By Taylor Mali
He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?” He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about teachers:
‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’
I decide to bite my tongue instead of his and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite company.
“I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor,” he says. “Be honest. What do you make?”
I wish he hadn’t done that (asked me to be honest), because, you see, I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking: if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face. How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence.
No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you get a drink of water?
Because you’re not thirsty, you’re bored, that’s why.
I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful over and over and over again until they will never misspell either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains) then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you give them this (the finger).
Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a damn difference! What about you?
Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of poet. Eloquent, accessible, passionate, and often downright hilarious, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. READ MORE >
PLAGIARISM or HONEST MISTAKE?The story of “What Teachers Make”
I am well aware that “What Teachers Make,” a poem I wrote in 1999, has been elevated/reduced to the level of Inspirational Cyber Spam. It started happening shortly after I posted an unattributed draft of the poem on this very website. Since the poem appeared on my website, I figured my name was unnecessary. But I was wrong. READ MORE >
Consider sharing this message with teachers you know… even personal teachers, like mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, coaches and spiritual leaders/teachers. They’ll thank you and so do we.