Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thursday & Friday, July 26-27 - Crow RWC Workshop - Days 9-10

Things were pretty busy as we wrapped things up at the word-collection workshop, and then I was busy packing, flying back home, and digging myself out from under the pile of emails that were waiting for me my first day back in the office. So it's now Wednesday, August 1st, and I'm finally taking the time to post some details about the end of the workshop.

Day 9 (Thursday) was a bit of a disappointment in some ways, with productivity dropping off sharply in some of the word-collection groups. It seems that there was too much discussion in the groups that day, which took away valuable time that would have been better spent focusing on collecting words. About 1,250 words were added that day, bringing the 9-day total to 13,349. (In all fairness, I should note that, even with a less-productive day on Thursday, the word count for this workshop is still very much in the acceptable range. The main concern was that we might not get through all of the 1800 topics, potentially leaving certain aspects of the culture unrepresented in the dictionary that will result from our efforts here these two weeks.)

On Friday (Day 10) then, we "lit the fire" under the participants, stressing the need for speed in getting through the remaining semantic domains (topics) by the end of the day. At our location (Pryor), we even went so far as to impose a 10-minute limit per topic on each group, claiming that collecting fewer words in each domain but getting through all of them was better than working more thoroughly and leaving certain topics untouched. That strategy worked, and it was about 2pm when we finished the last topic on our part of the to-do list. The remainder of the afternoon was then spent revisiting topics that had been treated early on, in hopes of adding more vocabulary from those domains. Mammals, insects, and flowers were a few of the topics the participants were interested in looking at a second time, and we added another 75 words or so in those areas.

The four word-collection groups at the college were apparently very motivated that final day, because their productivity went from a paltry 675 words on Thursday to a voluminous 1001 on Friday, as they pushed hard to reach the lofty goal of 15,000 words by the end of the workshop. It turns out that, had they made a more reasonable effort on Thursday, we probably would have attained that mark, but the 1,651 words needed on Friday in order to reach 15,000 proved to be just a bit too tall of an order. Nevertheless, I consider the final tally of 14,863 words more than satisfactory.

I am grateful to each person who was involved in this two-week word-collection effort. It was hard work, and we encountered a number of challenging obstacles along the way, but we worked together as a group to overcome those impediments, and in the end, we achieved a great victory together.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pictures of the word-collection groups for Thursday, Day 9

One of our word-collection groups was in a rut of sorts, so we decided to mix up the teams a bit. Father Randolph, the priest at the Catholic Mission where we're doing the word collection in Pryor, had been leading one of the word-collection groups, but his availability was limited to Days 2 through 7. Thus, we now have only three groups working. Here they are:

Pictures of the word-collection groups for Monday, Day 6

Here are pictures of the four word-collection groups in Pryor on Monday, Day 6 of the workshop:

Monday-Wednesday, July 23-25 - Crow RWC Workshop - Days 6, 7, & 8

I've been very busy at this particular workshop—so much so that I have not found the time to update my blog on a daily basis!! So this is my attempt to sum up what has happened the past three days.

The overhaul of the size and composition of the word-collection groups on Friday led to very positive results, so we continued with those same teams of participants the first three days of this week. Morale was high at the beginning of the week, but by Wednesday we were all feeling the fatigue of this intense effort to get through all 1800 topics in the two weeks of the workshop. This is a great group of people that I am privileged to work with here in Pryor, Montana. They have worked hard, and I'm very happy to have the opportunity to be here and get to know a few of them.

As far as our progress in collecting words, our total after Monday was approaching 9,000, and at the close of work on Tuesday, we had 10,543. So, at our 8:45 meeting on Wednesday (before starting the word collection at 9am), we had a round of applause to celebrate having already reached our goal of 10,000 words after only 7 days. I encouraged everyone to just continue doing what they had been doing for the past couple of days, and I was pretty sure that we'd get through all of the topics and end up with 13,000 or 14,000 words.

Wednesday's output was down a bit from the previous days, and this was due to at least two major factors: (1) We're now dealing with topics that tend to be less productive, where finding only one or two words related to a particular topic is a common occurrence, and (2) One of the individuals who was leading a group, writing the words down, and managing the audio recording for the group is unable to be present for the last three days of the workshop, so we have only 7 word-collection groups now, as of Wednesday. Thus, our output on Wednesday was just a bit over 1400, bringing the total to 11,988 after 8 days of collecting words.

I will try to upload some pictures of the participants for my next post.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pictures of southeast Montana landscape

Wheat field just after harvest

Wheat field ready for harvest

Sunday, July 22 - A Weekend of Active Rest

This weekend, I didn't have to do a lot related to the word-collection workshop, so I filled my time with other things. I didn't spend a lot of time twiddling my thumbs, but doing things that were different than what I had done during the week helped to recharge me for the new week.

Saturday involved a relaxing start to the day as my colleagues slept a bit later than they had been able to do during the week. Then the three of us that are here representing SIL headed to the campground laundry to wash clothes, and from there, on to Billings. While waiting for the washer and dryer to run their cycles, I was able to talk to Anita, Rachelle, and Angela on the phone and exchange news.

In Billings, we had lunch with Wayne and Elena Leman, an SIL couple who have worked with the Cheyenne tribe for more than 30 years. Wayne and I had each heard of the other because of our roles in the organization, but this was the first time that we had the privilege of meeting each other in person.

After lunch, we took advantage of the fact that we were in the city to do a bit of shopping, then returned to the trailer and rested for the remainder of the day. I was tired, so I went to bed early.

I awoke refreshed on Sunday morning, feeling rested for the first time in several days. After attending church, we went out for lunch, and in the afternoon we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, where I learned much more about the context of General Custer's famous "last stand". We returned to our trailer around 7:30, exchanged news of the day's activities with our co-workers from The Language Conservancy, discussed plans for Monday's word collection, and then headed for bed.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Friday, July 20 - Crow RWC Workshop - Day 5

We ended the first week of this two-week workshop on a high note, collecting more than 1,800 words on Friday and thereby pushing our first-half total to just over 7,000. This was a tremendous encouragement to me, as it was to all of the TLC and SIL staff members when we shared the news with them, since we’ve encountered a significant number of obstacles along the way that we had to find creative ways to get past.

What was even more encouraging was the report I received second hand that the Crow tribal leaders were getting really excited about what is happening at this workshop. Apparently the leadership began the week feeling rather skeptical about the helpfulness or effectiveness of what was planned, but by the end of the week, they were fully supportive and enthusiastic about what was taking place. That places our workshop in a very good position for a successful conclusion next week.

I mentioned obstacles. Thursday was a difficult day because of having to tell so many people that they couldn’t come back on Friday. The previous days were challenging because we were adding a new group each day, which meant taking care of lots of logistic details and training/monitoring a new leader and a new scribe. The pace the first few days was too slow, and it was not easy to communicate the need for a faster treatment of the semantic domains in a way that the participants could connect with culturally. There were key people who had missed part or all of the training that I had given, and it took some time to help them all understand what was expected of them. But Friday, we began to experience the rhythm of a well-functioning word-collecting machine, which produced the kind of results we’ve been striving for all week.

In each of the two locations (Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, MT, and St. Charles Catholic Mission in Pryor, MT), our Friday morning report and pep talk highlighted three things: (1) the good (but not quite stellar) results from Thursday, (2) the fact that having 8 or 9 people in a group on Thursday had impeded progress rather than helping it, and (3) the need to move through the semantic domains more quickly. On this final point, I did the math for the participants who were there, demonstrating the need for each group to adopt the objective of treating 30 domains each day in order to help us reach the goal of getting through all 1800 of them.

Throughout the day, it was hard for me to judge whether my exhortations regarding the need for speed were having the desired effect. Sitting at the record-keeping table where groups came to turn in completed folders and check out a new one, it felt like things were moving rather slowly. However, I recognized that the folders the groups were working on that day contained more domains than the ones we did on Thursday when I was being kept busy almost continuously. So until the numbers were tallied at the end of the day, I wasn’t really sure how well we had done. (One group worked on one very large folder all day long, so I had no idea how many words they were coming up with until they turned in their folder at the end of the day—when I learned that they had gleaned more than 250 words.)

Thursday morning, I had given everyone at Pryor the challenge of coming up with 250 words and covering a minimum of 30 domains in a single day. No group even came close to reaching that objective that day, so I was curious to see what would happen on Friday, given the more reasonable group sizes. I kept a running tally on a piece of paper of the results for each group, so that I could quickly add in the figures for the last folder for each group and give them some idea of how they had done before they left for the weekend. When all the numbers were in, one of the groups had indeed achieved the double objective of 250 words and 30 domains; I congratulated each member of that group before they left. Another group surpassed the goal of treating 30 domains; yet another collected 255 words but fell short of the goal of 30 domains; the final group finished with 222 words in 17 domains, which was not quite as good as we had hoped for but was still acceptable, considering that those were our lowest data points in the overall group.

The four groups in Pryor finished with a total of 895 words in 107 domains on Friday. The groups at the college did even better, tallying 933 words in 129 domains, with two of the word-collection groups attaining the double objective. That gave us the excellent results of 1,828 words in 236 domains for the day. I was nearly euphoric, after having worked so hard all week to ensure the success of this workshop.

One final note: I had encouraged each group to treat at least 30 domains on Friday. If we had met that goal, we would have completed 240 domains in one day. Doing that same thing each day next week would actually mean that we’d get through all of the domains before the end of the week. So I didn’t really need them to move quite that quickly, but I wanted to give them a lofty goal in hopes that, even if we fell short, we’d still be able to get through all of the semantic domains by the end of next week. The combined efforts of all 8 groups was actually 236, just 4 shy of the goal, which is simply outstanding, and we will tell the participants so at our Monday-morning  pep rally, all the while encouraging them for a repeat performance.