were also in the montage set to the song. When it ended with an Ubuntu circle I got choked up. I later wrote Yolanda Sealy-Ruis (who is all about love) and said, "Well, I just had my first emotional outpouring during a presentation. The literacy of tears."

That is the work that matters. To get control of myself, I simply turned to anger. I shouldn't be emotional, I admitted. I need to get political (it was my attempt to introduce the rap song written by teacher extraordinaire Dave Wooley from Westhill High School). It was an awkward transition because, well, Dave was emotional, too...and his verse was written with heart and fight.

The entire presentation was unlike any I've ever done before because of the heart and soul that went into the work, a collaboration of youth, teachers, artists, museums, CWP-Fairfield, literacy research, performance, and the investment we are making to summer immigrant and refugee-background youth. Rick Shaefer's artistry beget the artistry of us all..

Later, presenting in another session on POW! The Power of Words! I looked through our yearly publication and noticed numerous examples of writing that resulted from the collaboration. It touched us all, and sharing this with educators from across the United States helped me to realize how important this work was.

I did cry. I will cry again. It's too amazing not to.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Okay @NCTE in St. Louis '17, Thank You. It Couldn't Have Culminated Any Better Than It Did

This is an English teacher story.

23 years ago, I packed up a Toyota Tercel, my books and my dreams, and I moved to Kentucky to earn a Masters Degree in teaching in a state renowned for writing portfolios and educational reform. Almost as soon as I arrived, I met Sue McV, my Louisville mom and mentor, who allowed me to student teach with her and who took me under her wings not only for a year in her classroom care, but for my life and adventures ever since.

I always say that everything I've ever needed to learn about teaching came from Sue. This is true, but so many have been added to the wisdom mixture ever since, including Dee Hawkins, a stellar educator who taught at Central High School (where Cassius Clay attended) and was the first teacher to model the importance of getting political.

They were Louisville Writing Project people. They were Kentucky. They were best practices. They were NCTE. They were pro-literacy, pro-students, pro-democracy, and pro-community.

Fast forward. Sue still lives in Louisville, but Dee retired (sort of, she's volunteering with St. Louis's homeless community) and I knew a trip could not occur without seeing her. When I received a text from Sue to say she was driving 4 hours to take me to dinner, I couldn't resist. I was lucky, too, to bring some of my Connecticut Writing Project crew along with me. I said, "Sue and Dee, meet some of your grandchildren."

Yesterday was a whirlwind of presentations and I am beyond proud of the teachers who shared the work we do in Connecticut. They were amazing (sadly, Shaun, Kristin, Kim and Dave couldn't attend). Still, we were able to share teaching stories, visions, and the hard work (and passion) it takes to work in American schools.

Sue, Dee, & Me (my wings)
Sadly, my flight to return home was scheduled for very early this morning, so the evening had to be cut short. I realize though - - beyond the presentations, beyond the handouts, beyond the networking, and beyond the planning for more work to come - - the foundation that Sue and Dee made for me is irreplaceable. They are the best of Louisville, the Queens of English teaching, and amazing individuals. I couldn't be happier that I had a brief moment in time to meet with these Divas once again...I just wished that every teacher across the U.S. could be guided and mentored by these two.

NCTE, you were inspiration once again. I am, because we are. It is Ubuntu and I look forward to next year when we come forth with more of the magic. Now it is time to rest.

But I'm recharged, because I had dinner with the best.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Feeling Accomplished. I Met @ElloEllenOh (Sat Next To Her Actually For Dinner). Woot Woot.

Disclaimer: Back to back to back presentations make my brain a little wonky. As a result, I can't write like I normally do. My mind is racing, my heart is full, and I am a lucky son of a Butch (true story).

With that noted, last night I had the honor to sit next to Ellen Oh, editor of Flying Lessons and Other Stories from the We Need Diverse Books movement. There's more to the story to come, but I just wanted to acknowledge this fact here: I was able to be in her gracious, brilliant, creative, and forward-thinking presence when I was seated directly next to her at last nights Penguin Random House dinner (so delicious...such wonderful company).

I wanted to talk about tomorrow, and all the potential possibilities of more diverse books, but instead, I talked about how incredible her edited collection of short stories has been from CWP-Fairfield. This summer, 4 stellar educators worked with 26 amazing, diverse kids to discuss the short stories in this collection. Project Citizen: Flying Lessons From the Prose was our two-week National Writing Project Institute and we are all better because of it. The kids went solo in their writing, but also produced amazing, collaborative work. The two weeks was packed, and we're still processing how incredible the experience was.

So, I am writing this brief post (because I'm exhausted) simply as a marker of a much overdue larger post that will detail what we accomplished. This morning, however, I'm just in awe I got to meet the writer and change-agent, but even more astounded that someone chose to sit me next to her at a dinner (what were they thinking?).

There's more to come. I am too tired to write, but there's so much to celebrate. For now, a photo will suffice. If this was Ellen Oh's blog, she might have written, Ellen Uh-Oh, they placed me by Crandall.
Ha! Here's to friendship, collaboration, and dreams!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Goodbye #NWPAM17. Hello #NCTE17. I'm Fried, but Ready for Another Day. We got This!

When There's too Much to Process, so You post your #NWPAM17 response to, "Can we?"

It’s not a matter of if we can 
(it’s important to like the Green eggs and ham),
It’s more a matter of being human,
embracing Ubuntu, I am! I am! 
Because of you and all that you do,
it’s we, us, togetherness true.

Can we do it? Of course we can! 
Every child, elder, man & woman,
It’s the why, the how, the where, what and when,

making sure that NWP hits 50, & also expands
to assure another generation of doers, of thinkers, of makers and writers,
of dreamers, change-agents, poets, and fighters.

It’s not a matter of if we can 
(it’s important to like the Green eggs and ham)
It’s more a matter of being human, 

embracing Ubuntu! I am! WE CAN!

Time to go present a few sessions. Wish I had more to write, but there's only so much time in a day. Phew! This if fun, but exhausting.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Arrived. Settled In. Ready To Go for #NWPAM17 and #NCTE17. Top Floor. Great View. Bring It

This is the view from the window (still don't know what the smoke is from in the distance, but there was definitely a major fire in St. Louis. We saw it from the sky and ground upon arriving). So far, all my companions have made it safe, and today we are heading to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting to discuss our National Park Service collaboration with Weir Farm and our Project Citizen work with the SEED Summer Camp grant.

These educators are spectacular. You need to talk with them and see what they've accomplished.

St. Louis is definitely midwest. Being in the northeast the last 11 years has me forgetting the pace of these parts: the laid back nature, the limited attention to the needs of customers (at the airport waiting for a pre-paid shuttle, in line to get luggage where the suitcases come sporadically, waiting for someone to wait on you to check into a hotel, having a waiter realize you're sitting and ready to order). I definitely have relearned the fast pace these last few years, the on the spot action of the northeast, and I have to admit, my patience is not what it used to be. There's things to be to be accomplished...fires to be put out.

I'll keep my post light today as I'm fried, I need to go, and I can't keep up with all the stimulation. I had great seat partners on the planes and I definitely want to write about them. Also, LOVE the hotel's gym...will definitely visit that again today.

And we're off. Here it all begins!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

And He's Off to @WritingProject and @NCTE '17. Leaving On a Jet Plane

I have my one pager. I have my downloaded apps. The teachers presenting with me in varying capacities have their flights and hotel rooms. I taught back-to-back graduate classes last night after a day of several meetings, and I packed my bags last night. There are several meals cooked and ready in the refrigerator for the dog sitters.

The house was cleaned on Monday night (I hate coming home to a house that I haven't tended before leaving, including an emptied dishwasher, laundry caught up and folded, clean linens on the bed, and a letter written with emergency numbers).

And I'm heading to one of my favorite events of the year to be reunited with so many in my literacy family who have guided my path, success, curiosities, and pursuits. Yes, CWP-Fairfield will be represented in a number of conference sessions, but the real joy comes from the hugs and high-fives of literacy colleagues across the nation.

Of course, I didn't make my dinner last night until 10 p.m. and I pulled together four alarm clocks to get me up in time to catch my flight. It's been a long while since I've been in St. Louis and although the weather looks groggy gray, wet, and rather cool, it could always be worse (we're insight most of the time anyway).

Whatever I've forgotten will be missed, but I tried my best to be on top of my game. Glamis knows I'm going. Even though I packed a day earlier than usual, she senses my departure - that's what she does and I will get the aloof treatment when I return.

At this point, I'm simply ready to put my fate into the hands of the Great Whatever. I've done what I could to get ready for this trip, and now it is up to airlines, traffic, and a belief in confirmed reservations that everything is all set. Then, I wait patiently for my team to arrive safely where we can celebrate all we've been up to since last year.

Here's to the work!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Because a Presentation Before 9 National Presentations Seemed Like a Good Idea.

Yesterday, Akbaru Niyonkuru and I were invited to speak in a special topics on our campus, Black Lives Matter, about my work with refugee-background youth and the creation of literacy opportunities in Southern Connecticut. The course is in its third rendition, and each year an instructor guides the visitations of several faculty on a variety of subjects, all addressing issues surround the Black Lives Matter movement.

I knew when I was invited that I didn't want to do the presentation alone. It is the same conversation I had at my dissertation defense, when I announced that it didn't seem right that I was getting a doctorate degree by telling the stories of the amazing young men who offered their stories, their voices, their perspectives, and their dreams to me. They entered my life, allowed me into theirs, and the rest is history. That study was in 2010 and 7 years later, several of my participants have graduated college, are starting their careers, and continue to impact my life in amazing ways.

Following scholarship in action, however (thanking then Syracuse University President Nancy Cantor for that term), I always knew that I wanted my work to make change in the communities around me. This was at the heart of Ubuntu Academy, a summer program for relocated youth and immigrants in Bridgeport. It is a program that is now offering support year round, and that continues to provide leadership opportunities for young people who have lived amazing stories as the 1% of refugees granted asylum worldwide. Akbar is one of these youth. It is his second year in the U.S., he's already taking community college classes as a senior in high school, and he's been an incredible worker mentoring young kids in our program. He's also a fantastic speaker to share his journey with undergraduate and graduate students I work with.

His life matters and it is a responsibility to speak about it. He said in my office, however, that he never knew he was Black until he came to the United States. "I was a human before, and I am a human now." That is Ubuntu. A human is made more human in the company of other humans.

The opportunity also gave me time to highlight the tremendous success of youth from the Brown School and to share stories of the work accomplished through Writing Our Lives. We also read an OpEd written by several young men on our campus through Upward Bound about their desire to be seen as men of integrity. Too often, they felt, the labels placed upon them were unwarranted an unfair. They wanted high standards, support, and skills to make it into college. They wanted more history classes in school and to read stories that represented individuals like them.

I'm teaching back to back evening classes tonight, then coming home to sleep before an early a.m. departure to St. Louis. Akbar will not be coming with the teachers of Ubuntu Academy and Project Citizen this year, but I really wish I could put him on the national platform. He's amazing (we just need to get him to pass his driver's license test).

I told the group of undergraduates yesterday that knowledge is worthless unless you're doing something good with it to improve the lives of others. Too many take their education and go into careers that are self-serving and greedy. We need more teachers, I told them. And then I shared the story of Keith Williams, a senior in my last graduating class at Brown. He's teaching now.

That's what it's all about.

Monday, November 13, 2017

@NCTE Preparation Isn't Only The Handouts, Presentations, and Travel Arrangements.

The trouble with an empty nest in 2017 (which was not the case last year when Chitunga and Edem were on Mt. Pleasant) is that Glamis the Wonder Dog needs companionship and a house-sitter. Spending the last three days in my office arranging materials for our CWP-Fairfield presentations, also sparked the need that my house will need items for Glamis's dog sitters: more biscuits, candy, chips, drinks, and easy to fix meals.

On my way home from the University last night, I swung by Big Y to get house items to make my dog-watchers feel at home. It's always odd to stay in a stranger's house, especially when the stranger won't be at home to entertain. I am grateful to Omar and Abonga for stepping up and helping me out.


This is a throw back to my teaching days when I traveled to Japan, Denmark, and even Vermont while working in other locations (had to have Jon, Lacey, and Quartez watch the dogs at that time).

While in Syracuse, Mimi Sue and Papa Butch were always willing to take Baby and so departing from time to time wasn't a stressor. Baby was family. This year, I've had to try something new. And I am also thinking of all the times I was a dog sitter for Sue and Dave in Kentucky. Then, I was the one that moved into another's home to make for the smoothest trips possible.

This was on my checklist for NWPAM and NCTE '17 preparation. Now I have to get my Monday and Tuesday class work complete so I can work like a dog before leaving on my jet plane to St. Louis. I can't wait, but travel is something else. Of course, I return to more classes at the University and Thanksgiving. If I didn't love it all, it'd be maddening.

Here's to all my colleagues around the world who are in similar anticipatory mode: cats, ferrets, and gold fish.

At least the yard doesn't need to be watered at this time of year (at least in Connecticut).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hibernation Is On The Radar. Packing Away for Winter. Temperatures, I Hear You.

Well, lawn. You're mowed. And I must say that the lawn care I paid for did its work. Usually, there are dried out patches of dirt after the summer months, but the spray and reseeding has filled out the property nicely. I can't complain.

I know, post-hernia, that I should put my Superman cape away and wait for help, but I got a bug in my head to get the tables and chairs into the shed (and to bring out the shovels and snowblower - hmmmm, can I nurse that machine one more winter?) and I manned up and carried everything myself. The umbrellas are in. The chairs. The hoses. The lawnmower. We're packed for the snowfalls to come and because we've had a frost, I don't anticipate that the grass will go crazy with growth.

I also entertained Abonga and Omar, who will be watching Glamis while I'm in St. Louis and who, as Ubuntu graduates, proven themselves to be remarkable kids. Abonga has a car and the two of them are at Housatonic now. They

know where everything is and are excited about walking the dog every day (and brushing off all the dog hair - "I wouldn't wear black clothes if I was you.")

Then, I entertained William and Jessica, who will be presenting with me several times at NCTE and who are always fantastic company. It's hard to believe that they were my graduate students and now are colleagues who make magic happen in the classroom.

The crockpot did it's magic and we had curried chicken, green beans and cranberries, and a made-up black and red bean dish. We got our protein.

Today will be a day in the office printing out more handouts for the week to come and prepping the back to back classes that will arrive Tuesday night. I also need to stock the house with youth-friendly foods (e.g., Doritoes and lemonade - that was the request). Of course, upon return, I will be hosting another Thanksgiving dinner for whoever wants to stop by.

The back patio always looks baron when I prep for winter. I love my backyard - live back there - but in the winter it becomes vacant space for snow pileups and dog poop. Now, if only I can find a truck to get rid of my ol' furniture that is taking over the garage. I need that space and it is next on my home to-do list. Might have to wait for Tunga though. I can't load that furniture in a truck by myself.

Here's to Sunday, which will bring Monday and the busy agenda ahead.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Busy Weekend Preparing for @NCTE and NWPAM in St. Louis Next Week

I spent the last day of the work week, Friday (as if that is the last day of the work week), putting together folders for varying sessions at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and National Council of Teachers of English conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I depart next Wednesday and go non-stop while there. It's always a fantastic time with CT teachers, but also a reconnection of friends from all over the world and nation. We're excited to share some of the work we've been up to.

Reading Landscapes: Writing Nature in the 21st Century will be presented by Richard Novack during the NWP AM, as will Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose with Sean Mitchell, Kim Herzog, and Dave Wooley (I am emceeing). Meanwhile, Kristin Veneema will be representing our C3WP grant throughout the meeting.

In addition, we'll be very active on Friday and Saturday at NCTE, too, with several presentations.

“You Gotta Write! A’ight?” – Young Adult Literacy Labs at Fairfield University: As local, state, and national support for programs lessened, Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University thought outside of the box. Few writing opportunities existed for young people in the summer, so they asked themselves, “What can we do to change this?” Young Adult Literacy Labs resulted. The labs now partner with the National Writing Project summer institute for teaching writing.

The Intersection of Literacy, Sport, Culture, and Society - Literacy4Life
This roundtable session invites attendees to explore contemporary literacies and diverse teaching practices through the use of sports content and an examination of sports culture, including this year’s keynote talk about the education programming and exhibitions from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Of Wishes and Walls—Reclaiming Voices of Refugee and Immigrant Youth
In 2016, teachers and youth attending Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield summer programs collaborated with artist Rick Shaefer and Fairfield University Art Museum to debut Refugee Trilogy, three large charcoal drawings: land-crossing, water-crossing, and border-crossing. Inspired by the work, they wrote and recorded podcasts that became part of the artist’s exhibition.

NWP Promising Practices in Urban Spaces: Learning Together while Teaching, Engaging, and Involving Student Voices in Their World:  Connecting students, teachers, schools, and communities impacts student learning. Becoming active participants together in this learning process and applying the learning to the world engages students as involved global citizens. National Writing Project (NWP) sites from various urban areas discuss civically-engaged writing practices in schools and communities, giving voice and building agency for students.

The Little Lab for Big Imaginations: A 3rd-6th Grade Summer Writing Institute: This presentation will highlight The Little Lab for Big Imaginations, a weeklong summer writing institute designed to help students in grades 3–6 compose like authors. The Little Lab is a community writing space, where young students write, read, speak, listen, perform, and most important, have fun during the summer.

Urban Literacies in Middle School: Giving Students Voice and Agency inside and outside of the Classroom: Urban middle school students see the world/words through their own literacy practices—literacy practices of reading, writing, and beyond—practices that uplift, connect, illuminate what they bring to school and/or use out of school. Understanding these literacy practices allows us to teach our students more effectively and gives them (and ourselves) voice and agency. This session will showcase sports, music, digital, community, and poetic literacies.

If you're in the area, come say, "Hello!"

Friday, November 10, 2017

A History of Teeth. Well, A Good Bill and Medical Report - No Cavities.

Here's to flossing, Colgate, and persistent perseverance. I made it through another dental appointment with no cavities (which in Crandall land is a good thing - since I was a little boy, the dentists and me do not have such a great history).

But mom! Why do I get all the cavities while Casey and Cynde don't have any? I brush more than them and I try as hard as I can not to eat sugar.


Seriously. I have spend my entire life in a dentist chair and I have said for many years, "My mouth is worth more than I am?" My crowns, alone, are a house payment. Bring me back to Louisville, and my days in a dental chair were plentiful. The University of Louisville dental school, nitrous oxide, contestant visits, wisdom teeth removed. I've been through the ringer.

My dentist in Connecticut, however, is in a transitional phase. He is handing over the his office to a new woman with new tools, new technology, and another way of doing things (I had my teeth power washed today. Power! Washed!). I always fear the result, but this time, I had positive results: X-rays, bit-screens, flossing, and dental rubs. I'm good to go for another six months.

Then, too, I got to leave with gift bag of new products. I'll take it. It isn't a root canal, cavities, or crowns. I simply get to smile (which is so different from my total dental history). Phew! That is a profession. I couldn't do it, but I will happy dance that I'm in the clear until May.

Woot Woot!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Then There's The Night I Electrocute Myself Changing a Fridge Lighbulb, for Real!

It wasn't my left hand. It was my right.

The left hand is a representation of the time I tried to relax by playing Football with Chitunga in upstate New York and the sun, glimmering through the trees, blinded me and my pinky finger was cracked to the side. This is how it healed. That's as straight as it gets and I love it. It is perfect and I love it.

Nope. Last night, I finally got around to changing the 40 watt bulb in the refrigerator and when I screwed it in, it didn't light up. I though, "Hmmm, maybe there's something blocking the socket," so I stupidly stuck my finger into the space to do a check for obstacles.

Zzzzz. ssss ttttt. Sssss. Zzzzzztttt.

Oif. I felt that and flew across the kitchen. When I retried the bulb, well, it went on. All was well, but I thought maybe I was in the afterlife and the light was actual Peter's gates.

Then, I had this vision that like Spiderman getting bit in a lab by an arachnid, perhaps the shock turned me into a superhero of my own. Captain Fridge Boy! Or Dr. Fridgedaire! I tried to summon really good good to cook itself and make a feast.

Nope. Nothing heroic about the idiotic zapping. I remained a moron. Crazy the way this goes. I can't catch a break from my stupidity.

But I have my football finger. That, I truly love. It's not an Aquaman toe, but it's a part of who I am. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Loving Another (Re)Design of My Graduate Courses: Inviting High School Students to Attend, Too

I learned last semester with my service-learning courses that having K-12 youth with us in a Fairfield University, campus setting, makes all the instruction, conversations, activities, learning, reading, and writing much more robust. That is why, this semester, I opened up my graduate courses for a similar experience. Why not have young people, who everyone has on the radar for literacy achievement, in class to see if the methods and practices we're reading about actually work?

In each of the classes, I hovered the graduate course readings on the screen so that all activities were labeled, known, and relevant to the preparation for the in-practice instruction.

After the exercises, we have opportunity to talk to the young people about whether or not the instruction worked. In addition, the graduate students can reflect on what they saw, learned, experienced, and recognized.

I was interested by the response of one student when I asked, "How often do you see these practices implemented at your school?" The response, "We don't see this." They then share what they have class to class at their schools and why it doesn't work and could be more effective.

Youth are the experts. That's been my point all along.

I could write about the content we covered today: several articles, charts, visuals, poems, and learning mapping, but that would give away all the secrets we're discovering.

In short, I'm thrilled. I can only accomplish so much as an instructor. The young people, in collaboration with the learning of the teachers-in-training (and in practice), make all the knowledge more pertinent.

Of course, it exhausts me, too. That is a love for the field!

Thrilled to View @SwimTeamTheFilm Last Night @FairfieldU with @FairfieldGSEAP

Very proud to applaud, celebrate, and congratulate my colleagues, Drs. Alyson Martin and Emily Shamash, Co-Directors of Special Education at Fairfield University, and their promotion of Lara Stolman's documentary Swim Team. Last night, the movie was screened on our campus at the Quick Center. When I arrived, I talked with many individuals on the GSEAP Advisory Board stating, "I sadly can't stay long. I will only be able to catch the first 20 minutes."

Well, that changed quickly.

I stayed for the entire film and Q & A with Lara Stolman. Her storytelling, the cinematography, and the pure emotion of families featured in the film had me mesmerized - it was the fastest two hours I've spent in a long time. For years, I've shown another POV film, Lost Boys of Sudan, to graduate students, teachers, and high school students and I know that the work they feature is outstanding. Lara Stolman's film, however, was inspirational, emotional, thought-provoking, touching and educational. In short, it was remarkable.
Lara Stolman is an award-winning television news and documentary producer whose work has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, TOLC, AMC, VH-1, and the New York Time's Website. For Swim Team, her first feature documentary film, she was named an IFP Documentary Lab Fellow, awarded the New York Women in Film and Television Arbus Disability Awareness grant, and was provided funding from the Aetna Foundation, Easterseals, and the Karma Foundation. Swim Team has been screened at over 30 international film festivals and won 10 awards.
If I could give out an award, I would offer it to Ms. Stolman, too. Before I was English educator, I put myself through graduate school by working with adults with dis/abilities, including several who were autistic. This background brought me to seek a school that was fully inclusive and that held high standards for all students - the J. Graham Brown School. For over a decade I enjoyed promoting the personal excellence of my students, including those who were on the autism spectrum and had tourette syndrome. At Syracuse University, too, I cherished my courses in Dis/Ability studies and grew fond of the socio-cultural perspectives and questioning institutions that followed medical models of labeling, inhibiting, and doubting. That is partly why Swim Team held my attention.

The larger hook for me, however, was the authentic storytelling of Lara Stolman. In such a short space of time, her mesmerizing cinematography, interview-skills, and narrative pace did a phenomenal job of helping me, as a viewer, connect to the young men she featured and the families that supported them. Here, she tells the story of out-of-school success that occurred from competitive swimming - another example that every student is more robust than the ways our schools calculate, label, and grade them. If you visit the website, many of the accolades and awards can be read, all of them deserved.

As I watched the film, I also thought about my work with Hoops4Hope, and the promotion of life skills needed on and off the court and field, and in this case in and out of a pool. Lara Stolman demonstrated Ubuntu with her film, one can be who they are because of all of us together, highlighting the importance of focus, integrity, self-esteem, self-awareness, sense of humor, respect, and responsibility that young people need to have to be successful. Here, too, I recognized that these life skills are family skills, especially in promotion of the young men (and women) to be their best.

I wish to thank my colleagues, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and our advisory board for making this film a possibility for our campus. It was truly remarkable and I will be thinking about it for some time. Our students were introduced to a phenomenon and I was very impressed to see so many members of the Fairfield University swim and diving teams in the audience. I hope they were touched as much as I was.

Wow. Simply Wow. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Twin Sister Sunday Dinner (w/ Jake): Garlic Pork, Taters, and Some Bean Think on Bread

It was dark by 5 p.m., and it took any energy I had to pack up the crock-potted garlic pork for a Sunday dinner (with Harry Potter) in Milford with my twin, Pam, and her daughter (a niece?), Kaitlyn. I didn't take advantage of daylight savings and I was up by 7 a.m., as usual. I simply put myself to work to put together a special presentation for today, two presentations for graduate courses on Tuesday, and more chiseled work on NCTE presentations coming in St. Louis in a week.

I have to admit, too, that my heat kicked on last night. I tried to resist, but it had a mind of its own. I guess it's the season.

But back to food. Pam mashed white potatoes with sweet potatoes and they were delicious with the garlic pork. I forget the name of the bean and green concoction that was served on a good cheese bread, but it went perfectly with the rest of the meal (and was followed with fresh chocolate chip cookies and vanilla bean ice-cream. Jake, as always, was a super model dog and, as par for the course, spent a large portion of the evening on my lap trying to get his wet-eel tongue in my inner ear.

This time last year, it was a Sunday night ritual to embark to Monroe with Chitunga for a Sunday dinner (and NFL games), but a lot has changed in 365 days...Pam settling into her beach condo and me getting used to a quiet house.

I'm holding my breath for the next few weeks, just hoping to get through it all with grace. In the meantime, it's great to say grace with friends on a Sunday night. My stomach is thrilled by the tradition.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Found a Great GIF to Use on My Course Website for End-of-Year Course Evaluations

The University sent out links to the end-of-the-year course evaluations and knowing how much students love filling them out, I thought I'd add a GIF to the page to at least create some sort of humor and conversation. I know the evaluations help me tremendously to tune my courses, especially those that I've taught so many times. I need to know what is working, not working, and might be changed in the future. As I change course texts often, I also like feedback on those.

Yes, this is a little premature, but most post-Boston, my brain was thinking towards NCTE and getting ducks lined up for the rest of the semester. Wouldn't it be fun if our students had to create GIFs to rate the classes. I might make that an assignment. That could be a lot of fun.

Now I am thinking about this day and the number of presentations that are occurring this week. I probably should head to the office and take advantage of a printer and some serious quiet time.
I'm actually looking forward to the organizing I need to accomplish. Rumor is there's rain in the forecast and that always means that staying on task is much, much easier.

Whoo hoo! Live. Work. Courses. Conferences. Presentations. Papers. Grading.

Thumbs up. Thumbs down. It is the work I chose for myself.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Back From Boston. I Said It Was Going To Be a Fast Trip (& It Was)

 I forgot that driving to Boston was so easy (two roads, really from Stratford to downtown). We made good time and sat down to teach before the Nellie Mae Foundation Lawrence O'Toole Teacher Leadership Awards. Of course, at the end of our meal, we started to smell smoke and then saw a car directly outside the restaurant (and our hotel) was in flames. The firetrucks had to rip open the hood with a claw and when they did, kaboom, the flames spread and they sprayed. It's lucky the glass of we were watching from didn't shatter.

Ah, but we were in Boston to see Mr. Shaun Mitchell awarded for his teaching leadership. He was recognized for his innovative teaching practices in Bridgeport and his work with the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield, along with 11 other educators from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The celebration was a wonderful reminder that excellent teachers do exist, to innovate instruction to meet the needs of kids, and do resist the sometimes inhibiting curriculum of States and districts.

The minute-long videos put together by the Nellie Mae team were phenomenal, and it was exciting to see students from each school and state talk about their award-winning teachers, too. It was also great to see administrators and colleagues talking fondly of the great teachers and the work they accomplish at their schools.

The "After School Special," a drink served for the occasion, threw me back to my Derby days because they reminded me of a Kentucky mint julep (but man, I hate drinking bourbon from a plastic cup). They were strong, though - Marge Hiller had to switch over to wine rather quickly.

Poor Shaun...he had to head to bed early and depart the hotel at 4 a.m. so he could be back at Sacred Heart University for his graduate course (as he earns an 092 in administration). I'm sure he will return this afternoon to his condo and simply fall asleep until Sunday morning.

And the drive home from Boston was smooth (not one road delay, which is highly unusual). The foliage was past its peak, but still held out some vibrancy to gawk at.

Now with the O'Toole award celebration over, it is full force ahead for NWP Annual Meeting and NCTE in St. Louis.. It's all about the pacing at this point, and keeping all the materials together for what needs to be accomplished.

I want a hotel bed and hotel pillows and a hotel blanket. I do not want their $27.99 a day Wi-Fi charge (they're crazy)