[…] In America, doctors, lawyers, generals, actors, television people and politicians are admired and rewarded. Not teachers. Teaching is the downstairs maid of professions. Teachers are told to use the service door or around the back. They are congratulated on having ATTO (All That Time Off). They are spoken of patronizingly and patted, retroactively, on their silvery locks. Oh, yes I had an English teacher, Miss Smith, who really inspired me. I’ll never forget dear old Miss Smith. She used to say if she reached one child in her forty years of teaching it would make it all worthwhile. She’d die happy. The inspiring English teacher then fades into gray shadows to eke out her days on a penny-pinching pension dreaming of the one child she might have reached. Dream on teacher. You will not be celebrated. […]
From “Teacher Man”, 2005, by Frank McCourt
What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school
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 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, 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, 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?
Taylor Mali’s profile on TED http://www.ted.com/speakers/taylor_mali.html
Slam Poem Video http://www.ted.com/talks/taylor_mali_what_teachers_make.html
Poem transcript http://www.taylormali.com/index.cfm?webid=13