Illinois’ prairies and resilience

March 2011 post-burn
March 2011 post-burn by j_bednar, on Flickr

Looking at the recently burnt SpringBrook Prairie in DuPage County, it’s easy to imagine that the fire that swept through here has charred things beyond the plants’ ability to bounce back. However, the deep roots of these plants will bring those plants native to the prairie will allow them to flourish, while the shallow roots of invasive or non-prairie plants probably were consumed by the fire. After having my own prairie for the ten years I lived in Oswego, I learned a lot about the dynamics of native plants and I understood why Illinois is known as the Prairie State.

As my daughter and I walked through this area on Saturday, I was thinking also of the many attacks on public schools, teachers and education in general that have been well publicized of late. While every profession and adult has faced more difficult times over the last few years, the essential character trait that will allow teachers and others to bounce back from adversity and the personal attacks that some have faced is resilience. However, I have also learned that not all adults have been taught how to be resilient. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from disappointment or other obstacles. In reading Promoting Social and Emotional Learning, edited by Maurice J. Elias, I have thought increasingly often about the need to help my own children and my students learn about resilience and confidence. I can’t predict what challenges our students of today will face when they become adults, but I know that teaching them how to be resilient will allow them to overcome whatever those challenges may be. With the challenges faced by teachers in the last 18 months of so, I have seen a greater need to help them become more resilient. I do not only see this in teachers; I see it in all adults. If all adults need these skills, our students too will need those skills when they become adults. The earlier we can begin teaching students to be resilient, the more they will benefit due to knowing how to overcome difficult times even in elementary school. Like the deep roots of the prairie, we need to have deep roots in resilience to bounce back from the difficult times we face.

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