WHY I TEACH: Always Learning and Growing

By Lauren Behar

Always learning and growing: That’s my motto. And, that’s why I love being an art teacher at The Parkside School. I have the freedom to create my own curriculum, and I maintain a balance of open-ended and guided projects throughout the year. I am inspired every day by my students who come up with original “WOW” art which might end up being the seed for an idea in a larger group project. I'm also inspired when children want to work together as team -- this mentality is perfect for actualizing large collaborative projects like the ones our classes have created for the upcoming “Black & White” Spring Auction.

When we learned about Aboriginal Dot Paintings from Australia in September, each student created their own work of art. Months later when it came time to plan our collaborative group projects for the auction, I looked back at the individual paintings and found my favorite qualities from each one. I loved how Zoe M. used black and white alternating stripes to surround her kangaroo in her individual piece, so I gave her the special job of “master stripe painter” to contribute to the auction piece. She also acted as a teacher and example to her peers so they could continue the technique on the group piece.

Oliver, Finn and Micah were determined to do a great job as a team on other projects, and were excited to cover the background of the canvas in the early stages.

Ivory’s sketch of a kangaroo was so detailed that she was the one to create one of the three kangaroo shapes represented in the final painting. Charlie’s dot work went above and beyond. He was an essential dot painter throughout the process, and even went on to create his own dot art after completing our project.

As an educator, one of the things that resonate deeply with me about Parkside is the all-around practice of identifying and embracing each student’s individual strength, while simultaneously looking for ways to problem-solve and improve in areas that need additional support. I feel supported by the administration in this way, and am able to apply that same perspective when working with my students. I have worked in other schools, and I have found this to be a unique and very special quality of Parkside. 

I believe that spirit of caring and collaboration, and our unwavering focus on individuality and personal achievement, is a direct result of the generosity and gratitude that flows so beautifully through our school. Donations at the auction provide for the arts department, so that students can have access to appealing, inspiring and high quality materials to bring their visions to life.

I started here in 2010 as the summertime art teacher, and knew back then that teaching full-time at Parkside would be my dream job. Today I feel the same, and am so lucky to be a part of this amazing community!

I’m looking forward to unveiling our school-wide community art piece during the live auction at Bryant Park Grill on March 15.