Have you ever wondered what teachers make? Or why someone chooses to become a teacher?
These days, being a teacher is more challenging than ever, but how often do we stop to acknowledge, let alone appreciate, the hard work that they do and their high level of expertise? Teaching is a highly professional career path that they are passionate about and for which they work hard to be successful. And our children are the beneficiaries.
As someone who has spent a number of years in the classroom (kindergarten through high school), both teaching and later as a parent volunteer, I still believe that the crucial role teachers play in our children’s lives has never been properly recognized or appreciated. Our children are sent off to school each day, and every teacher they come in contact with has the incredibly important responsibility to nourish each child’s potential, serve as role model, educate and inspire.
Growing up, I had a mixed bag of teachers; some I loved and others… not so much. But through it all, I persevered and am truly fortunate that I came away with a lifelong love of learning and an acute curiosity. I love to read, to write, to question, and to seek answers. I do believe that some of my teachers took great care to nurture these qualities in me, and I am beyond grateful. With a penchant for nature and global arts, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a life filled with creativity and learning.
Never one to keep nature’s bounty and beauty to myself, over the years, I’ve taught global arts and horticulture to preschool through 7th grade as well as to adults; I enjoyed penning a newspaper column for several years focusing on multicultural arts and crafts and exploring gardening and nature through science and art, including hands-on projects; I’ve even had articles on the same topics published in various regional publications. To this day, I enjoy tapping into my background as an artist, writer, foodie and Master gardener, sharing original recipes, lore and nature-inspired design on my food blog.
Although I’ve carved my own path in the field of working with kids, often in less than traditional ways, I can’t help but notice the prevailing stigma that continues to dog professional teachers. Teachers are underrated. Teachers don’t get paid enough money. Could it be that our priorities are in the wrong place? We hear about actors and athletes being paid exorbitant amounts of money. But who taught them to be an actor or athlete? Teachers, that’s who! As a society, we need to rethink our philosophy when it comes to teachers. Our children are our future; they depend on teachers to educate them the best way possible. There is no price tag known to man that you can put on a teacher’s salary. In my opinion, teachers are the most important people in the world. Without great teachers, our children would suffer and so would our society. So why aren’t we recognizing what teachers are worth and paying them accordingly?
Ever heard the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach”? Well, Taylor Mali brilliantly begs to differ, and delivers a powerful, 3-minute response on behalf of educators everywhere. Food for though, for sure…
What Teachers Make
by Taylor Mail
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 conversation.
I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?
And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-‐kicking:
if you ask for it, then 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 go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?
I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was 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’ve got this,
then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this.
Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?
ABOUT TAYLOR MALI:
Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement. He is one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of “poet.” Articulate, accessible, passionate, and downright funny, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. He was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and was the “Armani-clad villain” of Paul Devlin’s 1997 documentary film, SlamNation.
Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching English, history, math and SAT test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his New Teacher Project has a goal of creating 1,000 new teachers through ‘poetry, persuasion and perseverance.’