Sunday, October 26, 2008


I've been thinking about this poem I love by Taylor Mali, an amazing school teacher and poet... it perfectly describes the magic of teaching, in an eff-you-for-ever-undervaluing-teachers-in-the-first-place kind of way. And yes... it contains a few naughty words.

Taylor Mali is an incredible spoken-word poet who has left his mark on poetry slams across the nation. Truly, this poem is best when it's heard aloud... so as you read, try to imagine it being recited aloud with a note of bitterness and a heavy dose of inspiration. Better yet, check out Taylor reciting the poem here.

What Teachers Make

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 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?"

And 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.
I make them read, read, 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 goddamn difference! What about you?

1 comment:

Liam said...

This is a great poem...thanks for sharing.