When I first started teaching, I had a student, "T", that I just wanted to starngle the minute he stepped through the door. He had wiggle worms in his pants and couldn't sit down and still to save his life. Being a product of the educational system that I am, I started trying to figure out what I was going to have to do to reach this kid. Turns out, all I had to do was go plant trees with him one afternoon. One of my first SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience for those non Ag Ed readers) visits ended up being his and I spent a very cold afternoon riding a one man tree-setter behind his grandfather while he, his mom and sister watched. I have to admit it was fun and the best benefit was that after that point in time, I rarely had problems out of said student. In fact, by the time he graduated we were pretty close and he has remained one of my favorite students that I have ever taught. Together we completed (for him) proficiency applications in Forestry Management, which earned him recognition as a State Winner his Senior year. He was on and then helped me train my forestry team while he was in college and still comes by to visit whenever he's home for a few days.
I will never forget the day T's mother told me what T had told his elementary school teacher that his father did for a living. "He's a Tree Looker" I'm sure I gave her a very puzzled expression before she explained that the dad was a forester and as far as young T knew, all he did was ride around and look at trees, hence the job title.
I relay all of this because each fall, when I begin getting ready for the FFA Forestry contest, I find myself becoming a "tree-looker". I have been known to slam on the breaks and do a u-turn to hunt down a Turkey Oak sample in the tree line along the side of the road or to stalk around all the different parking lots in town to get samples of harder to find trees on our approved species list. I've bought seedlings and saplings to plant around campus of trees that aren't on the list and have walked around with a tree key in my hand trying to figure out if the tree I was looking at was what I thought it was.
Last fall, I cornered Eric into going with me to collect leaves and wish I had a camera to take pictures of him climbing a Hickory tree to get a branch with the nuts still on. I'm not quite sure who I'm going to take with me this year, but I know it's time to start collecting leaves all over the place!