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Stratford Man Looks For Ways To Heal By Writing — And Running

Bryan Ripley Crandall, just after he crossed the finish line in the 2015 Vicki Soto 5K Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Bryan Ripley Crandall (center, orange shirt) nears the finish line in the 2015 Vicki Soto 5K. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

STRATFORD, Conn. — Bryan Ripley Crandall had a lot on his mind as he ran the Vicki Soto 5K in Stratford earlier this month.

Crandall, director of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, ran in honor of slain Newtown teacher Vicki Soto of Stratford. But he was also considering ways he can help other teachers deal with violence in schools and in the greater world.

“We will always have incidents of violence happening. It’s a sad reality,” said the Stratford resident. “So what is an English teacher’s reaction? How do you cope?”

Crandall has begun writing related entries in his blog, Cracking-Up Crandall. But he hopes to craft a longer piece suitable for an academic journal and for guidance in American classrooms. It’s a natural extension of his work with CWP, which offers writing programs for both students and teachers.

“Looking for answers, I began to do research in English Education and Literacy to see how other communities responded,” he said. “It was natural for me to turn to the National Writing Project for answers and to see what sites in Oklahoma, New Orleans, and near Paducah, Ky., did when natural and manmade tragedies occurred in their regions. I also collected research where scholars and teachers wrote about coping with horrendous acts in American schools.”

Crandall sought inspiration from his colleagues at Fairfield.

Emily Smith and Paula Gill-Lopez, two professors in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, asked their students to craft curricula to address “distressed schools.”

Two more professors, Carol Ann Davis and Elizabeth Boquet, created the Newtown Poetry Project, helping children and adults cope with the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy through writing.

“I am sure there are other educators like me who would benefit from having a piece to use with their students and colleagues,” said Crandall, who said completing the work is one of the goals of his teaching sabbatical.

On the day of the race, he surveyed the large, boisterous crowd and said it buoyed his spirits.

“Here is one community doing something good,” he said.

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