Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AERO Conference Digest

In many ways it already feels futile to try and capture the experience I have just had over the last four days at the 7th Annual AERO conference. In telling it to friends I find myself using the same words – like incredible, inspiring, amazing – over and over again. I struggle to articulate what has been a deeply perception-altering experience. I say “perception-altering” instead of “life-altering” because while I am certain that my life is in fact altered, it is born out of a greatly expanded awareness of my own ideas and beliefs as well as those of all the people I am hoping to affect change with and on whose behalf I am acting.

It is as though I entered the conference dialogue with a uni-dimensional objective and as the workshops, keynotes and days went on the nature of the thought grew into new forms; from one- to two- to three dimensions and possibly more.

Buzz terms like “social justice, diversity, elitism, multiculturalism” and grew into effectively tangible concepts for me and I felt I gained clarity of vision. And I’m talking High Def, here. Really Seeing what my emerging vision is truly about.

I was continually being moved to new and better places as I engaged in:

Shilpa Jain’s workshop and later, keynote about the Learning Community and Ecologies called Shikshantar that she co-created in Udaipur, India over a 10 year period.

Khalif Williams’ facilitation of discussion about infusing the values of social justice and environmental sustainability into the dialogue with learners in more compassionate and effective ways.

Matthew Davis’s keynote address about the dire need for the inclusion of other cultures (particularly of the non-privileged brown skinned human beings) into the model of child centred learning.

John Taylor Gatto’s spirited address about the history and sinister purpose of the current western model of public education. The notion that the system is actually working as it achieves its purpose of maintaining the status quo.

Documentaries like “Race to Nowhere” and “War on Kids” and “Schooling The World” and the conversations that flowed out of what the content of the films brought to bear about what is really happening (read: being done) to millions of children in the name of “education” every single day.

Gritty, honest, raw, authentic and passionate conversations – sometimes debates - in between, around, beside all of it which enriched the conference like a cup overflowing.

I formed deep resonant connections with people - sometimes within minutes - due to our shared commitment to educational reform, but more so for the restoration of humanity to our true selves.

And still there was laughter! - Laughter and joy and friendship and playfulness and Being. I know that I will go back to the AERO conference again and again because they are my people and I am their people too. I know too that though we return to our individual grindstones, uphill battles punctuated by small victories we are still together - not just with each other but also with all the people – peoples – who choose to share the journey with us.

The Work that Jerry Mintz and Isaac Graves and their dedicated supporters have done to bring this community and platform into being has truly been an investment in the advancement of our world. Being a part of that manifestation is a humbling, inspiring, exhilarating catalyst for this woman on a sacred mission bear witness to the divine spark in every human being, especially children, who I meet.

Yes, I have exhausted my limited capacity for adjectives and sentence structures in my valiant attempt to share this experience with you.

I will close this by telling you that I remain in a somewhat blissful state of gratitude and hopefulness that feels like nebulas and stars in my being. Even in the very tips of my toes and the soles of my feet upon the path of the passionate.

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