Essay What Teachers Make By Taylor Mali

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A longtime educational advocate and public speaker praises the noble art of teaching.

Incensed by a flippant remark from a young attorney at a party, teacher and poetry scholar Mali channeled his anger into a poem on the virtuosity of teachers. He posted it on his website, and the verse has been circulating ever since. The author has become a renowned public speaker in recent years with podcasts, a blog and a flashy website. He also undertook an unprecedented journey from standardized classroom instruction to launch his ambitious “New Teacher Project,” an initiative seeking to direct 1,000 people into becoming teachers. In channeling their ability to “see a child’s potential objectively, untainted by family history and parental expectations,” Mali believes teachers energize their students to excel beyond what’s routinely called for; starting this reinforcement process at a young age is imperative, he writes. Obviously passionate about his career as an educator, the author extols the importance of routine calls to parents when children shine. He also encourages a “question authority” mindset in his students while personally remaining humble and progressive with electronic grade books. Through anecdotes, poetry and classroom examples, Mali proves himself a dedicated, caring teacher within what he considers a hobbled American education system. The author’s slim, appealing book delivers a powerfully positive message, but it’s also a valentine to teachers everywhere, as well as a healthy dose of reality to parents who may misguidedly consider their child’s teachers as little more than educational stepping stones.

Big, bright life lessons in a pocket-sized package.

Anyone who goes into the low-paying profession of teaching is too dumb to teach. That insult, delivered by a lawyer at a dinner party, set Mali to writing a poem in answer to the question—What do you make?—that sparked the insult. His poem, which went viral, addressed the question not from the perspective of monetary earnings but from the perspective of what teachers actually make or contribute to the lives of students. Teachers make students wonder, think, create—all the great things we hope for children. Mali left teaching to explore his love of poetry but kept at the theme of what teachers make, eventually taking on a commitment to inspire 1,000 people to become teachers. This book is in part an inspiring anthem for teaching and in part a practical guide to effective teaching techniques. Mali ends with a plea for better teacher training, incentives for teachers to teach in underperforming schools, and a heartfelt plea never to give up on struggling students, whatever their backgrounds. An inspirational tribute to teaching and learning. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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