Monday, February 25, 2013

Poetry, Persuasion, and Perseverance

What Teachers Make - Taylor Mali
In solidarity or perhaps empathy, we thought it worth mentioning Taylor Mali's book What Teachers Make: In Praise Of the Greatest Job In the World, published in April 2012. The title for the book was taken from his well-known poem "What Teachers Make," originally published in 1998. This passionate poem in defense of teachers was written in response to an arrogant lawyer who insulted Mali and the entire teaching profession at a dinner party. Equally as popular is the poet reading it in front of a live audience. We've posted the video below.

In his book, Mali continues the conversation in support of teachers. He celebrates the teaching profession, and his words are a poignant reminder of why we do what we do. Of particular note are his chapters on "The Value of What You Cannot Test," "The Importance of Mentoring," and "There Can Never Be a 'Lost' Generation." Since Mali was an educator himself, he offers valuable insights into ideas from his own lessons over his years of teaching. This book should be in every school library, but perhaps more importantly in every teacher's book collection, too. Kirkus Reviews described it as "big, bright life lessons in a pocket-sized package" that "delivers a powerfully positive message, but it's also a valentine to teachers everywhere."

The book, What Teachers Make, values the profession and recognizes the care and dedication of teachers in what Mali describes as a "hobbled American education system." Likewise, it is also a reality check for parents who view "their child's teachers as little more than educational stepping stones." If we had to add to this, What Teachers Make should be put on the mandatory reading list for legislators and government officials who make educational policy decisions and base teacher evaluations on standardized test results.

Each time we watch Mali read his poem, we get inspired and feel a sense of pride. We've posted it here.

For additional techniques on teaching poetry, click here for lesson plans by Taylor Mali.

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