Never underestimate a good teacher

Learning a craft requires good teachers. The best teachers are the ones who demand rigor and practice yet also ignite passion. I'm lucky to have encountered many of these who have shaped my intellect, skills, and career over the years.

The most exacting teacher I ever had was Mrs. Fryer, my fifth grade teacher. She was also my mother's fifth grade teacher. So she'd been around awhile and, oh boy, did she have standards! Her standards were as much about how to behave in class as how to use punctuation: show up on time, listen, follow instructions. I suspect that these skills have got me further along in life than anything else.

In high school, Mrs. Jones made English fun and ignited my passion for literature. Off I went to college thinking that getting an English major would be about reading books. Then I met Dr. Tanner, who made Mrs. Fryer look like a slacker. He was wonderful and drilled grammar and disciplined argumentation into us so that language would flourish in our hands. Then there was Dr. Shannon who must have memorized the entire corpus of literature because she would pepper her conversation with "in the words of W.H. Auden..." and "as George Eliot said..."

My teachers in study for advanced degrees in literature and theology taught me to be comfortable with grey areas and clued me into the fact that most people are winging it, even or maybe especially in academia.

The New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden

I carry these lessons with me to work everyday in my IT job. And I carry them with me as I embarked on my training as a floral designer. Show up on time, listen, follow instructions.

I am on the home stretch of my certification in floral design at the New York Botanical Garden. It's the best of the best in terms of training. All of my teachers have different aesthetics, different competencies, and different skills to share. It's been a great experience. One of my teachers worked on Beyonce and Jay Z's wedding flowers. Another teacher designs and builds floats for the Rose Parade every year. One teacher whose bridal bouquet was on the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings was flown over to Riyadh on the Saudi king's jet to make a bridal bouquet for one of the Saudi princesses. One does the arrangements for the lobbies of several luxury hotels. Two of them are the It Boys of the NY floral design scene.

They have taught me so much. Learn the rules, then break them. Flowers are organic and sometimes do their own thing. Nature cannot be fully controlled no matter how much florist wire is involved. Empty space matters. Simplicity is hard. Mechanics make all the difference. Chicken wire is my friend.

And, in the words of Voltaire, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Voltaire, by William Blake