What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World
“Mr. Mali claims, ‘by the time a student reaches sixth grade, the extent to which he or she could progress intellectually has been almost entirely determined nearly ten years earlier. No wonder teachers will never be able to make up for the work that parents have failed to do.’”
Forty years of teaching came tumbling down around my old shoulders as I read poet Taylor Mali’s marvelous little tome. Swiftly infusing his commentary with specific examples of what makes a good teacher, Mr. Mali zaps in some stinging criticism—rational and based on thoughtful observation of the educational system currently floundering in America. He uses quotations by famous people about education as well as his own vers libre to add a touch of salt and pepper to each chapter.
Mr. Mali, a tenth generation New Yorker, certainly could be considered New York blue blood. His mother was award-winning children’s author, Jane L. Mali, and his great great-grandfather was the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With nine years of teaching experience, Mr. Mali has used his love of poetry to become an advocate for teachers. He is a four-time winner of slam poetry competitions, authored What Learning Leaves and The Last Time as We Are. He has recorded four CDs and contributed to several anthologies.
In What Teachers Make, Taylor Mali takes the reader into the wondrous and sometimes magical world of student-teacher learning. He unabashedly admits he is not always the smartest person in the room and has room for an object lesson in courage from his students.
Wrapped in the cloth of poetry, Mr. Mali makes a strong statement defending teachers. And it has been his poetry, particularly a poem titled “What Teachers Make” that rocked him to fame. He claims to have made his students work harder, to make their parents tremble in fear when he called them, to make the kids wonder, to question, to criticize.
He writes, “There is one thing that teachers can sometimes do that parents cannot: see a child’s potential objectively.” In what could be construed as a negation of home schooling, he says, “Teachers have a unique perspective. We generally don’t have to pick up dirty laundry off the floor of the bathroom or enforce bedtimes. Consequently, we see our students through more dispassionate glasses than their parents.”
Another interesting statement in What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali screams for attention. Mr. Mali claims, “by the time a student reaches sixth grade, the extent to which he or she could progress intellectually has been almost entirely determined nearly ten years earlier. No wonder teachers will never be able to make up for the work that parents have failed to do.”