Friday, August 31, 2012

Yep, stupid is me...

I am stupid.

I went for a walk and left through the garage where I jumped the trigger for the garage door so it would shut without popping back up. Why is this dumb? Well, because my keys and my cell phone were inside. I thought, "No problem," because I figured Weijing would be back from class soon (at least by the time I got home).


I returned and no Weijing. Also, no way to get into the house. I sat on the front porch for an hour and didn't know she was at a bridal shower party. I couldn't text her, either, so I tried to break in.

Long story short, I eventually figured, "Well, if I take out the air conditioner from the outside (maneuvering it on the inside) I will be able to enter. 45 minutes later this strategy worked. I must have looked like a thug maneuvering in my house, but I wasn't going to sit on my front porch all night. What troubled me is that I live minute by minute on a planned schedule and sitting aimlessly with no task at hand put me over the edge. I went zany trying to figure out how to best accommodate the time - that is when I decided breaking in was the only answer.

And that is what I did in Connecticut. Yep.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Because we live in odd times, and...

optimally, I want to save money.

It's been a year, and as Connecticut would have it, my cable bill doubled this month. Why? Turns out I had promotion that ended in July, so my new bill needed to be twice as much.

I'm sorry, but I rarely watch t.v.. I do use cable, however, so I can have to have internet service. I simply wanted a package with cable and internet. The trouble is, that package was twice as much as what I'm currently paying.

I went online. I tried to find other packages. They don't exist. I call back. They tell me I can save money if I buy a phone package and add a phone to the service. I tell them, "I don't have a phone. I don't need a phone. This is not necessary." Yet, adding the phone saves $50. I tell them, "But this is silly. Why would I pay for a phone without needing a phone?"

Sir. Take the deal. You save $50.

"What do I have to do?"

Well, they need to come to my home and switch out my modem so I can hook up a phone. I told them it is not necessary because I don't need a phone modem, but they tell me they have to do this. "If you want to save $50, then you need to have our modem."


It makes zero sense, but that is the deal they're running. I talked to manager upon supervisor upon manager. All of them contended this was the only deal they could offer. It's so strange and dumb. Optimum is not offering optimum customer service...that is for sure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An end of an era of AERA, for tonight, I believe

What is the punishment for spending a summer writing with youth and teachers in a variety of genres? Returning to the fall semester with the request of rating 11 academic papers for the American Educational Research Association conference to be held in San Francisco next spring. I was invited by Dr. Kevin Roxas to join the session he is chairing and, as luck would have it, he, Laura Roy and I also submitted a potential paper. We shall see.

What does this mean? Well, I'm cross eyed. Academic prose is not reader-friendly and, I'm afraid, it becomes somewhat stagnant. The content is so thick that when you read a paper that is poorly composed, it is easy to lose what the purpose of the research is. This is a shame, because a lot of the papers were very interesting studies, but they were organized horrifically. I became lost and had to work to hard to figure out what it is they were doing and why it was significant to anyone.

Then I get scared. What if it is significant to others and I'm just spoiled by reading really good writers all summer who have something to say beyond the academic discourse.

Ah, when in Rome (or Connecticut) do as the Romans do. This is the profession I entered.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to Connecticut

and Back to Lois.

Above is a sample video of the many sent from my administrative assistant to me. In this one, she cracks herself up, but normally she will get into a character, wear her wigs and then deliver messages that I need to attend to. I've grown to love her weekly emails because they contain the video logs of her performing. She's quite good. Rather convinciing.

So, yesterday, she asked me to stop by her house on my way back from NY to help out with her fence. "Five minutes," she said, "Five minutes is all I need you for."

Well, I forgot to stop by.

My bad.

I then get the story of how she made me a steak dinner, fell off the ladder trying to do the chore herself and ended up in the hospital. She had me going all night and, to be honest, I'm still not sure if it was true or not. My roommate trapped me in and so I took it as an omen to stay home for the evening.

Of course, this turned into a guilt fest and I won't know until tomorrow whether or not she really was hurt.  That is why I'm posting this video (I swore to her I never would...but this will be a reminder to check on her tomorrow - so I don't forget). I have many, many videos I could post, but shouldn't. Only this time, because I need to be sure she's okay.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mindlessness must end soon

and perhaps it will be when Big Brother season 12 ends.

For many years my sister, KC, has tried to get me to watch it. I occasionally catch it from here to there, but then tend to let it fall to the wayside.

This week at home I became intrigued because Ian, a nerd, has manipulated the game to new heights and both my mom and sister are stoked by his play. That is why I watched it last night and also why I grew aggravated. I don't like that the show is 60 minutes and I told my mother, "You need to tape the entire season and let me watch every week in one sitting."

Truth is, I am too impatient to see what happens next. It is a silly show, actually, but also clever. It is the Greek's Wheel of Fortune on CBS: luck, fate, fortune, game and the whims and fancies of the Gods. Who knows what will happen next (even though strategy does have some warrant). And this show better end before the schools begins - I teach on Wednesday nights and I can't have another evening addiction to be on my mind.

There's a reason why I don't turn on my t.v. and it has everything to do with addiction and distraction.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Annual Deck Party at the Isgars

The primary reason for returning to CNY this August was to celebrate Cynde and Mike's Annual Deck Party. Pictured to the right is not Cynde's Mike, but Tracy's Mike (Newman) and his Beer Pong helmets.

It was a tough battle this year but Cynde was the champion, beating Casey and Dave, Mike and Tracy, Mike and Mike, and then Tim and J (did we get a whole name?).

Great job on a gorgeous day in August. There is at least two more days of dips left for anyone who wants to bring their corn chips to Cicero.

I'm not sure if there are Beer Pong tournaments in Connecticut, but if there are, I will be sure to capture them with my cellphone. I don't believe Balls or Newman ever looked as good.

And poor Casey...I hope she eventually got to fall asleep. I managed to escape so I could post this on the ol' blog and I'm going to bed. Casey, however, didn't stand a chance. The eagle eyes were upon her every time she even tried to retreat to a pillow.

My summary - I'm old. I'm good to 11 p.m. and then I want to retire.

Sleep well.

Thinking Ahead to Fall

One of the first people I reached out to when I moved to Connecticut was the Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, who was appointed by the Governor, Dan Malloy. I simply wanted to say I was here and that I'm interested in Connecticut educational reform, particularly the tremendous achievement gaps. He has his people call my people (well, someone left a message on my machine) and that's as far as it went. We never connected.

I noticed on the calendar of events for the fall, however, that he is doing a press talk from Fairfield University and discussing urban education. This is completely up my alley and I am excited that someone from state leadership will speak with those living in southern Connecticut. After one year of living in the state, I am very interested in what government plans on doing to see more equity in schools (especially at a time when teachers in ALL schools are receiving a terrible rap).

It's messy out there and, as much as some would like NOT to believe, it is very hard to make ends meet on a teacher's salary in Connecticut. It can be done, but it is not the easy state to live in. It's expensive.

I looking forward to sitting back and learning what plans of actions are in the works.

I know it's an election year and I always, always vote with where candidates place their policies for learning. Recent rhetoric about education has turned out to be empty promises.  We need local, state, and national politicians to find a way to build schools and teacher morale...not bring them down (which is what has happened in the last four years).

So, for now, I have something I am truly looking forward to. I simply want to learn.

Friday, August 24, 2012

24+ hours with Sudy Rip and Counting

I arrived Wednesday, watched an entire season of So You Think You Can Dance that my mother recorded on her DVR and learned of her recent Facebook dirty movie fetish (it's cleared up, however, we think, so the curiosity that killed her cat is no longer lingering on her home page - although Nikki and Cynde hijacked her iPad and gave her a new screen saver).

Abu was horrified and thinks there's something wrong with the Crandalls.

Yesterday morning, I took mom to the track to shoot footage to make it look like she's walking so she'd have evidence for her gynecologist that she really is exercising (is it gynecologist? or colonoscopist? I can't keep them straight).

And I'm proud to say that there's been two nights of Crandall dinners with no Butch blow ups. This is good, because his outbursts are usually what push my mom to her IPad to look at perverted posts on Facebook anyway.

Bryan's home!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Word on the Street is...

Bryan's in Syracuse for a couple of days (and the crowd is going wild).

Surprise mom. Check.

Surprise KC. Check

Surprise Nikki. Check.

Everyone else in CNY, give me a call so I can surprise you, too.

Always great to return to my base for some R & R before the chaos of another semester begins. As I was driving on the Thruway, I realized the chaos must be beginning on the hill today because almost all the cars driving north had Syracuse University stickers on them. Freshmen move-in day?

And the State Fair, too. Woot Woot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cost of Living...Connecticut - yeesh

Anyone who knows me (even for a few moments) knows I am one of the most frugal, money-conscious tightwads in the United States. I like to be careful about how my money is spent and I get nervous when I'm not able to make ends me and store money away. During my 4 years of a doctoral program I still managed to store money to the side (until the housing disaster of selling a home through Coldwell Banker).

Perhaps that is why I'm venting tonight. Post Hamptons, I came home to pay my bills and to financially think about the year ahead. I was inspired by all the wealth on Long island and decided I needed to make a plan so I could one day have a 48 million dollar Wainscott home. Then I paid my bills in Connecticut and realized it won't happen in this life time. I was stupid, too, and said I should probably fill my take on the main land of CT rather than the hoity toityness of Long Island. Another bad move. Gas is 20 cents higher in Connecticut than the Hamptons. How does this state function?

That, and all my bills have increased their charges by at least $'s insane. The economy is tanked and they're raising the cost of everything. I would think that having a salary would put me bag on track with finances. Nope. Not in this state. Everything extra is slurped by the fees of electricity, oil, water (water is at least 15 times higher than in Syracuse), cable and rent.

Oi Vay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RIP-Phyllis Diller...95 years of laughter.

I think the first eccentric comedian I ever fell in love with was Phyllis Diller. Everything about her cracked me up and, like Carol Burnett, I always though of yesterday's generation of humor as superior to my own. I was working on syllabi during my last night in Long Island when I heard that she passed away at 95 years old. This made me sad and make me realize I do not know enough about this woman.
Perhaps I should spend the next year of my life reading more.

RIP Ms. Diller in the same way I will lay to rest my tremendous five days in Amagansett. Spending time with my cousin, his parents, and his family has been a wonderful experience (as it always is).

Now it is time to cross the sound and face reality again (with hope I might steal away another weekend before the chaos begins).

Laugh. That's what she would want.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Either I will win the lottery one day

or I won't.

"Can you drop me off at my sister's weekend home? It's just down the street."


"I've never driven into a gated community I need a password?"

"No, it will open automatically. And it's not a gated's my sister's weekend home. She comes here with the kids in the summer."

"Well, it's a lot of land and a nice pool."

"They like to swim."

"But the beach is right there."

"Not always in a salt-water mood."

"My allergies are burning my eyes. Can I use the kitchen sink?"


"The kitchen's white"

"They like things clean."

"Wait, aren't those chairs made out of ostrich leather?"

"Why of course. Want to see the vintage cars they keep here in the garage?"

For real estate transactions in South Hampton, click this link.

In my my next life, I want to have a summer home in the Hamptons so I can host parties and let friends visit a beautiful part of the country.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's all about Levy

At 6'7, Levy Mwanza, poses over a marimbas during last night's Hoops4Hope benefit. Behind him are several surf board donated by artists in S. Africa for my cousin's silent auction (which did very well). The Kazickas family held the event and mother, Lucy, did a phenomenal job catering and hosting a tremendous event - success.

A tremendous amount of work pays off and a memorable evening was had.

Kudos to my Cos...Kudos to the Kazickas...Kudos to all who attended and (after a day of clean-up, Kudos to my pillow tonight that will receive my head.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Shoe

Shaq donated signed shoes again for Hoops4Hope and I held it up to my head for this shot. As you can see, I have a pea head.

We also have signed shoes from Sara Jessica Parker, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.

Now if the rain will subside we can put up the tent, set up the tables, and get the auction items in place.

Yesterday, the cuz put me to work designing bid sheets and artist biographies for the event. Our evening didn't end until 11:30 p.m. last night when we retired for the evening (to digest  scallops and fish).

This has been a vacation CRANDALL style and, as always, it's awesome to do work with Mark. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

This year's benefit will be...

at the summer home where Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe stayed when they dated...The party is not until Saturday night, but my cousin gave me the trivia last night as we collected art donations to auction off for Hoops4Hope. I wonder if I will get a tour of the estate or will be simply placed at the bar to entertain folks who come to bid on auction items.

I will spend most of my life trying to balance out the reality that some people live the Hamptons life and others live, well, the American life (they're really quite different). I will also think a lot about whether it is good or not to know how the rich and ridiculous live. The globe is their playground for their whims and fancies. A few generations of inheriting million dollar summer homes and you sort of lose touch with the people who occupy Walmart, struggle paycheck to pay check, and worry about the future. This, I think, is the worry-less class. It's about maintaining an aesthetic of perfection (and not worrying one iota or not what it costs).

Ah, but I like the trivia of where we'll be tomorrow night. The energy, I'm sure, will be felt.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I think this is Abu

I found this video in my files, too. I am thinking it is Abu and Lossine must have filmed it when they were visiting Connecticut. I wish they were with me in Long Island, but that is not how the history was written.

Day one of vacation?

A complete washout. It has not stopped raining since I arrived (but the forecast does show promise of nice whether for the next few days. Also got to see my cousin, his girls, and his wife, Sue. Always fascinating to see the home front of busy people and what life looks like behind the scenes. It is always a hectic ordeal when having young people around (see KC & Jacob for fish patrol).

Great dinner. Good company. Internet access and lots of books. I will be alright for the next couple of days. I think I shall head to the beach, as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Footage from last year's benefit

Above is my cousin Mark from the 2011 Summer Benefit. I remembered I had this footage tonight when my mom texted me in a Draw Something game to ask me if I was Amagansett bound. Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. Tuesday was another day in the office doing budgets, arranging syllabi and even having a new desk delivered (from another colleague's throw-away material).

I've back my Focus with books with much optimism that all I will do while I'm away is read (he laughs to himself knowing he probably won't get to a 1/3 of what he's brought - a guy can wish, can't he?).

Seriously, I am looking forward to letting my mind unwind from responsibilities and constant commotion. I will return to it all, I'm sure, but for a short time, I'm going to Hotel Amagansett to feel sand on my feet and to admire the homes with envy and awe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hotel Amagansett on my Mind

I'm working frantically to cross t's and dot i's so I can visit Hotel Amagansett with my 'tives this weekend in support of my cousin's annual summer benefit.

This translates that I will have a few days to read, relax, see the water, mingle with incredible people, and contemplate global dynamics. As I reflect on my life since I became a teacher, this event has become a staple of when I take a few days for myself and chill out. I desperately need to chill out, for real for real.

I have had my psoriasis under control, but I noticed today that a few spots have popped up in new locations that I haven't been treating with the spray the doctor gave me. I see these spots as indicators that it is time to take my mind away from daily stress (he writes, laughing that it is unlikely he will achieve this - but he will try).

I am thinking, too, about ways I might better support my cousin's work, especially in recognition that I have mind capital and very little economical capital. I can offer creativity, curriculum, literacy goals, and awareness to others. That should be my primary intent in the upcoming year.

And I hope to remember the fresh blueberries and maple syrup that I have been holding for my aunt and uncle. It is a must that my uncle Milford makes me his famous pancakes (and I also need to remember to pack caffeinated coffee - I can't afford a decaffeinated headache during my short attempt at a vacation.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's because every boy deserves a dog

My younger sister in New York was a little distraught that I didn't post about the dead fish scenario of 2012 on my blog yesterday. Apparently Jacob, my god-son (that is dog spelled backwards), chose to clean the upstairs with a Clorox bottle, including Sean's first pet - a Beta fish he got at Christmas. Besides bleach on multiple surfaces, the most tragic result of this good intention was the accidental murder of a family friend (RIP, little guy).

So, Monday begins the workweek with another fish for Sean, but still no puppy dog for the Barnwell household.

No, I didn't post the story yesterday, but saved it for today. Dode fiske strommen ab (dead fish float with the stream). Poor Jacob...he was simply trying to help.

If they saved the dead fish, we could release it into the Long Island sound of Connecticut...but that would require them to visit me soon, before the dead fish smell arrives.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lois!

It's my administrative assistant's birthday, so last night we had a BBQ to celebrate. Leo and I were given aprons to wear and were asked to man the grill (his wife was celebrating her birth as well). It was also a day to have the opportunity to bake Alice's famous Kentucky cake (although I get excessive with the chocolate and, being my mother's son, tend to eat the excess so it doesn't go to waste.

The evening also turned to telling stories while sitting outside and listening to the cicadas. My favorite was Lois's Cancun tales of taking a speed boat to an island where everyone got sick and vomited all over everyone else. Joy.

Seriously, this post is written to wish the incredible Beverly and the irreplaceable Lois a joyous Sunday. May many more tremendous birthdays come their way full of plastic barbie dolls with hands.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thunder Shirts! A Connecticut Dog Convinced Me

Yesterday, as I helped a friend paint ceilings in her home, several thunderstorms passed through the State of Connecticut. My friend's daughter began to sing a song about Bella's Thunder Shirt and ran to the basement to get the material. She returned, wrapped it around the dog, and said, "now, Bella, you won't be afraid of the storm, will you? You're such a good girl."

I said, "What?"

Sure enough, Bella suffers from extreme anxiety during thunderstorms and fireworks so they purchased a Thunder Shirt online and tested it out. It worked. The panicked dog who has been known to chew through walls and insulation in a state of panic when loud booms are heard. Not since purchasing the Thunder Shirt however. Now, Bella remains calm, cool and collected when it rains or when drunks throw M-80s in the air.

The Thunder Shirt was adapted by strategies used with autistic children. The idea is to wrap the child tight when distressed so that he/she feels comforted and secure (like a baby in a womb or crib). In some ways it helps the child to self stimulate and remain relaxed. The same holds true for dogs (and cats). I witnessed first hand how at least one dog, Bella, went from a mini-panic while a storm approached to a chilled-out dog as it passed through.

I'd be afraid to wear one in my own panic attack because I'd drench it with perspiration. But, for the dog...I say go for it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thinking Numerically in Connecticut

Wondering if I ever will make sense of the world.

This fall I will have the fortune to work with incredible teachers and kids through professional development on writing funded by the National Writing Project. The school where we will work together is labeled "high needs" and  multiple obstacles stand in the way of traditional scholastic achievement: poverty, administrative turn-over, a state take over, poor facilities, and life on the streets. Yet, when I visited today, several incoming 9th graders were participating in a summer program to get a jump ahead on their freshman year. I was moved by their dedication, drive, and desire. The teachers and Build On were pumped for a new year.

So, why am I thinking of numbers?

Well, I'm saving gas because of a new car and consequently saving money. I have also looked up what my salary would be if I went back to Kentucky to teach with my doctorate. I would be making more than I'm making now. Of course, I also financed the new car and thinking economically (after all, I spent the last four years with little money). That is why  I'm trying to figure out how we (all of us) can have so much but so little at the same time.

Lopez Lomong posted on Facebook today, "Each day the average American uses 130 gallons of clean water, while 783 million people use as little as 5 gallons of unclean water." Whether this is an accurate account, I'm unsure. Even so, I thought about these numbers as I drove to and from the school where I'll do work. The haves and have-nots (Starred Bellied Sneetches) are ubiquitous in our country, too.

It is predicted that over 50% of the kids I visited today will drop out of high school (closer to 70%). It is noted that their progenitors at the school achieved the lowest Reading and Writing scores in the state (20 miles to the northwest schools achieve the highest numbers in the state).  The vast majority of youth at the school I visited are on free and reduced lunch, but all came there hungry to learn and know more about their world. Their reports state that everything Gallagher writes in Readicide is accurate - schools have killed literacy for these young men and women.

The teachers, too, are driven to help the kids succeed, but have endured the agendas of others who dis/respect their professionalism. So, where is the disconnect? The kids want to be successful, their teachers want them to be successful, and yet all of them reported stringent rules keep them from teaching and learning. Somehow, teachers are not given authority to do the work they want to do and students aren't given opportunities to pursue the knowledge they need. Is this a lack of money? time? leadership? This is in the U.S. and nowhere near the conditions Lopez once knew. I can't help but think Jonathan Kozol is 100% accurate - we have apartheid in America.

In a week I will visit my cousin, Mark, for his annual Hoops 4 Hope benefit to once again experience the incredible work he does in Africa. Similar to Lopez, he acts locally to support global efforts. Perhaps this is why I am thinking about many of the schools I've visited in the U.S.  and of my teaching in Kentucky. I worry that nationally we are not resolving the issues urban (and rural) schools face. I am thinking of Stephen Smith (2005) and how we might not only address the vast inequities of people around the globe, but even some of those occurring a few streets over or around the block of our own neighborhoods. I believe the National Writing Project model is a good start: invest in teachers as leaders and allow them to advocate their needs, their dreams, and their success stories of working with a heterogeneous nation.

This post is not only numerical, it's historical and political, too. After all, the 90 youth attending a pre-September institute for 9th graders chose to be at school during their summer vacation even when it was over 100 degrees in their classrooms and very difficult to breathe. I hope the enthusiasm stays with them, but numbers predict otherwise. I recall Oprah did a story on the disparities of schools in America and I know many of my friends and family contacted me thinking what she reported could not be true. I was shocked that they didn't believe it (because they have not visited such communities in the U.S.)

We can do better. We need to do better.

That is why I believe in the support of the National Writing Project (and chose a career to work with the movement in Connecticut). The teachers teaching teachers model validates the voices of educators and youth in school - it is not top is bottom up. It is best practice and it works. Politicians at the local, state, and national level should invest in teachers. That is the way to improve academic achievement in schools.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

American Gothic, with Chinese Food

Well, it is summer and I was hungry. I have also been trying to fit in down time for Bry amidst the finale of the Connecticut Writing Project, plans for the upcoming year, and the intrusion of a new vehicle. The result, I need to find time to be me. That translates as I need to be silly, so here I am in my American Gothic mode with a picture frame I dropped off at a friends so she can wrap it with canvas and pain her worries away. The night after, I stopped by my administrative assistant's house with Chinese food because I rarely find time to see her during the day. Sesame chicken and green beans. 

So, I am living with updates. I now am driving a Ford Focus that Syncs with my Iphone so I can use it as a cellular robot to call people when stuck in I-95 traffic.

I participated in a National Writing Project phone conference to learn about the year ahead with a Federal SEED grant (and am getting excited to meet 90 freshmen participating in a program at the school tomorrow afternoon with teachers who will participate in year long professional development with the Connecticut Writing Project.

And, I'm hoping I fall in a better sleep pattern. There have been times when I've felt sleep is overrated, but I can honestly say I'm exhausted. By the time you read this, I hope that I caught a few zzzz's.

Regressing, Or am I?

Two days ago, I took my truck in because my steering was acting funny. On the way there, the whole truck began to shake and I didn't know if it would make it there in one piece. I was actually afraid driving on I-95 and I thought all my wheels would pop off.

Yesterday, they called me with an estimate. In short, the repairs would cost almost three times as much as the Kelly Blue Trade-In value. I could pay for the repair or do what I planned to do in September: trade her in.

I asked my administrative assistant to drop me off and to leave me at the dealership. I knew I needed to act and if I had an evening to stew on it, I would be indecisive. So, I drove a Ford Fusion (above) and felt like I was in a clown car. Actually, the one I test drove, brand new, had black rims, too, and was slick. I know I wanted a hatch back and the shape reminded me of my Toyota Tercel I drove during college. I knew one thing: I did not want to drive a gas guzzler any longer. Sure, my explorer transferred high school students, volleyball teams, and soccer players since 2001, and for that it was convenient. But the $65 tank-a-week was a burden. The Fusion gets 32 mpg as opposed to the 17 mpg of the Explorer.

The Fusion also fuses with my IPhone and when I sat in the car it said, "Hello, Bryan...where are we going today?" I thought that was cool. Now, the decision of whether to buy or lease. I have 12 hours to decide. I am thinking that leasing would obligate me for only two years, but I know myself: I will hate that I'm not buying the car. So, before I pick it up at 1 p.m. today, I need to do my homework for what is best for me. Either way, I will no longer have my American truck. I am sticking with Ford, but am returning to more frugal means of getting around. I figure I will spend 1/2 of what I normally do on gas.
We shall see, Connecticut. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thanks, Senator Bob Duff...

Thanks, Connecticut.

I have written this before and I will write it again. When the National Writing Project went into a new cycle for supporting state sites, it was State Senator Bob Duff who stepped up and helped us to find state money to support our efforts. It was this funding that sustained us from 2011-2012 and I am a huge fan. Not only has he visited the young writers and teachers during our summer institutes, he also promotes our work with other government groups, teachers, and families.

We learned yesterday that the State of Connecticut is coming through again for 2012-2013 and providing monies that can be used to sustain our Young Writers' Institutes and provide support for the Invitational Summer Institute. This includes a salary for my outstanding administrative assistant, payment for co-instructors to help me out with summer programming and sanity to do what I full-heartedly believe in.

The teachers this summer felt the investment in CWP was a no-brainer and it was a logical, exciting, and well-spent summer that treated them with respect and integrity. I post this today, however, to say THANK YOU, Bob Duff, and all of your friends in Hartford who provided this to our programming. The money will be used in as part of the funding to invest in teachers and youth in the upcoming year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Poem for the Summer, A Song for the ISI

This summer's Invitational Summer Institute for Teachers at the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield culminated last Friday and this morning, I'm posting the summer poem written to wish my best (Click and it should pop up).

To the right, you will see a pail which the teachers utilized every day during our summer program. In them I stuffed writing tools, stickers, chocolate, gum, butterscotch candy, glue stick, stickies, and notecards. I figured, "If we're stuck indoors all summer and spending our vacation in professional development, I might as well have toys to make the entire experience a little more joyful.

I'm proud of the crew recruited for this summer and know I will miss them this morning as another work week begins. I wish them the best and hope they get some R & R before the hooplah of their school years kick off once again. The writers of this summer were amazing and they are some of Connecticut's finest.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eastern Connecticut

We found Mystic Pizza, but only Dylan had a slice. The rest of us were still digesting lunch from Five Guys - the world's most generous burger joint for french fries. In one day, we did the Mystic Aquarium, drove to Rhode Island to find some beaches (as did everyone in the state of Rhode Island). The water was cool, but the crowds overbearring. That, and the ocean was thick with seaweed so it was like standing in thick, goopy soup. The experiences was not that enjoyable, even thought it was somewhat a relief from the 95 degree heat.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was finding Crandall Street as we were heading to the beaches.

I do feel, though, that we have had our fix of Mystic, CT and Rhode Island. Neither will be on my list for visiting again unless I have to (ah, but Mike had a small romance with a Beluga whale that was somewhat memorable).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Officially some time off, but first...

a reflection on the last day at the Connecticut Writing Project.

The day was a remarkable culmination of four weeks of bonding, support, writing, and commitment. A compilation video can be found at this link and Colette's political statement to Governor Mallow was posted online here.

I'm truly proud of our summer crew and will miss them immensely when Monday comes around. They were a committed, dedication and devoted cadre and I feel extremely enriched to have worked with them.

For now, however, I'm on a weekend get-away with family. I wish my crew nothing but the best from this day forth.

In the Harold & Maude Tradition

and the ritual of ending a year at Brown School, I offer Cat Stevens today. 

Today ends the four-week institute at Fairfield University with the Connecticut Writing Project and the spectacular teachers who joined me. I've been amazed by their passion, enthusiasm, drive to excel, and spirit to counter the anti-teacher environments existing in their districts. If anything became obvious this summer it was that Connecticut has spectacular educators who deserve to be heard, respected, and given a voice in what works best for kids. The administrative mandates trickling upon the majority by a top-down model does not work. It paralyzes creative teachers and keeps them from building relationships, connecting curriculum to diverse learners, and simply loving the job of teaching. Throughout the summer we have learned again and again that, perhaps, the deficits are not in the kids we teach (or the teachers who teach them), but in the educational systems that are paralyzing the joys of learning from occurring. 

I've been on the road to find out for a very long time and I'm sure the journey will continue. As for this moment in time, however, I'm overjoyed and inspired by the colleagues I had the fortune to work with.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Importance of Critical Thinking...

It must be the week when teachers are doing demonstrations at the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University because each day I leave work I come home thinking deeply about what I've gained from sharing processes with teaching colleagues. Today, Kelley G-M wrestled with her drive to make students more critical with their thinking by demonstrating that the work we want from them while reading books is the same work they should do in their pop-cultural worlds. As part of her demonstration, she placed a collage of magazine covers on a Prezi and asked us to choose one word to describe what we noticed. Everyone in the room had a different word and we wrote "around" the word what we were thinking.

For me, the images of magazine covers were missing the diversity of the U.S. society and, with my own bias, I focused on African Americans and African born images. Even the one picture of Kanye West was airbrushed to make him appear lighter skinned and glowing. Some of the women in the room honed the ways girls were portrayed as plastic and boys as athletes and team players. The exercise did exactly as it should - it brought us awareness of how our students are bombarded with images (and music and movies and icons and toys and ideas) that are counter to the mission of being intellectual and critical.

This is why I found the exercise to be extremely productive. Our group has though hard about whether it is possible to teach critical thinking skills and I believe it is lessons like that which help them grow more astute to EVERYTHING around them (and is another stellar indication that jumping beyond textbooks is extremely important...youth need to read all texts, including those that are not canonized and the ones they've yet to write).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuesday in Connecticut...I sweat gland you.

"After all these years, Harold learned that it wasn’t his heart that loved, it was a sweatgland in his armpit," was what I drafted in my notebook today as one of my teachers did a phenomenal job writing about Love in a multi-genre presentation. She chose the heart as the metaphor commonly used and I thought about Gary Larson and his comic strips.

What if we suddenly realized we had the wrong organ all along? That would be funny. "Honey, what I meant to say is, I sweat gland you." We would have to lose the heart as a semiotic and come up with another icon

So I made an advertisement during her multi-genre prompt to come at a theme in a new way. I chose humor and the caption actually reads, "After years of gaining the courage to tell Elizabeth that he loved her, Zach realized what his problem was. Love didn’t come from the heart. Love came from a sweat gland in his right armpit. Philosophers and Hollywood were wrong all along. His feelings were not in the center of his chest but in another location of his body."

I cracked myself up in Connecticut and even though others didn't laugh, I did. I've been sweat glanding my relatives, friends, and the act of writing for a very very long time. All one has to do is see me teach to realize this is the truth.

Happy August, 2012.