One reason it’s really exciting to teach history is to let people know that it’s evolving and ongoing. One reason I was excited to teach music history to the campers at GRCA today is because it’s important to let girls know that, as musicians, (or fans or critics or label executives or deejays or producers or . . .) they are a continuation, a contribution to a female presence in popular music and, more broadly, public life.
And it’s nice to teach the class with a close girlfriend, so that you can show girls that it’s possible for women to work with one another and collaborate. That’s good too. Especially since the closest I’ve come to teaching pre-/pubescent girls was conducting sight-reading clinics for my mom’s junior high choirs. I was definitely out of my comfort zone teaching two music history classes (one ages 9-11, another 11-13).
But, as with education more broadly, it’s not really about the teachers. It’s about the students and it’s about creating a space to dialogue and learn from one another. So here now are the things I learned at GRCA today.
1. Don’t instinctively apologize. Women and girls say they’re sorry all the time, usually for things that are not their fault. Instead, say “you rock” or “I rock.”
2. Don’t compliment a student on their hair/dress/gear. It could be a class marker and not every girl is born of privilege. Not every girl can afford a mint-condition vintage Clash t-shirt and not every girl can afford a new Gibson guitar. Plus, we shouldn’t use things as markers of our societal worth anyway.
3. Ask what they think, what they know, what they like. Don’t lecture to them. Don’t make it feel like school. But some girls like lectures, as long as they can participate, so they can handle some science being dropped.
4. The older girls love Siouxsie Sioux.
5. Some of the younger girls like country. Some don’t. All opinions are valid. Let’s try and bring both sides together.
6. Some of the older girls didn’t know who Cibo Matto were, but wanted to know more.
7. Many of these girls remember and have a fan relationship with Selena.
8. Many girls want the Reactable shown in Björk’s performance “Declare Independence” on Jools Holland. It shows them that you can use any instrument to make the sound you want.
9. Some of the girls didn’t know who Marnie Stern was, but were excited to hear her name associated with “shredding.”
10. The older girls totes know about riot grrrl.
11. Everyone loves Beth Ditto and M.I.A.
12. Despite the ubiquity of mp3 players, everyone loves a mix CD. A pleasant surprise.
13. Girls wanna talk. It helps them learn. Thank you young ladies for letting me listen.