I am often seized with this desire to quit my job, and devote myself entirely to developing a language and culture program for my children and others. Language development is my most passionate hobby. What often stops me however is the lack of resources and the massive time commitment this would entail.
I came across some words of wisdom the other day from Darrell R Kipp, who co-founded the Blackfoot Cut-Bank Language Immersion School in Montana:
- Rule 1: Never ask permission, never beg to save the language. Go ahead and get started, don’t wait even five minutes. Don’t wait for a grant.
- Rule 2: Don’t debate the issues.
- Rule 3: Be very action-oriented: just act.
- Rule 4: Show, don’t tell. Don’t talk about what you will do. Do it and show it.
No one is going to develop a program here in Montreal, devoted to teaching Plains Cree language and culture, then walk up to my door and say, “Hey, isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?” I can think of at least a dozen Plains Cree women and children here in this city who would love this too, but it isn’t going to fall into our laps.
So. I want to pull all my various language projects together and come up with a program that will allow me to get my kids into language and culture learning with other children at least once a week. Of course, I want a full time immersion program, but I can’t wait for that either. The best thing about something like this is that it can be completely tailored to the specific needs and wants of the participants. None of this rote learning sit-still-memorise-this crap. There is nothing stopping us from going out on the land for even short periods of time, teaching and learning various skills and in short, teaching the language the way language is meant to be taught. As a part of life, rather than ‘as a second language’.
Preparing for one day a week will still mean a serious time commitment, but it’s a manageable one. My girls are already 7 and 9 years old. I can’t wait any longer.
So my goal is to come up with enough programming for a full semester, September to December. Initially I wanted to have enough for a full year, but I remember how intense preparation time is when you are just designing a program…I was doing three hours of prep work to every hour of instructional time when I first began teaching. I have from now until September to get a semester-long program set up for a test run. I want to be able to provide this program to other parents/teachers as well, so eventually this blog may end up with a new page of “Cree language and culture lessons for the urban aboriginal” :D.
I know a lot of people get started on projects like these and then burn out quickly. I’ve had a few false starts myself. I think it is important to keep it small, and manageable, and to not depend on others for the first part. I think that once people see a good program in place they will start to come on board…but hanging everything on having a group that will help do it with you is not necessarily a great idea. Life just gets too busy sometimes, and ideas are much less attractive than actions.
Alright. Next cup of coffee, please! I’ve got some planning to do…