What Teachers Make 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

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, you¹re 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
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?

By Taylor Mali


7 Replies to “What Teachers Make By Taylor Mali”

  1. Taylor!

    Wonderfully said – and way too long since I’ve heard you read. My kids have been blessed with teachers who feel the same way you do. I’m printing this and sending it to each and every one of them.


  2. I am an Education graduate student in Chicago and one of my professors recently read this to us. It was Very inspirational, thank you!!!!!

  3. I hate that saying with a passion – those who can, do; those who can’t, teach

    Those who can do, do only because they were TAUGHT by those who can, those who do, and those who did!! TEACHERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Without TEACHERS where would any of us be? We learn because we are taught.

  4. This is what my elementary ed. professor told us on the first day of classes:

    Those who can do, do.
    Those who can do more, teach.

  5. Wow, I’m sure this guy is a great teacher, so are maybe 10% of teachers at my school. Those are the teachers that care, but wait, need I remind you that there are only 10% of teachers that are actually good. The rest of them bask in the glory of the good teachers and say, look at what we do! Let’s give examples, when I am assigned a group project and I am forced to do all the work (my group member is a bum), should I be penalized and told “we’ll in life you have to learn to work with all sorts of people” (which is completely untrue since a person that doesn’t work gets fired). Wait that has happened to me 3 times in high school by 3 different teachers, why, because they don’t care about me or their other students. Another example, “Since the class won’t stop talking I’m assigning you all a three page essay on the benefits of listening in class”, all the while I am actually doing my homework in silence. In the real world, our democratic society, those who are guilty of a criminal act are those who get punished, not a collective group. Imagine if everyone in a company was fined because one person was committing fraud. Again, this happens when a lazy teacher finds it easier to punish everyone instead of dealing with the actual problematic students. How about all these teachers who leave for a month because of burnouts. “My students are so rough on me; I can’t deal with them anymore!” Excuse me, you are in the suburbs of Orleans, a quiet town in Ottawa, Canada where the worst type of kids are the ones that smoke pot. Try that anywhere else and see how long you keep your job. On top of that, what about the countless days off you teachers get, you have atleast two months in summer! My dad is lucky to get 2 weeks off in the summer, he works from 6:00 am untill 6:00 pm on a lucky day (that’s if he’s not on business trip where he has to spend the night, which happens three times a week) and still, the teachers I know have bigger houses and go on more vacations then I do! How about the subjectivity that students are in constant battle with during the marking of their assignments. I decided to do a small experiment one year when my French teacher gave me a short essay to write. The topic was one that my brother used in one of his essays and he got 98%. My brother was considered a genius at my school and was loved by all the teachers. Well when I was given back my assignment, I only had 81%. How am I supposed to put our teachers on a pedestal after that. I don’t feel bad for teachers and I never will. You have much easier lives then most of society, with all the benefits you receive due to your overly powerful union. Why should I pretend to bask in your glory, you are doing your job like your supposed to, good for you!

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