Training communities, training graduate students: The 2012 Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop

Fitzgerald, Colleen
Linn, Mary
Fitzgerald, Colleen
Linn, Mary
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While grassroots organizations like the American Indian Language Development Institute have long shown the importance of training to indigenous language communities, an increasing emphasis on training in language documentation and revitalization is emerging in new funding initiatives and training institutes and consortia world-wide. In this current atmosphere, the 2012 Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop presents a case study in training in which the goals of training indigenous community members and graduate students can take place simultaneously. With the rising prominence of training models in language documentation and revitalization, and the practical dimension faced by limitations on resources like personnel and funding, the importance of satisfying multiple goals in a single training venue cannot be underestimated. Three factors underlie the successes of the 2012 OKBOL: team selection process; mentoring; final day activities and reflection. First, the team selection process made use of labor distribution. One Co-Director took primary responsibility for recruitment of participants. The other Co-Director had a larger pool of graduate linguistics students to draw from, and so took responsibility for mentor recruitment. Regular communication between the two ensured appropriate pairing, especially important considering the diverse languages represented in Oklahoma. Potential student mentors participated at various pre-BOL workshops, allowing both Co-Directors opportunities to evaluate their mentoring abilities in actual training contexts. Second, the teaching team during the week of the OKBOL represented experienced participants in indigenous language revitalization. In particular, Mr. Daryl Baldwin set the theme of language in the home, and contributed his perspective as a Miami tribal member involved in language reclamation. The instructors met with the mentors in a pre-workshop session and a mid- week mentoring session, where all shared impressions and made adjustments to best serve the participants' needs. Finally, the last day activities were designed to empower the participants and allow the co-directors to assess the success of the activities. Like the California Breath of Life, OKBOL participants shared a final project with all attendees. Community participants filled out a formal evaluation form of the week's events and activities. Graduate students wrote a short reflection on their experiences, drawing on the reflective practices associated with theories of service-learning (Author 2010). The 2012 OKBOL demonstrates how to train two diverse audiences as part of a single workshop. This case study can help other training venues build capacity with limited personnel and funding in an effective manner.
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