“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
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 5:30 a.m., 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 6:30 a.m., 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