The plane ride over was like most other plane rides. However, my plane was delayed 4 hours, so I ended up getting two free meals and a $100 voucher for my next flight. Thanks, Delta!
While waiting for and on the plane, I wasn't in the mood to continue on with Lee Smolin's Trouble with Physics, so I just practiced my meditation. Time seems to go by pretty fast that way, and I snoozed a little. Of course, I had to wake up for orange juice and pretzels, though. Yah know, a lot of other planes are giving up on the snack and only giving out free beverages nowadays. Again, Delta rocks.
Upon hearing the bing go off signaling that the plane was landing soon, I opened my eyes. Wow! A sunbow! I've never seen a sunbow before. I don't think the word even exists for such a sight, so I just combined sun with rainbow. It was a stream of light that curved along the horizon of the clouds, shooting out from the sun. I had to rub my eyes a bit before I believed it was actually, actually there. I could've taken a picture, but I knew the camera would never be able to capture the beauty I was seeing, especially through a plane window, so I decided to keep being mesmorized. The sun was setting, so the background sky had that pretty orange, pink, purple thing going on. The clouds were all fluffy beneath us, like ocean waves, or a cotton ball bed. I felt bad that sometimes I had to stick my face right up to the window and block the view of the guy sitting next to me, but I had to get the full effect. It was definitely the best plane landing I've had in my life so far. The plane kept teasing me by almost dipping through the clouds but then leveling out. Finally, we dove. It was a little shaky, but coming out of the clouds, I was introduced to a winter wonderland. We were over a residential area of Minneapolis, where there had just been a snowstorm. What a contrast after seeing the sun because the clouds blocked out all light. It was now dark. The roads were paved, but the pointed roofs and lawns were still covered in snow, and the street and car lights added a magical affect. I'd say it definitely reminded me of a Christmas storybook illustration.
Oh, Duluth! I love this city. My mom once said, if a place is pretty on an ugly day, it's a good sign. So although the sky was grey and dirty snow covered the ground, I still saw beauty. Lake Superior was frozen over, with chunks of snow as decoration. It gave it a crunchy, stagnant, white wave look. Walking into Amazing Grace Cafe this morning, I was invited by music, two guitars, a saxophone, and a melodic voice. I sat down to enjoy a delicious omelet, staring at the people, learning more about Minnesota. I enjoy the accent very much, to the point where, already, my o's get that jingle.
After breakfast, I used my free aquarium pass from MAAP. I do like animals, but I wasn't expecting anything exciting. But walking in, I noticed that this aquarium was different than the others I've been to. Immediately, I saw a giant opaque glass wall with water falling down over the different symbols for water, from Chinese to alchemy. The aquarium not only had fish, but information about Minnesota's environment, people, and recreational activities. Also, although I do hate to see caged birds, I talked to a bald eagle and danced with a parrot. I guess my communication with the eagle was more like a whistle, but it was definitely intrigued. It would turn its head around 180 degrees, perk up its feathers, and spread its wings. Then when it tried to talk back, I learned how to speak eagle, instead of the sparrow song. The parrot, on the other hand, was more interested in bobbing its head and moving from side to side, so I went along with it. If these birds have to be cooped up all day, at least I can give them somewhat entertaining company for a bit.
I explored more of the little city. It was nice to know how small downtown is. It's quaint, and then there are forests right up the hill, and hiking trails right down the lake. I'd love to come back in the summer. I'm seriously considering picking up a job here and maybe some cheap rent during tourist season.
At the conference, I was a bit nervous about speaking because I didn't know my audience that well. After sitting in on the session before me, I quickly understood the mindset. “Standardization sucks, but we still want our kids to learn readin', writin', and 'rithmatic.” My session revolved around Paulo Freire's ideas of dialogue, praxis, and critical consciousness, so it was easy to intertwine the notion that no matter what we think is good for students to learn, maybe they don't think it is. My idea was to introduce Freire's ideas, then my own about student-directed learning, and then to encourage dialogue and demonstrate exactly how people learn the best, through determining what they value and asking questions based on that value. Instead of standing up there being an authoritarian-like teacher depositing information into the heads of these individuals like bank accounts, I acted as a resource with a specific perspective, and they were able to direct the conversation with questions, and I had questions for them as well. I received criticism, which pleased me so much! I saw before my eyes people not agreeing with me, still stuck in the mindset that success is determined by them rather than the individual that is supposed to be learning, so I tried to help them understand that I see that mindset as flawed, and if we want our children to be fulfilled, then we need to let them figure out what will make them fulfilled. I felt very good at the end of the session because I was able to address their concerns and show them where the ideas of value, fulfillment, and success really come from. It doesn't come from people acting on one another, but with each other. It was a group of people that care about children, and oftentimes when we care about someone, we try to make them like ourselves, but is putting a child in a narrow box really the way to go? Shouldn't we be letting them explore and create for themselves? Aren't we just being traditionalists, no matter how radical we may think our views are, if we are forcing students to learn a specific body of knowledge? Why can't children's minds be as dynamic as time? We are constantly in a state of change, so let those growing in the present determine what they need for the present. Schools are becoming obsolete when we consider how much open source material there is online. I enjoy Khan Academy, but educatingearth.tumblr.com compiles many different open source education websites.
Luckily, my keynote speech was received well. If you're interested, here's the video courtesy of Aaron Grimm.
Also, I have been playing with the idea of adding a “Donate” button to this blog. I thought it would be silly for someone else to fund my life for me because I've grown into the notion of personal responsibility and independence. However, after my speech, people shared with me the value of my experience. If I take time out of my day to share my journey with others, it's like I'm writing a book, and if they find worth in that and/or want to continue to read about it, then they may be inclined to donate money, or maybe even a useful object to help me. I would like to start traveling on my own or with another person, so I will not be fed or sheltered by the Halldorsons any longer. I certainly can pick up odd jobs here and there or play ukulele on sidewalks, but those might become boring things to read about. So, if you would like to donate anything, I would be more than grateful and use whatever funding to create memorable experiences to share with you and others throughout the world.