June in South Texas means rain, tapering off toward the end of the month, graduation parties, and weddings. I experienced all three phenomena in May. One of my best graduate students has completed his Masters of Architecture and will be joining our firm. He’s been working part time with us since he enrolled in our Master’s program and has a well-earned reputation for hard work, good humor, and an old fashioned southern gentleman’s sense of courtesy. He came our way from near New Orleans. If he was seeking lower humidity he was sadly mistaken, at least this year.
The wedding is also related to the office - one of our interns married her long-time beau. Both families are ranch royalty so the wedding and the reception were a lavish, entertaining, all-day affair. The bride came to me for advice about graduate schools and stayed in touch until she completed her Master’s in Historic preservation. When she graduated, we hired her too.
I’ve been enjoying the rain from the vantage point of my porches and noticing how wonderful the garden looks. Everything is growing at prodigious rates and blooming with abundance.
I suppose a teacher is a kind of gardener, nurturing rather than ravaging the garden. I’ve never thought much of what I call “pedagogical terrorism,” that is rife in my field. It’s traditional for aspiring architects to be browbeaten by their teachers and the process by which their work is judged; an open oral defense from a cross-examination team of architects and professors is literally called a jury. The system dates from the earliest organized degree granting program, the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. The brutality of what seem to be ad hominem attacks on the poor students is even more pronounced in Europe. I’ve seen parents attending one of these sessions visibly recoil from the savagery of the inquiry.
I don’t do that. I think it’s completely counter-productive and the student remembers less of what is offered as valid commentary and more of the verbal abuse. It’s not a very intelligent way to teach, but after nearly 200 years, it’s hard to displace something so entrenched. This is beginning to change, slowly, like the hand weeding of unwanted greenery between the flagstones and bricks on the terrace.
When I return to my refuge after the nearly five hours I spend with my students in the design studio, the sight of everything growing so well in the garden fills me with an unshakeable sense of peace.
When I watch my students lining up for their degrees, I feel something more. It’s a sense of having done something genuinely valuable in passing on to them the little I know about my world. What they do with that knowledge will be a joy to experience as they continue growing in theirs.
- Michael Guarino