Sunday, November 30, 2014

And If It Was Possible, I'd Join the Chipmunks Right Now. I Feel It Coming On.

I miss my wood-burning stove. I also miss weekends in CNY where I could stop at this house or that house or whatever house to be fed by family, then return home to my wood-burning stove. Where I was warm. Where I slept well. Where I made no money, but somehow survived and lived in a tiny little house that squeezed me in. Now, however, I am definitely feeling Jack Frost whispering his cold gossip on the back of my neck. I feel like I could curl up into a ball and sleep for a decade, even when I first wake up. I'm simply exhausted and I want to rest.

This fantasy, of course, prompted me to think about hibernation and I couldn't resist reading more about chipmunks. I never thought about it before, but it is true we rarely see them from December until April. Why? They got it right. They are hunkered into a deep, deep sleep for several months and I'm wondering what they thinking about. I wonder what a creature dreams about when asleep for that long and, somewhat more frightening, what happens if they awaken and can't fall back to sleep. Does that make the chill and hunger that more severe? I need to read more.

I'll have to ask them in the spring when they return from their slumber and are scurrying here, there, and everywhere again.

For me? I just want one good night of sleep, and not this pattern I'm currently on where it takes me two hours to stop thinking, only to be awake again two hours later. Then I fall sleep, but wake up an hour later. I think it's because of the cold (and the stress and the traffic and the 19 year old moving about and coming home late and the bright lights of the screen I stare at 12 hours a day and the constant stimulation coming at me in every direction).

I'm sure others are feeling the same - the onset of holiday commercials puts me in a panic, as does the finish line for another semester. Zoom...aging just like that. But from now on I'm counting the breaths of chipmunks curled in their winter cupboards, nestled under leaves, ground, soil and snow. If they can do it, I can to.

Such inspirations.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's Official: Thanksgiving Is Over and the Spirit of the Holiday Season Is Upon Me (and so is creative procrastination). Yup.

This post is a declaration of modest success, post-Thanksgiving, in accomplish my #LRA14 conference goals. I awoke early, hammered upon the book chapter that was due on creating a global framework for reading young adult literature, then instantly I began working on the Writing Our Lives-Bridgeport analysis for an upcoming conference. I managed a run in there somewhere, and then saw Justine D's profile switched on Facebook and remembered a friend bought a Santa Clause outfit for me last year, so I knew I had to put it on.

That's when I temporarily procrastinated to make a JPEG. See, during the turkey fest, I dappled in JibJab's new phone app and saw my face on a blonde bombshell and instantly thought of Justine. I couldn't help but send it to her saying, "Hey, if we had a kid, this is what it would look like...," but then I remembered Herbie.

Justine saw the image above and, hailing from upstate New York, decided that if we were to have a child together, we definitely would name it Wegman Rochester Crandall, the 1st - a shout out to the greatest grocery chain in the United States and our connected upbringing to cities upstate.

After I took this creative break, I wore my outfit to put up the lights around the house. Yes, I know I may be moving soon, but I couldn't imagine not having my customary light whites around the house. It was a nice break before setting forth on my second #LRA14 paper, Crevices in the Curriculum, which explores insight offered by Somali-youth in my research and what they wished teachers offered instructionally in their school.

And of course basketball season is underway so I actually turned my television on and had background noise. Chitunga and I finished off the T-Day leftovers and now it's the weekend and I'm wondering what I should cook to maintain sustenance until Wednesday when I leave for Florida.

Man, I would make an ugly chick and, yes, in a few years I will be able to grow a full white beard like Santa. But for now, it's another day of writing and organizing, so I can begin concentrating on my classes for the week, grading, and setting up the final stretch for graduate students.

Fa la la la la la la la la.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Friday Allegory Running Through My Mind. Trying to Rationalize Righteousness and How People Know What They Know

A father comes home to see two of his children fighting. He's unsure what the scuffle is about, but he gets between them and tells them, "Knock it off." The kids separate and it looks to the father that peace has been restored. He tells two of his other kids, "Look out for these two. I have to run out to get gas, and I'll be right back."

But the two children go back at it and the other two children watch with frustration. The punches are heavy and the cursing is severe. At one point, the two children grow more violent, and the other two get very scared. Before they know it, however, a tragedy occurs and the one child kills the other. A life is lost.

When the father comes home he enters a scene that is rather gruesome. The one child says to him, "It got out of hand and I didn't mean it." He is shaken up real bad. The father says to the other two, "I told you to look after these two. What the heck happened?"

One of them tells a story that says the child who lost his life went too far. The other child, however, says that the child who did the killing was to be blamed.

The father is left to rationalize and make sense of what happened.

This is what I'm thinking about this morning, waking up and wondering how The Great Whatever makes sense of us human beings, especially when conflicts grow as severe as they have this last week - where the he said, she said, history said, morality said, duty said, hatred said, violence said, and peace said all arrive to a single event with multiple truths and perspectives. All the father has is the narrative he's being told, but he must make sense of the stories so he can go on with his life, albeit altered to a different course because of the incident.

And in town, they talk. On the news, they talk. Overseas, they talk. Everyone seems to know what happened and, without a doubt, they are assured they are correct. Yet, I wonder sometimes if we'll ever get it right. All we have left in Pandora's box, is hope.
"I love, to believe, in hope" ~ Brendan Kennelly

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Today, I am thanking life, despite the stress it often presents, simply because I'm alive, well, and surrounded by love.

The nor'easterner brought more rain and slush than it brought ice and snow - and I am very thankful for that. Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day hibernating on my writing chair, trying to revise a book chapter that is extremely important to me. I am charging forth like the ram that I am, destined to empty the ocean with a fork. I didn't finish what I set out to do, but I did make progress, and for that I'm happy.

I'm also thankful for:
  • my family, who loves me even when I don't pick up the phone, update them on my shenanigans, or keep them informed of what's going on in my world,
  • Pam, who is laboring away so that tomorrow there will be a feast for me to eat with friends, her family, and a new puppy 
  • my memories of Kentucky and all who were introduced to my world via the J. Graham Brown School, JCPS, and the Louisville Writing Project (especially Sue McV and Alice)
  • for a professional community who has given me an outlet to do what it is I tend to always be doing,
  • to the young men who shared their lives with me when I was a doctoral student and who continue to participate in my ongoing learning of global inequalities,
  • to the teachers I've met since I became the Director of CWP-Fairfield and the colleagues I work with who model excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service,
  • to the Reading and Language Arts Center who provided a location that challenged me to be a better scholar and thinker than I ever thought I could be, 
  • for Chitunga, and the art of communication (including text messages) that helps us to better understand The Great Whatever and our relationship to it (and one another),
  • for writers who have crafted the books I love to devour, digest, and share,
  • for having shelter,
  • for being an American at a particular point in global history - even with its hiccups and shortcomings, it continues to be the greatest civilization the Earth's ever known, and
  • for today. I have today!
Every minute I spend in misery, I lose 60 seconds of happiness (and possibility)
Have a great Thanksgiving! I hope you are surrounded by the people that bring you the greatest joy. I hope today is full of the possibilities you desire.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Story of All Stars and Moonbeams, A Brown School Tradition @MyBrownSchool @writingproject @ncte @JCPSKY

It took me seven years to finally find a way to decode Appleworks 6 files, so I could retrieve the original text that was illustrated in Kentucky to celebrate the All Stars/Moonbeams collaboration. In 1997, Bonnie Cecil - a kindergarten teacher at the Brown School in Louisville, Kentucky - asked if I'd like to continue in the tradition of Sue McV and lead my senior class to partner with the incoming 5 year-olds. We did, and in year two, she wondered if I would write a poem (and I recognized the Seussian qualities of my verse). 

I remember the day, in 1998, when the senior class went to Bonnie's room and I introduced them to the All Star kindergartners. One of the little boys looked up at me seriously and asked, "If we are the All Stars, then who are you guys?" I admitted I didn't know. He then jutted out his lower lip, thought for a second, and said, "I know who you are. You're the Moonbeams."

From that day on, I became Mr. Moonbeam to the young people at the school. I totally forgot about this until I saw a post on Facebook (2014) of Moonbeam/All Star collaboration. I've been gone from the J. Graham Brown School since 2007. Bonnie left around 2000. It makes me very proud to know that in 2014 the tradition continues. I wonder where the illustrated version of this story is - I would love to see it again. Bonnie had an illustrator friend do a remarkable job with it and the book was bound. We used it every year to kick off the partnership. A few years later, the Fireflies joined us - another kindergarten class. There's a story for them, as well....more detective work will ensue!

The Story of All Stars and Moonbeams
Bryan Ripley Crandall, 1998-1999
aka “Mr. Moonbeam”

(page one) You hoo?  Are you listening?
Can’t you hear the moonlight glistening?
I’m trying to tell you our story.

(page two) A ask? Whatever do I mean?
It’s a story about All Stars, a tale of the Moonbeams.

(page three)    You see…Once upon a time, 
amongst free verse and rhyme,
before pancakes for breakfast and icky-poo-doo slime,
a colleague of mine, with a flare for great dreams,
came to me wishing for a mentoring team.

(page four)  Her name was Ms. Bonnie, Ms. Bonita Boo Boo,
and she was the captain of the All Star,  kindergarten crew.
Her mission was to place magic in each of her stars,
which she did like an expert, from bright, glitter jars.

(page five)  She worked on her children, from morning until night,
Making them sparkle with their own special light.
Ms. Bonita would sprinkle and primp them with glee,
making each glimmer, as bright as can be....
but it wasn’t enough for her All Stars, you see,
              (and that’s how it all began).

(page six) Bonita sat, stared and slumbered a while,
she thought about pickles and crazed crocodiles,
She rocked and she raved and she wrote and she rapped.
Until she invented a plan that was brilliantly mapped.
  “My Stars, they need moonlight, the kind from above,
The Moonbeams, their magic, & oh, how we’ll love.....”
(page seven) But my Big Kids, the Seniors, the cream of my crop?
The ones from my room who are at their last stop?
The Moonbeams, my babies, with dreams left untold?
Are asked to shine All Stars and to be part of their mold?

(page seven) Bonita, so determined, ran up the Brown stairs
ducking under Ronnie, the Principal, Go Bears!
& past Kay-O’s library and her bookcase affairs
To room 301, where the Moonbeams wrote in their pairs.

(page nine) Ding Dong, Ding Dong Bonita did ring,
Tempting Mr. Moonbeam with this dream-wishy thing.
“Mr. Moonbeam, Mr. Moonbeam,
A mentoring fling!
The Big Kids, the little kids, together they’ll sing!!”

(page ten) “A mentoring fling?” I questioned quite dark,
But, seniors are tired - they’re all out of spark,
They’ve done the school thing & have left their last mark...
  so I confessed to Ms. Bonita, “I’m afraid of their bark!” 
& suggested she take them across the street to the Peace Park.

(page eleven) “But, Mr. Moonbeam, you’re know they can write...
They can help my lil’ All Stars start with ABC flight....
Let them mentor my All Stars and brighten their light.
Come On, help me do it.  You know that it’s right!”

(page twelve) Well, I sighed.  I sagged.  And I slippity-slopped
I jumped on one foot and I hippity-hopped,
I bounced and I bipped and then I buggedy-bopped,
then made a decision that couldn’t be stopped!
I leaped to the moon, landed smoothly, then plopped,
and announced really loud, “This plan hasn’t flopped,
Boo-boo’s dream wouldn’t falter & her wish couldn’t pop...

(page thirteen) Me, Mr. Moonbeam, with my Moonbeams and glow,
decided to help Bonita with this mentoring show.
I don’t know much, but I know what I know,
If the Moonbeams could sparkle, 
then the All Stars would grow.

(page fourteen)  Ms. Bonita, this wish, well…it all became true, 
and the fireworks began for the celestial two.

  The Moonbeams and All Stars dipped in star-spangled glue,
Doing as great partners magnificently do.

(page 15) They read, they wrote, sometimes played in the sand...
but most of all, they learned, together, hand in hand....
       They became our great thinkers and led their own band.
These friendships, they sparkled, all of it grand !

Ms. All Star and I shared our winks and a smile,
Knowing that magic exists…at least for a while.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For What It's Worth, A Metaphor For My Thinking On Ferguson. With History On My Mind.

This was my view yesterday for over 45 minutes when I left campus to drive home. I alter between routes and often choose which one I will take according to my mood. Yesterday, I wanted to think, and I chose back roads that wind up and down forested areas of Fairfield County. These are areas -- to put it in perspective -- where million dollar homes line rustic woods and acres of hilly, stone-fenced landscapes. The wealth of extends from my campus for about 15 miles before I get to the Merritt and head to Stratford, past Bridgeport, where the everyday Americans live.

I left campus yesterday at 3:30, and that was just in time for the school buses. The one I followed stopped at every house to let children off, often at driveways only 100 feet apart. I thought to myself, "How interesting to see such safety." Cars were lined up behind me for as far as I could see and we were trapped with the inconvenience of the moment - a banana tank dropping off happy-go-lucky, backpack-toting young people. We were patient with the law, the rules, the pace of the afternoon, and the protection --- all of this for the kids, the next generation.

I was reminded of my substitute teaching during my first two years of a doctoral program when I was taking courses full time, but in need of a supplemental income. I was always mesmerized by the school bus system and its rhythms. It had a purpose for keeping the community alive and well. A routine of transportation became a ballet of yellow ballerinas: the precision was truly remarkable. I was intrigued by the mechanism because I taught in a school that didn't have buses or the meticulousness of the method to move children from here to there.

Yet, I also thought about my four years in New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk, often at schools that don't have school buses and that reside in communities that are parallel to Ferguson, Missouri. In such districts, children more often than not walk home. This is true where I live, too, yet in Stratford safety guards adorn streets in orange vests and crossing signs. School arrival and departure does not look like this in the neighborhoods of the poorest communities where I spend a majority of my time. Instead, dismissal is often a free-for-all, where the kids disperse from the constraints of school like fireworks. They walk onto streets where stoplights and speed limits seem to be optional, and where challenges and mischief approach them at every step they take. Their walk home, I have begun to think, is a metaphor for the larger picture of the United States.

That is, which children do we work tirelessly to protect and keep safe? Which ones, on the other hand, are left to their own defense?

What is happening in Ferguson is a result of not recognizing severe division in our nation between rich and poor communities. It is true, too, that such civic ruptures are born from deep, racial, and complicated histories. It's about the frustration that arrived when not all people are held accountable for our definitions of what is right and wrong. It is how we define justice and where we see our relationship to it. It is also about a complete disregard for life on both sides of the tragedy.

It is about life, and the pursuit of happiness.

The patience expected of me to stop behind the school bus seemed to be natural because I was trained from a young age that this was the law and I should abide by it. It came with my privileges: a two-parent home, a roof over my house, an employed father, a primarily white working class school with many resources, and multiple options with where I could go in my future. Yes, I was bulging my eyes every time we stopped and I was getting impatient, but I was also thought about the tremendous love such a systemic bus routine provided for these young people. Safety first. The rules worked to make sure these kids were safe. I respect that.

This, though, is in opposition of what I know youth experience within the schools where I spend most of my time. I wonder where the safety officers are to walk these children home. I see officers in schools, but their roles tend to be one of surveillance in the hallways, not to keep the kids safe.  Where is the protection for these kids?

I do not know what it does to a child psychologically to always be under Sauron's watchful eye or President Snow's master plan to protect is rose gardens. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a child held in total chaos in a system that has failed them ever since they were born: schools, government, laws, neighborhoods, employment, etc. These eyes police children, rather than protect.

The divisions in this nation are real.The images from the television look like a scene from The Hunger Games and I am intrigued by the reality that Americans will cheer for Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Rue in both cinematic and textual form, but typically turn their eyes on such children when they live down the street or on the other side of town. These districts are real, too, but they are ignored by those privileged in the Capitol. Why not safety for all kids in the fashion I witnessed on my drive home?

I'm hoping the wisdom of many, including Martin Luther King, Jr., are in the cosmic swirl right now trying to send common sense back to our blue and green orb. Sense is definitely needed. I know this may seem like a strange request, but wouldn't it be nice to know that we all lived in a community where we had to stop for school buses simply because we knew the systemic support was in the best interest for all of its children? Wouldn't it be nice to see signs that read, "Slow Down. We Love Our Children," on every street in the U.S., and not only in more affluent neighborhoods (such signs imply that families that can't afford to live in these neighborhoods do not love their children as much as those who can)?

I've never been one for righteousness, but at this moment I am finding myself searching for a path of doing what's right.

This morning, I am thinking of Martin Luther King, as I often do. I'm looking for internal spirit to counter this violence.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And When I Reflect on The Last Week In DC, I Am Thankful I Could Share It w/ CT Friends

Since 2012, Julie and Shaun have been my CWP-Fairfield super couple. They're not exactly a couple, per se, but they are a dynamic duo. There's more to ying and yang in the world of teaching --- there is also yeng, yung, and yong, too. In other words, I can't do all I have to do without outstanding and brilliant colleagues who teach alongside of me. These two ying and yang my yong yung yeng.

Yesterday, the three of us presented on textual, tech-tual, and textured lineages at the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention. We had a small, but wonderful, crowd of participants, which included the brilliant insight of Dr. Steven Bickmore from LSU. I was so proud when, after the presentation, participants stuck around to sing praises and to extend the conversation. Even as we departed in our caravan to Union Station, a teacher came up to us to say, "That really was a phenomenal, inspirational piece of work. You gave me so much to think about."

I was so proud of my good friends. I love having them in my world. They make everything I do with CWP-Fairfield feel extra special.

We nerded in the food car at a table, plugged in our devices and read our students' work, planned for the week, processed for lost time, and reflected on how fortunate we wereto know one another. It's a good team that spends too little time together...a crew who unconditionally supports one another with wishes for nothing but wonderful success, collegial support, and writing achievement. It's too bad every week didn't offer a conference for us to attend and to explore the world. We're getting pretty good at it.

I awoke this morning with absolute thankfulness that these two are in my life.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where Does One Begin to Show Their Appreciation for #NCTE14? This has been amazing!

Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds
At 1:15 today, after my colleagues and I present on "Textual, Tech-tual, and Textured Lineages" (thank you Alfred Tatum), we head to Union Station for a five hour train ride back to Connecticut. That means I've presented twice for NWP, and five times for NCTE in the last four days. I'm exhausted, but it is a great feeling to be this tired.

Why? Serendipity. Joy. Bliss. Synergy. Karma. Ubuntu. I'm really jiving with this philosophical stuff.

Before my research talk yesterday, I promised Kwame Alexander I would hunt him down in the book signing area. Oddly (yes, it's odd for him), he wasn't signing books, but was just hanging out with this guy named Jason Reynolds. Jason Reynolds? Yes, Jason Reynolds, author of When I Was the Greatest and The Boy In The Black Suit. Sweet. Nice to meet him, too.

Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, Dr. Steven Bickmore, and
Kwame Alexander.
And then in walks Jacqueline Woodson, whose YA books were staples in the curriculum of my classroom: Brown Girl Dreaming, Miracle's Boys, Beneath a Meth Moon, etc. Well, she hugs Jason, and Jason grabs Kwame, and I grab Dr. Steven Bickmore, organizer of the Louisiana State University Young Adult Literature Conference and we have a little soiree in the Gaylord Convention Center (a prelude of the possibilities to come in 2015 with the already HOT week of YA conversations - proposals currently being accepted).

I have to pinch myself.

Really, Crandall? Is this real? Does this really happen? These beautiful writers actually exist and are approachable? They're willing to hang out with a nerd like you?

It sure does look like it (and then I get a tweet from Laurie Halse Anderson). For real?

But I write today simply to celebrate all he creative efforts and brilliant planning that went into the NCTE convention this year. It was remarkable and I had a blast (and am proud I finally had an opportunity to present). I'm unsure if I will be able to make it to next year's venue (snow and all), but we shall see. There's so many more conversations still to be had.

Ubuntu. Kreativitet. Kuumba - all of this. I can be me because of who we are together.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Highlight of #NCTE14 Thus Far, Supporting My Colleagues @FairfieldU and the Newtown Poetry Project. A Presentation That Matters

Yesterday morning, I had the honor of being a respondent to the Newtown Poetry Project and the work of my colleagues, Dr. Elizabeth Boquet and poet Carol Ann Davis. In response of December 14th and the Sandy Hook tragedy, a call was made by a classroom teacher to bring poetry into the schools. My friends met that call and CWP-Fairfield was lucky enough to help provide resources to publish the work of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade youth.

It was an early a.m. session that was very well-intended and the conversation hosted by faculty at Fairfield University was top notch, needed, and inspirational. I was amazed at the integrity and poise from which they presented and, as evident from the reception, how well their wisdom was received.

As I introduced the panel, listened to their presentation, and then fielded the questions from a highly engaged audience, I realized I was a part of something very special. The work carried out was enormously effective. I believe many in attendance valued every word that was shared with them.

In my response to the work, I noted that professionals around the country have a responsibility for sharing resources with one another in the wake of tragedy such as Sandy Hook. I admitted that I, myself, contacted the National Writing Project to find materials to help me work with teachers after the school shooting...I felt helpless, but sought inspiration from other communities that dealt with unexpected harshness. I looked to Columbine, Oklahoma, and New Orleans to provide reading and thinking material to our Connecticut community.

In year two of the Newtown Poetry project, I realized that the efforts of my colleagues have offered another tremendous model for healing after a tragic event. Not that I wish harm to any community, but I recognize that sad times inevitably arrive to communities in a wide variety of ways. We need materials to heal, and the session yesterday at NCTE was a remarkable demonstration of what one community has done to cope. I hope that the session was inspirational to all who attended.

I left the morning meeting feeling very proud to be colleagues of Dr. Elizabeth Boquet and poet Carol Ann Davis. I believe their vision and response is one to be replicated by others in response to horrific sadness and violence. From the dark, the light shines through. Of all the work I've done at NCTE this year, this has been the most heart-felt and genuine.

I know I am a better man from being a part of this project. It is a model of writing through tragedy that doesn't forgive the act, but it brings solace to so many affected.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Now This Is A New Look For Crandall. Shout Out for #NWPAM14 and #NCTE14 For Making This Conference Possible.

This is day two, when the National Writing Project bleeds into the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Washington, DC. When I brought Connecticut teachers to NCTE central to pick up their materials, I couldn't help but come across a photo op (all cardboard) that made it look like I am somewhat more official. I had to have my photograph taken and with it, I can to become dogmatic.

I thought about what I have to say and am taking this moment to be a political bully at the pulpit. Allow me to offer ten pieces of advice for the future of English education:

  1. No brainer, America. Invest more in public school teachers and follow the National Writing Project's motto of teachers teaching teachers to become a cultural norm. Get rid of reformers and let the experts reform themselves.
  2. Provide more resources to K-12 educators so that they can carry forth the instruction that they know works best. They are professionals, despite all the nonsense reformers are trying to say about them (talk about deficit constructions and mythology)
  3. Support Professional development. Professional development. And even better professional development. It's that easy. There needs to be money for professional development. In layman's term that is $$$$$$$. We have it. We spend it in ridiculous ways.
  4. Celebrate the CCSS and the objectives, but realize they are shortsighted, misguided, and totally designed by non-educators who don't have a clue on what works with American youth. Understand the standards are good, but please do something to bring resources to schools and teachers to help them achieve the standards as they are stated. Allow real classroom teachers to redesign them.
  5. Speaking of standards, there needs to be many additions made to the ones our states have "adopted", especially in terms of creativity and having a better understanding of the heterogeneous populations we teach. The one size for all does not work and the rigid, top down management of the national curriculum needs to be reconsidered. I recommend that we begin by reinvesting in the National Writing Project - the oldest, most effective model for working with teachers available all over the United States.
  6. Listen to Elyse Eidman-Aadahl. She directs the National Writing Project and I can't think of a more competent individual to help guide the next decades of educational reform.
  7. Rather than suggest archaic, homogeneous literature for American youth to read, tap into the world of Young Adult Literature and the promise it has to encourage young people to be literate, active, democratic readers who participate in American society.
  8. Balance equity between all schools so that there aren't those with 'stars upon thars' and those who don't even know that Frankfurter parties exist.
  9. Cease the corporate nonsense of charter schools takeover currently hijacking urban school districts and reconsider the scab-work of Teach For America (after all, the Guilded Age is not what we should be recreating in American society).
  10. Teachers, if you love what you do (and this includes those who teach at the University level), then get active: write local politicians, inform parents, resist administrative tomfoolery, and stand up for what you know is best for students and their futures as readers, writers, performers, makers, speakers and doers. Resist the ridiculousness that has quickly become 21st century schooling. It is detrimental to our kids and the teachers who work with them.
That's Crandall's political speech of the day and it was written before he kicks off day two of his presentations at the NCTE conference (with the NWP Annual Meeting at its culmination.  I recommend you find a place over these next few days to make your own top ten demands! I hope, too, you find this photo opportunity to do so).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Welcome to Whoville, Crandall. Glad To See You Left Your Grinch Behind and You Came To Write. #NWPAM14 #NCTE14

Yep, I'm in the Capital. President Snow, I thank you for the train ride from my district in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and for bringing me to the grandiose hoopla of conferences, conventions, and national meetings. The holiday bonanza is a true treat and I love the snow that fell at 9 p.m. during the Christmas lighting ceremony last night before I went to bed. I expected Rudolph and Herbie to come at me with turkish delights and shot glasses, all in the spirit of ol' St. Nick. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Let Nothing Thee Dismay....

Wait? What do you mean I haven't had a slice of pumpkin pie and turkey dressing yet? The Macy's Thanksgiving parade isn't until next week? Whoops. I'm jumping ahead a little.

It's NCTE! It's NWP! It's a location for everyone who loves literacy to come together in Maryland for sessions, conversations, intrigue, and scandal.

Scandal? That's Thursday night, right?

Okay, I admit. I ate fried food last night and it was scandalous. Yet, when in the greater Washington, DC, do as the greater Washington, DC, does. Go to an Irish Pub, order Smithwicks, and then lose all sense of decency. Get the $21 Fish and Chips (and two pints).Yep, I did. And my stomach hurts.

Still, I had enough time to already run into old friends (Jean Wolph of LWP is like finding a unicorn in a forest of angst and frustration - a beautiful site to behold) and I'm looking forward to the next four days of meeting more. Today, I will present on CT-Fairfield Young Adult Literacy Labs and the the OpEd cowritten with the young men participating in the Upward Bound program @FairfieldU. In the evening, I hope to meet with my colleagues who launched the Newtown Poetry Project and to run into more friends who have convened at this location for reading/writing/speaking/
thinking/performing high fives.

Finally, those of you who know me will appreciate that I am actually smiling at this destination. They did not charge us $25 extra a day for wi-fi. Kudos to this year's planners. I'm sure we're paying for it somewhere, but at least I'm not hit with the sticker price when I check in.

These facilities are really beautiful and I feel fortunate I've been invited to be a part of them. Thumbs up so far!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And On This Trip He Sets A Goal of 10,000 Words in Five Hours....ChooChoo! #NWPAM14 #NCTE14 Bound

One of the greatest perks of living on the coastline of the northeast, is that when conferences are in the area, I don't have to hike to an airport, sit in an uncomfortable seat, and contend with too tight of a space to think and write. I can take Amtrak and, fortunate for me, it becomes my moving office. I'm convinced Suzanne Collins must have had several of her ideas sparked for the Hunger Games taking Amtrak from Connecticut to DC. Flying through the districts, I can't help but think, "What an odd little coincidence. What a varied little nation this U.S. of A. actually is."

Either way, today the trip begins.

I leave at 10 and arrive by 4. I have a giant suitcase of materials packed (seven presentations in four days) and am lugging more by train than I usually do by plane. And I can plug in. I'm four days overdue on a book chapter, so I want to concentrate on it for five hours. The teachers traveling with me need to know that Crandall is off limits until we pull into Union Station in DC (no matter how excited they are to go to their first NCTE conference).

Write, Crandall! Write! Choo Choo! Focus!

I don't think Amtrak trains say "choo choo," but still. I don't think Crandall says, "Focus!" much either.

I got home last night at 11 pm from teaching graduate classes and quickly began to pack. The house was freezing when I arrived and Chitunga said, "I turned off the heat. I am trying to save you money."  He was dressed in full winter attire and my fur hat. I said, "Dude, it's expensive in Connecticut, but I'm okay with keeping the heat on when it is 25 degrees outside."

But now it is time to have my heart warmed by all those I admire at the National Writing Project and with the National Council of Teachers of English. Four days of literacy bliss. And he's off!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Following Yesterday's Post, Today I Begin With Humor. I know I'm stressed when... #NWPAM14 #NCTE14 #Breathe

I always know when I have too much to do, because I need to tie things to my head to stay focused. I pulled my frog-hat and alien glasses out of the drawer yesterday, and began chiseling away at the NWP/NCTE presentations, planning for back to back classes tonight, and making lists of what I need to pack. As I've written before, this is central to my writing processes. Before I accomplish anything, I usually resort to this mode of operation.

Sniffle. Sniffle. And I'm trying to stay on top of the Mucinex monsters --- house closing? Well, let's just say they pushed it back closer to turkey trots between homes next week as planned. I am in TheraFlu mode, too. We got this.

Seriously, I just want to arrive to DC and begin learning with the colleagues I love. I have decided this week (and every time I grocery shop) that I have a totally male brain and I can't do two things at once. My mind bounces from thought to thought too quickly and I get overwhelmed. I am serious when I say that I only speak 1/1000th of what flashes in my head every minute. The noggin' doesn't rest, but the frog hat (or anything else I tied to my head) helps me to hunker down and stay focused.

Colleagues walk by and crack up. When I get this stressed, they know I am in serious mode. If I am in headgear it means I'm aggressively tackling the large projects that are in front of me. So, this is what I looked like throughout most of the day yesterday. Since my dissertation, it's been a defense mechanism to be a master of tasks.

Now, if I can survive today, all will be well. A night of rest and then a trip on the moving office (five hours on the train) and I will be where I've set out to go. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keep Calm and Love a Frog: Drawing on The Pond To Help Me Focus on Life Along the Sound. Ribbit Ribbit.

I found this the other day when I was looking for an image of a frog handing over his heart (to thank Marcelle Haddix for the love she is always offering me). Actually, I Googled "Frog Love" and saw some interesting froggy positions that I didn't expect. Heck - this is the 21st century, right?

Actually, I was talking about "Frog" with Chitunga and Alexis the other night when the conversation came up as to why I had so many frogs in my house. They didn't know my Brown School world, or the pond, or the decade of frog-daemons that became my everyday. In other words, my life here is totally devoid of the decades I spent in Kentucky --- that world was so huge for me, but now is somewhat distant.

"Frog," I said, "was an alter ego resulting from my first year of teaching. I had a frog backpack, and I began to get letters to Frog. Slowly, but surely, the letters kept coming and the creatures continued to name themselves. I continued to write them back: Dragonfly, Bambi, Turtle, AC Sprite, Chipmunk, Rainbow Fish, Worm, Tree, Swan, Cattail, Bunny Bufu, Duck, Swallowtail, Monarch, etc."

Several years later, the Frog still exists, but he's not as wrapped in the pond sludge of yesteryear as he once was. The creatures have grown up...they still come, but not as often as they used to. I still channel my amphibian thoughts, but they aren't as necessary as once upon a time...

But, in hectic times like these - this week over the top - I am channeling the Frog and wishing the serenity back to my world, when I sometimes had answers. The Frog always had solutions, whereas Crandall is just pushing the boulder up the hill in this guessing game called life. Frog was a superhero. Bryan is a manic fool.

So, I am channeling Frog this week. May he bring all the magic of the pond back my way. I've missed him a lot.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

When You Realize You're an Addict and You Need Help...Or A Loud Voice To Get Attention at the Apple Store

The one doctor says, "It's official...instead of sex, men now think about the iPhone every seven seconds." The other doctor thinks to herself, "It's not just men."

Ba dumb dumb ch'.

For the last three weeks, my iPhone has decided it wanted to impersonate my Subaru before I had her fixed. Every day, the phone does something new - and it's shut itself down, stopped receiving phone calls, and indoctrinated itself in a land of Sim-Card oblivion. Despite three trips to Sprint, nothing was resolved. "We ran a diagnostic test, Mr. Crandall. The phone is testing fine."


I have lost texts, phone calls, and opportunities to check correctness online all because of the haphazard behavior of the phone. Actually, I almost throttled Chitunga's neck when he didn't arrive on the train as he was supposed to and when I sat in the parking lot waiting for him for over an hour - he never showed. It turned out he was texting and calling me, but I didn't receive any of the messages.

So, I realize I'm an addict. Not an addict, a total dependent. When I don't have my iPad or laptop (like in my car), I rely on the constant connectivity of the phone. The ebb and flow of everything I do is through technology, and when I'm denied its use, I self combust. I don't like this about myself, but it's true. The umbilical chord is attached to machines and a machine life is how we now live.

Picture Bryan being firm  at the Apple Store. "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you mean when you say you can't get me in for an appointment for two weeks. I am here right now. The phone is dead, and I need another one. I am leaving this week and need my phone."

"Sir, we only take appointments when they are scheduled online."

"Worker, this is true. And I would schedule an appointment online if I could get online with my phone. I am in FRONT OF YOU, however, and I can see the booger in your nose. I"m not, NOT, leaving until I get a new phone."

"Just a second. We have an opening in ten minutes."

The phone was a dud. The Apple clinician couldn't get it to work, either. And it was under warrantee. The switch was easy. Fast. Apple redeemed itself and made me happy. I've been loyal to them for two decades for a reason.

Then I went home to mow the leaves and, of course, the mower exploded --- well, at least the spark plug. A trip to Home Depot later, it began to work again. The leaves have been chopped.

I wish for the days when life was only paper and pen, and not digital composition, but times have changed and my brain has adapted to the constant light and need of fingers. It is where I am right now. I'd love to disconnect, but disconnecting is not an option. And therefore, I'm an addict. I am thinking about my digital tools every seven seconds, as do we all.

Sad, but true.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

And They're In The Mail. That's a Wrap. It's Saturday, and Now I Need to Catch Up. Work Zone the Next 48 Hours

200 copies of POW! The Anthology (Ed. 2) were packaged and sent out yesterday after I ran a session with 8th graders who read Kwame Alexander's The Crossover.  The work from this summer's teachers and students was phenomenal, and I am really proud of how the text came proud, in fact, I wanted to drive it directly to each and everyone's home.

The redesign of Young Adult Literacy Labs were the result of my teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, my knowledge of the National Writing Project, and research conducted at Syracuse University. Coincidentally, just yesterday, a publication was announced by the formative experiment in Central New York that influenced CWP-Fairfield's summer alterations:
Reading & Language Arts professor and chair Kelly Chandler-Olcott, RLA doctoral student Janine Nieroda, and RLA alumnus and Fairfield assistant professor Bryan Ripley Crandall have published “Co-planning and Co-teaching in a Summer Writing Institute: A Formative Experiment” in Teaching/Writing: The Journal of Writing Teacher Education. The full-text article is available at
It's been a busy, but wonderful week, even if it was too full of meetings. Meetings meetings meetings meetings until 5 p.m. on a Friday. But, when it was time to depart, I decided I was just going to leave and I did. I left for a cheeseburger and, yes, I ate the bun this time!

So, today, it's Saturday and I'm going to make up for lost time. The goal is to nerd out for 48 hours so I'm ready to leave for D.C. next Wednesday (I have two book chapters that need to be finalized already). There's always so much to do, but I think I'm almost ready for the frantic three weeks ahead. Need to read more, plan more, organize more, and write more. Yep Yep Yep

I have no problem hunkering down to get this work done. It is work that I believe in.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm Shouting Out to @KwameAlexander, As In, Running a Workshop for 8th Graders Who Read THE CROSSOVER

Today, I will be working with several 8th graders from southern Connecticut who have read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover and who are coming for a college tour at Fairfield University (What? You haven’t read The CrossoverWhat are you doing on my blog? You’re better off getting a copy of his book right away. Reading it, rather than the foolishness I imprint here).

With this noted, as part of the events for today I opted to allude to Alexander's great text through writing my own "As In" poem to as away to introduce myself to the students who have read his book. I want to be just like Josh, as in hip with language, full of pep, and on top of his game. I have to admit, however, that I got this great idea from Kaitlyn Kelly, Gina Forberg, and Attallah Sheppard who assisted their young writers this summer as they read The Crossover during the Young Adult Literacy Labs.

So, here is my introductory poem for the workshop (breaking out of my typical style and rhythm into a style that I admire from The Rooster). Cockledoodledoo.

As In, I am Just Bryan

I am Bryan,
a professor at Fairfield U...
    As in, I read a lot of books,
    a few thousand books,
     & keep my nose behind computers
         to learn more about my world….

I am Bryan, a reader...
    As in I am a library nerd
    who is totally proud of losing himself in 
         words (those brain turds) & the worlds
         that flutter before me like birds
          across the universe and sky, 
          while I rehearse my ways of knowing,
          always willing to fly.

I am Bryan, a son of a Butch,
   upstate New Yawker
   and middle child of three.
      As in, I have two sisters,
       and got blamed
   for leaving the toilet seat up,
       and for torturing Barbie Dolls.
      As in, I got grounded and
   my sisters stuck their tongues
    out at me, simply because I
     stand up when I pee.

I am Bryan, a madman
   who empties the ocean
with a fork,
As in, face it, I know that I’m a dork
      and like Sisyphus, I must
       push that boulder up a hill.

I am Bryan, a teacher,
   who has taught for twenty years…
     As in these gray hairs
      contain history, culture, and
      the stories of a 1000 kids.
    As in, I don’t mind chalk,
       or giving homework,
       or being a jerk in order
       to help others succeed….
       supporting an intellectual journey
       is all I’ll ever need.

I am Bryan, a doer, who doesn’t mind doing,
   as long as something is getting done…
   As in I support relocated youth,
   refugees, and believe in their American future…
As in, I run 5K in New Haven every February
   to raise awareness of global realities…
   As in, no matter how stressed out I am,
   I know that others struggle more…
   As in, for every minute I spend in self-pity,
   I lose 60-seconds of making this world
      a better place.

I am Bryan,
 a crazy man,
 a looney-tune,
 and a big baboon who laughs
   his way through life….
    As in, I don’t mind dressing up as
    Dr. Clueless, even with autographed
    Missy Elliot Adidas sneakers around my neck…
    As in, I have more toys than ToysRUs,
    and never pass a gum-ball machine,
    without putting in a quarter (or two)

I am Bryan, a poet,
   who plays with language when
   finger tapping a piano keyboard
in search of better perspectives
   than the limitations set forth by my eyes…
   As in, the thesaurus is my friend…
   and I keep word journals and
   love to listen to the ways people speak.
   As in, I stink at basketball, but
   do mean crossovers with ideas.
   As in, you are a poem,
   and it is my hope to read you.

I am Bryan, an advocate for 
   writing our lives…
      As in, I will go to my grave
      fighting for better teachers
      and opportunities for young
       people like you to achieve…
         As in, I don’t matter nearly
           as much as
        YOU DO…
       and nothing makes me happier
      than seeing YOU and YOUR teachers
      shouting out what you need to say
       to anyone and everyone
       willing to listen.
      As in, it’s your time to scream
        to the galaxies above.