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What teacher’s make?

February 16, 2010

I was looking through text on creativity, when I came across a poem written by a renowned poet – Taylor Mali. A beautiful work of creativity, the poem titled “What teacher’s make” is as follows:

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?”

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, write, write.
And then I make them 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?

See the video of the same at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Hula permalink
    February 17, 2010 02:46

    I hope a lot of people read this piece….


  2. Consty permalink*
    February 17, 2010 03:41

    🙂 and if u have not see the video.. its hillarious


  3. Macchar permalink
    February 22, 2010 04:05

    Only today, i read the latest post and i went on to read all of them. I remember reading your blog few months back but now there will surely be no delay..

    I like the “what teacher’s make” post the best! and the poem “a few more years” is very well written..its simple and leaves a mark somewhere.

    Really hope you continue posting regularly!

    Go consti!!


  4. Consty permalink*
    February 22, 2010 04:13

    Macchar… wheew, u just gave me another reason to keep posting 🙂 thnks! Do see this video on TED by Ken Robinson.. i am damn sure u wld love it…


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