Paws Along the Trail with Resilience and Respect
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Christina traveled all the way from the UK to attend the Iditarod Winter Teachers’ Conference in Anchorage. Her enthusiasm for the race and how it impacts her students was infectious! She works at the college level, helping students with learning disabilities maneuver the challenges of higher education, keep organized, and work with strategies to succeed. She said the Iditarod helps her students see the importance of resilience. If they feel overwhelmed, she encourages them to “take a day off so you can get on with it tomorrow.” That simple bit of advice relieves the pressure and they realize things look better in the morning. Mushers must show a similar resilience on the trail. This year, snow storms held teams in place longer than they may have wanted. Eagle Island became a convenience stop, making the mushers show resilience as they rethought their travel schedules and supplies running the long section from Grayling to Kaltag.
Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
One aspect of the communities along the Iditarod Trail that impressed me was the respect held for the village elders. An elder has earned the privilege through experience, long life, and wisdom gained. Our students also benefit in life as we teach them respectful behavior. In the South, a “Yes Ma’am,” or “Yes, Sir,” is often expected for a response to an adult. Teaching them that the tone of the voice is as important as what is said. Looking people in the eye when speaking shows respect. Encouraging projects where they interview or interact with seniors or adults is another way we can train them in respect. Writing to mushers in a respectful, courteous way is one activity that encourages respect.
Respect carries over into other realms of life. Respect of nature and weather are necessary to survival on the Iditarod Trail. Respect helps with safety. In a coffee shop in Nome, I came across this poster, “Mind Your Muskox Manners.” Many of the admonitions involve respecting the creatures.
It is definitely daunting training students in resilience and respect these days, but worth our time. The Iditarod, as with many subjects, can help us teach these character qualities to our students. And who knows? Along with making our students better citizens, it may also help if they someday come face to face with a muskox!