This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a retirement party for my high-school art teacher, Mrs. Little. There were current and former students, teachers and administrators, friends and family present. These sorts of events (and the 2 1/2 hour drive to get back to my hometown) give me a chance to reflect on the influence people can have on each other.
Though it's been quite a while since high school, I still feel Mrs. Little's influence. She respected and listened to her students. She wanted us to find our own way of expressing ourselves, not just complete assignments. She was on our side, and often helped us through tough times that had nothing to do with art. And she didn't hesitate to tell you when your work wasn't your best.
Many of these indirect lessons that she taught have been invaluable to my own work. I've learned to be a good listener, to see the value in my clients' contributions to the process, and to collaborate with others who have skills I lack. It's important for me that my clients feel empowered and included in the design process, and that they know that they can count on me to be on their side during construction, when they may feel intimidated by contractors and the building process.
In my own capacity as a teacher I have always tried to help my students find their own creative voice, and to learn the conventions that exist so that they will be able to break them when necessary.
And for myself, my clients, and my students, I am never satisfied with the status quo. I'm always pushing all of us to do our best, and then to do better. I think Mrs. Little would approve.