We Have a Forest to Tend

By Mike Pinto, IPLI Mentor & Principal at James Cole Elementary School

It seems appropriate that as I walked through my backyard yesterday, I encountered a large scattering of acorns, dropped from the tall oaks that guard its perimeter.  The acorns are the oak tree’s way of sending another generation forward. Dropped from the oak’s branches, the acorns scatter by the hundreds beneath the tree’s canopy.  Nature plays the game of odds with an acorn and with many other seeds like it.  If enough are sent off, one may be carried by an enterprising squirrel for burial for later.  If luck is with the acorn, it has been immersed in rich soil with abundant water.  If luck is also with the acorn the squirrel is haphazard and forgets the buried location. The tree which emerges then has to compete for light and space with the others around it.  If the acorn is truly fortunate, enough of the canopy above it will be open to allow it to grow each year, up, up, up – adding rings to its base to mark the passing of time, sometimes greater than two centuries in length before the tree cycles back to earth.  Nature plays the odds. Each year she scatters acorns by the thousands in hopes that some will have this opportunity to add rings and grow.

Educators can’t play the odds like Mother Nature can.  We can’t throw out water and light and only allow the strongest and luckiest to survive. Rather, we must tend to each acorn by planting it in soil that is rich with nutrients by teaching strong content. We must water each sapling with feedback and emotion so that it can begin to grow and become stronger. We must encourage through relationship-building so that the trees we tend can stretch and grow toward the light above.  In other words, every acorn has its day if you are an educator. While the task is daunting, it’s what educators signed on for.  As a new crop of acorns enter kindergarten and every other student returns for more nourishing, know that as educators you are adding an instructional ring to their base. It’s a formidable task, but a challenge we are all up to. Hunker down and teach with a focus this year. You have a forest to tend and every acorn needs you.