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Sharing Skills at School

March 23rd, 2012     by Laura Shaw     Comments

Somewhere along the way, I missed out on some pretty useful life lessons, from sewing buttons, to fixing bike chains, to DIY hair care and styling, to properly stretching after sitting in front of the computer all day.

When I thought about all the things I wanted to learn, I realized I already knew my potential teachers: my friends. Everyone is an expert in something, or wants to be, and since most of us can’t afford to pay for cooking/coding/makeup lessons, I needed to find a way to assemble other like-minded ladies together so we could teach and learn from each other, without having to pay for it.

It was with these objectives that my friend Dayna Jones and I created The Ladies Rhythm and Movement Club (The LRMC), a women’s knowledge bartering group. The name is a reference to a women’s dance group from 1902 that are mentioned in Canadian author Carol Shields’ 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Stone Diaries.

What is knowledge bartering?

Knowledge bartering at The LRMC is a free exchange of informal lessons between participants who trade off teaching and learning. It’s founded on the idea that if I teach you something, my lesson is worth your knowledge about something else. The program could effectively run with only two people, trading off teaching and learning, but the more people get involved the more diverse workshops we’re able to offer. Someone who’s an expert cake decorator can teach others how, then at the next workshop she might learn how to repair a zipper or take a good photo without any money changing hands, except for the occasional production cost.

How do I start a knowledge bartering group?

Start small. We reached out to a dozen friends at first and once we got rolling, we easily scheduled one workshop every month. The more women learned about our group, the more they wanted to join and teach, and now we have a super-dedicated core group. It’s a fun way to kickstart a network of awesome, inspired women who want to effect a positive change in their community.

Why women?

We saw The LRMC as an opportunity to do constructive, hands-on feminist work in our own community. The primary focus of The LRMC is to provide a productive and secure space for feminist women, trans folks, and allies to learn new skills. The LRMC extends an open invitation to anyone seeking an outlet in which to create, construct, share, and contribute to the diversity and vivacity of their community. In this way, The LRMC uses practical skills, knowledge-sharing, and story-telling as a means to advance what is, at its heart, a political project. It is our belief that the most effective way to combat oppression—whether this oppression is founded in racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, colonialism, classism, or sexism—is to create positive outlets for those affected by it.

It’s also a celebration of the skills and expertise of the women and trans folk in our community and the leaders we look up to. Thanks to The LRMC we’re now lucky enough to call these individuals our friends.

OK, I want to do this! What do I do?

  1. Reach out to a few friends: Brainstorm about what your goals are and what you want to achieve. Make a list of things you want to learn and approach people you know who can teach those skills.

  2. Spread the word: Pick a catchy name, design a logo, take advantage of social media, and reach out to people in your community. Get creative, be infectious, and believe in your project—soon others will, too.

  3. Organize an event: Make sure your first event provides knowledge or skills that people want. The workshop could take on any number of forms, but it’s important to actively listen to the needs of the collective at all stages. Start strong. Advertise.

  4. If you build it, they will come: After a few months, you’ll have people asking you when they can teach! Before you know it, you’ll have more events than you have time for.

What happens at a workshop?

Our general outline is: 1. Introduction: 5-10 minutes to meet and greet, go over our plans, and introduce our teacher.

  1. Workshop: The more interactive the better. Try to avoid “watch and follow along” style learning and stick with a 15-20 minute presentation followed by practice.

  2. Ask questions and get talking: It’s great if you can do a little one-on-one or Q&A time with your teacher. Mingle with your friends and try out the stuff you learned. Most importantly, enjoy yourselves. Bartering is a great way to learn but it’s also a chance to have fun while doing it.

Learn more about The LRMC on our website, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook! Contact us if you’re in the Toronto area and want to attend an event, or live anywhere and want to write for our blog.

Laura Shaw is a co-founder of The LRMC. She owns two cats and writes for Oshawhat Magazine and reviews for Shameless. Reach out to Laura on her Twitter.


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