An EFL teacher discovering the whole new universe :)

April 05, 2006

A great poem: What teachers make

This poem is seven years old, but some of us are new:)
I warmly recommend listening to Taylor Mali's interpretation.

What Teachers Make, or
You can always go to law school if things don't work out

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?


Anonymous cic said...


Ob vsej mednarodni udeležbi blogarjev sem pričakoval, da zastavica države poveže tekst v drug jezik.
No, vsaj pri nemščini se izkaže, da je to le računalniški prevod teksta iz angleščine v nemščino. In to fuj prevod.
Je pa že bolje, da to naredi vsak, ki si to želi sam, kot pa da se bohoti tam po krivici državna zastavica.

5/4/06 9:49 am

Anonymous Anita said...

Cic, mi je zal za razocaranje. Seveda gre le za racunalniske prevode bloga kot takega. Bi bilo pa v primeru taksne pesmi dobro, da bi ponudila povezavo do kvalitetnih prevodov, res. Prosim sporoci, ce kaj najdes na netu.

For international users:
Cic was disappointed because he had expected the quality traslations of the poem when he clicked the flags under the post - but all he got was a simplistic computer translation... as always.
This makes me wonder about the usefulness of these translating icons on my blog. Does anyone need them at all?
I may well remove them.

5/4/06 11:45 am

Blogger FIB said...

I'll need them if you continue speaking slovenian :)

5/4/06 10:41 pm

Blogger delvallesiosi said...

What a wonderful poem !! And what a passion in saying it !!

I totally agree.
Would Taylor like to be my teacher??
His classes are great, I'm sure.

Best wishes
Susana from Argentina.
It would be great if politicians here knew how important teachers are.

6/4/06 2:45 am

Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

Teachers are vital! Thank you for the reminder!

9/4/06 3:14 pm

Blogger Berta said...

Dear Anita,

Thanks for sharing the poem. As you can see, I still keep coming to your wonderful blog from time to time.

I think teachers do make a difference and as language teachers of ESL or EFL we not only teach linguistic skills to our students but culture, the world beyond, understanding among people from different countries, traditions and openness. All these skills and knowledge I am more than sure are transferred to their language, their own culture and their future lives as citizens of the world who will probably be in contact f2f or in cyberspace with other human beings in their study or working settings.
Regards from warm (but getting too hot) Venezuela,

12/4/06 7:36 pm

Blogger Sarolta said...

What a nice thing to share, Anita. Thanks.

17/4/06 12:26 pm

Blogger Nazanin Sharghi said...

I really enjoyed reading your post.
Thank you...

13/5/06 7:32 am

Blogger anitanita said...

I am glad that all of you liked the poem and that it evoked some reflecting:)
I do agree that teachers are important! As David Haselkorn stated: "Teaching is the essential profession - the one that makes all other professions possible."

16/5/06 11:37 pm

Anonymous Brad Nickel said...

That's brilliant. I have to share with my family and friends that are teachers.


7/9/06 10:48 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say teachers are lazy and overpaid. They show favoritism and grade based on many ohter criteria, not the work they are supposed to. The poem is blah, not insightful at all. I'd say this mali guy wishes he was an intellect but is simply a derelict

12/6/07 9:09 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous, youre the prototype of what Mali is speaking of: a guy who gets a B instead of an A and wanders around in eternity and wondering what you ever did wrong. Get a life, you probably deserved that grade sonny.

29/12/08 5:02 pm


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