Portrait Project

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Lauren Park

Today is a big day—it is October of my first year of teaching, my mentor will observe me for the first time, and my principal announced yesterday that I will have new desks in my room. At 5:30am, as I sit on the D-train to the Bronx, I consider my carefully planned lesson and new seating charts.

(Ninth grade seating charts—let me tell you—are a complicated web of crushes, ex-crushes, and ex-best friends. It had been a late night.)

At 6:30am, I unlock my classroom. There are the new desks! And no chairs. The office had forgotten to order the chairs.

No chairs. 117 ninth graders will learn Algebra in this room today. Without chairs. We already operate with too few textbooks and a consistently-jammed copier. I take a deep breath.


The day was a resounding success. We were productive despite our missing resources. Students learned the material and cooperated to stay focused. I will do this all over again—hopefully, with chairs—tomorrow.

In my life, I dream of making a meaningful impact on public education by building a system where great teaching is developed and rewarded. There will be days—important days—when our students and teachers will need to make progress despite missing critical resources. In those times, I will draw strength from this day; with determination and cooperation, we will improve our nation's educational outcomes despite severe limitations. No chairs: no excuses.

— Lauren Park