By: Lisa Lee, First 5 San Francisco
Every fall, the giant scrub oak trees shower the ground in front of my home with their acorns. Like our resident squirrels, I find myself gathering them up in bowls, bags, and pots. They come in all shades from tan to ebony, some still with their little hats on. Some are tinier than a pushpin, some have the smoothest outer shells.
For me, it feels like a treasure hunt. The acorns hide under crunchy leaves and between rocks. I collect hundreds and thousands of nuts. They feel delicious as they run through my hands. I can imagine the teachers’ and children’s delight and wonder what explorations will take flight as they use them.
My mind meanders pleasantly as I search, discover, and wonder at this pastime that is so familiar and yet so fresh. Twenty-plus years out of the classroom, and here I am on the coldest of mornings foraging and imagining how children might use these littlest of things. Certain of their potential, I collect on, thinking, “this is what teachers feel and do.”
Somewhere in the heart of every amazing teacher is this common commitment and inquiry.
What can I bring into the lives of children that ignites learning?
What will spark curiosity? How can I set it up to provoke interest?
And, sometimes…..how can I get this home?”
The opportunities for this research are endless and an everyday pastime. Whether gathering pine cones in a forest, rocks at a beach, or foraging in thrift stores and garage sales – this is what teachers do when they are not in the classroom. For some, there is no rest from this practice and the world is our warehouse.
Perhaps, there is no retirement either as the commitment, vision, and practice of teaching runs deep. And, I feel it as I collect the acorns; not for my classroom, but for classrooms across the city that I may never see.
Nostalgia rises of other forages…. emptied toiletry bottles from hotels, plastic toys from fast food giveaways, recycled containers from when airplanes served food, and treasures discarded like trash on an industrial sidewalk.
So as my basket fills with the tiniest of seeds, I am grateful for having been a teacher. The passion runs deep and the practice of reflecting and acting on the ‘possibility of anything’ ingrained in my soul.
Little Footprints children sorting and classifying by shape, size, and attribute – all-important readiness skills for math, language, and early literacy.