I have never tried this thing of blogging each day from an event. My typical blog piece requires about four to twelve hours of work writing or at least staring at the computer thinking what to write. Tonight I figure I have about an hour to pound this out.
This my third AERO conference, my strategy has evolved to focusing on connecting with people, not so much in attending workshops for the content of those sessions. Reconnecting with people I already know, plus making new connections with a few people that I don't already know that I can include in my circle. Also with Sally in attendance as well, I really wanted to introduce her to a handful of people that I have either met at previous conferences or interacted with through the phone or the Internet on various projects or discussions.
So I feel I was pretty successful in that regard, since today Sally and I were able to connect with several people who were involved with democratic-free schools patterned on the Sudbury Vally model. Sally, who has now read a lot about the original Sudbury Valley school, was excited to have time to talk with people actually in the trenches with this egalitarian model where youth students completely direct their own learning and adult staff jointly run the school.
And I was also able to reconnect with, and introduce Sally to...
* Dana Benis, who was the prime mover behind founding the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), which is now up and running as an organization with a very talented staff and Board. I was involved with Dana and others in some of the earlies conversations on forming the organization. I eventually fell by the wayside when I decided to focus my available time on my blogging instead, I guess feeling that the writing was more important to me developmentally at this point. When Dana saw me he gave me a hug, which felt so good, because it indicated he still felt a connection with me.
* Helen Hughes, who founded the Windsor House school, a publicly funded democratic-free school in Vancouver BC. Sally, who is exploring what it might take to set up a democratic-free school in Los Angeles, was very interested in Helen's take on her “flavor” of a such a school. Another person who remembered me from three years ago at the last AERO conference I attended, and thrilled me with a hug.
* Krenie Stowe, a pediatrician and fellow unschooling parent in Houston Texas, who had her own critical take on the Sudbury Valley schools, particularly the “Justice Committee”, and gave Sally a different perspective to consider.
* David Marshak, who has written extensively comparing and contrasting various types of school alternatives, including holistic and democratic-free schools.
* Isaac Graves, the talented and tireless young adult who has organized and run all eight or nine yearly AERO conferences, the first one, I believe, when he was like 17 years old.
As to workshops, the one I attended today was led by Melia Decker, the Communications Director for IDEA, who I had met previously on the phone in early conversations with Dana Benis and others hatching the organization. Melia did a workshop on using social networking tools, like Facebook and Twitter, to build community. I found it interesting that though Facebook is all about building and maintaining relationships and networks, Twitter is is really best at connecting people in the moment who have a common goal. The best example was the Middle East, where it has become the tool for coordinating a popular revolution.
Our day ended as audience for two keynote speeches. The first was by Justo Mendez Aramburu, who started the Nuestra Escuela democratic-free school in Puerto Rico, based on the principles of “love, respect and participation”. He said it was the first speech he had ever given in English, and it was a powerful narrative of his own experience as a youth and later a parent, and how the death of his daughter in a car accident inspired him to start the school.
The final keynote of the evening was given by Riane Eisler, who's book The Chalice and the Blade, as I have spoken of frequently in my pieces, transformed my own life and launched me on the path that now includes my writing.
Well... hour's up! Hopefully another report tomorrow night!