Last February, a short time after I traded New England winter for Los Angeles winter, I responded to a posting by Trade School LA (TSLA) seeking teachers willing to offer classes for barter by offering to teach a writing workshop on Flash Fiction. Trade School LA is part of an international network of 50 self-organized barter for knowledge chapters. But I didn't really get it until I spoke with Leanne Pedante who started LA's Trade School chapter and organized May's inaugural slate of classes.
Leanne explained to me that TSLA teachers offer classes in exchange for one of their list of barter items. Students sign up for classes and pick one of the barter requests to bring to the class. Even over the phone, I found Leanne's conviction that TSLA would fill a void for the many adults eager to learn new things without going into debt genuine. The Trade School community, she pointed out, is part of a growing barter and time-bank movement.
But it was Leanne's infectious enthusiasm for TSLA's ability to create community jumping out of my phone that made want to be a part of TSLA. Big city, small community. I've traded classes for grades at colleges and I like teaching. But the opportunity to teach as part of a community was and instant draw for me. I don't know who signed up for my class, but I know that we share the belief that community matters. To paraphrase Grace Paley, a community might not be changed by talking to one person at a time, but it can be known.
As it turned out, the hardest part for me was figuring out what to ask for in exchange for teaching my Flash Fiction writing workshop. That wasn't a surprise for family and friends who know that I don't celebrate my birthday. So I cheated. I looked at what other teachers around the globe had asked for and picked a few of theirs. The community came to my rescue!
Since TSLA doesn't own a 'school', classrooms are offered throughout the area. I get to teach at Spirit Art Studio in Silverlake. Other spaces are hosted by HM157 art collective in Lincoln Heights, Chin's Push art gallery in Highland Park, on a patio behind Kaldi Coffee in Atwater Village, in the backyard of Paniolo Productions in Palms, at the reDiscover Center in Santa Monica, in parks, and in people's home studios and living rooms.
To learn more about Trade School L.A., visit their website where you can register for classes and learn more about the Trade School model of community learning.