Taylor Mali – What Teachers Make

Taylor Mali – What Teachers Make

Taylor Mali has been a teacher for 9 years, teaching college, high school and middle school students. He taught everything from English to math and S.A.T. test preparation. Although he loved to teach, or maybe even because, he decided he wanted to expand the reach of his voice.

I for one, am happy he did.

After Taylor Mani stopped teaching at schools, he made his living as a spoken word and voice over artist. He also wrote several (poetry) books and recorded four spoken word CD’s. He travels around America preforming and teaching workshops.

Here’s a beautiful poem of his, called ‘What teachers make’.

[doptoggle title=”He says the problem with teachers is / What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life is to become a teacher? / He reminds the other dinner guests that you know it’s true what they say about teachers: Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach …..” icon=5 activeicon=6]

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the urge to remind the dinner guests that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is supposed to be 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 little 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 I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

You want to know what I make?
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence.
No, you may not work in groups.
No, you cannot ask me a question so put your hand down.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom? Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go, do you?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home at around dinnertime.
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something that your son said today.
He said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are and who 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 class and hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them realize that if you’ve got this, then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you based on 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?[/doptoggle]

Taylor also had a quest, his Quest for One Thousand Teachers. This means his goal was to inspire or influence 1000 people, through ‘poetry, persuasion, and perseverance’, to become a teacher. It took 12 years, but he did it. Quest completed. And to celebrate, he cut off his long hair that he had been saving to donate it to the American Cancer Society.

I mean wow. Is he some sort of modern day hero or what?!

Here is another one of his poems that shows that he truly is a critical spoken word artist, that teaches through his poems.

[doptoggle title=”In case you hadn’t realized, it has somehow become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about? Or believe strongly in what you’re, like, saying? ………” icon=5 activeicon=6]

Invisible question marks and parenthetical ‘you know?’s and ‘you know what I’m saying?’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions?

Declarative sentences—
so-‐called because they used to, like, you know, DECLARE things to be true, okay,
as opposed to other things are, like, totally, you know, not—
have been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone?

As if I’m saying ‘don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve, like, noticed this, okay?;
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions?
I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down with the rest of the rain forest? You know?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?

Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of… Njeehnje
That we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since . . .
you know, a long time ago!

So I implore you, I entreat you, And I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it.

Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.[/doptoggle]

Find more at Taylor Mali’s official website.