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What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  703 ratings  ·  123 reviews
The right book at the right time: an impassioned defense of teachers and why our society needs them now more than ever.

Former middle-school teacher and teachers' advocate Taylor Mali struck a chord with his passionate response to a man at a dinner party who asked him what kind of salary teachers make-a poetic rant that has been seen and forwarded millions of times on Faceb
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 29th 2012 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
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What Teachers Make is similiar to many teacher memoirs, except that it isn’t. Even though former classroom teacher and poet, author Taylor Mali, doesn’t exactly ignore the problems with the educational system in America, he also doesn’t dwell on issues not soon resolved. In both his poem, “What Teachers Make,” and in this novel, he instead chooses to focus on the lost art of respecting teachers and the job they do every day.

I don’t have my license yet (though I spend tons of time in classrooms)
As a high school English teacher, I am always a fan of books that promote teaching and encourage us to take a fresh look at one of the most influential and important positions in America. I was thrilled after glancing at Taylor Mali's book, and while I was excited to read it at the beginning, by the end, I was fairly disappointed.
Mali has a strong introduction, explaining how the poem which shares the same title as the book, came about, and how his career evolved as a result of this poem (he no
What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali is a very comforting book to read if you are a teacher (if you're not a teacher, you probably won't read it, which is a shame). In a series of vignettes, Mali depicts some of the challenges and rewards of teaching. Like parenthood, with even less narcissistic gratification, teaching is a career that no one would choose looking simply at a cost/benefits analysis. It is a vocation in which the many hours of drudgery are ...more
I loved this book!

Taylor Mali wrote the poem What Teachers Make after a party where he was at where a lawyer was putting down teachers. He vented his frustrations and performed the poem at a poetry slam. From there it just spread. He started doing presentations and eventually wrote this book.

There are lots of parts of this book that I really liked. I really like his explanation for when a kid asks,""When are we ever going to need this in real life?" the answer is not what they expect: never.
I had not heard of Mali's poem "What Teachers Make" before I picked up this book. There's been a steady stream of books written by teachers about their profession. Some are how-to books (like Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56), some are humorous, anecdotal send-ups (like 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching), others show a more problematic reality of public schools (like Educating ESME: Diary of a Teacher's First Year). Some are bi ...more
Mali really excels at the short essay. Quips and anecdotes from his teaching days and other times with poems interspersed throughout. I don't know how many people need to be reminded that teaching is important, and yes there are awful teachers, but there are incredibly wonderful teachers. Mali delves into what teachers make besides money, why they do it, his most rewarding experiences, and the problems facing teachers these days. His analysis that anyone who thinks teachers are greedy and use th ...more
Whenever I feel especially frustrated and depressed about the state of education, I pull up Taylor Mali's youtube performance of this poem. I watch his fierceness and I feel better. So, I was thrilled to find this book, and wallowed in the deliciousness for a couple of days. I found lines and pages and poems that made me so grateful to have chosen this profession...or to have been chosen by this profession.

I have seen Mali perform this poem at the SOS Rally in DC...I told people who were all ago
Taylor Mali is a warrior for teachers. I watch his "What Teachers Make" poem at least once a month for inspiration when I'm feeling defeated.

This little book says so much of what teachers actually make. Some of the stories had me laughing out loud and some had me emotional. Although I've decided that teachers have a different sense of humor than everyone else. At my school, all someone has to do is mention "HoneyBun Boy" during lunch and the whole lounge
I have strong feelings about this book. And they are conflicting feelings. So we're clear, some of the people I admire most in the entire world are teachers. As a group generally, I do think they are largely overworked, underpaid, and inadequately appreciated. And yet, something about this book really got under my skin. Maybe it was the opening story, where the young obnoxious lawyer calls out the noble teacher, apparently suggesting that because teachers get paid so little, no intelligent, self ...more
I've loved Taylor Mali's poetry for years so I was delighted to find that this book is organized around the structure of his poem "What Teachers Make" - and the prose that go along with each section are just as full of his voice as his verse. I received my copy as a gift. I think I will need to pay such kindness forward and get a copy to give to someone else. :)
As a new teacher, I loved the perspective in this book. Taylor Mali addressed the often negative image of teachers (overpaid, lazy, spoiled, etc.) while proving how grossly inaccurate this stereotype is. However, he was also very honest about the difficulties that arise throughout a teaching career (motivating underachieving students, dealing with difficult parents, and reaching unrealistic expectations). His overall message was inspiring and motivating. It confirms just how important the job of ...more
Yara Hussein
What Teachers Make is definitely one of the best books about teaching.If you have read Mali's poem "What Teachers Make" or watched him performing it,you will know why this book is one of the best.Mali is a real advocate of teaching and you can feel that from his very first words in the book.As you turn pages,you become more engaged with his stories,his students and his poems.I asked my friend to get me that book from the US as I could not find it in Egypt and believe me was worth it!
Two a
Randy Christopher
This book was full of inspiring anecdotes and thoughts. As a teacher myself, Taylor Mali epitomizes what it means to be great at what you do. It is very evident he is a tremendous individual and I am proud to call him a colleague of mine, though I have never met him, as all teachers are colleagues no matter what institution they teach. This is a must read for every teacher, as well as for anyone who doesn't appreciate what a teacher does on a daily basis. I really enjoyed when he stated that eve ...more
Paul  Hankins
Nov 24, 2011 Paul Hankins marked it as to-read
I CANNOT WAIT TO READ THIS ONE. Available in March 2012, but I knew my teacher friends would want to see this right away. Adding to list now. . .
Odessa Armstrong
Taylor Mali is an incredible poet and his book What Teachers Make is a great collection of short chapters detailing different experiences he had as a teacher. I have always used Taylor Mali's poetry in my classroom and so I enjoyed peeking into Mali's classroom, especially because he taught middle school like myself.

Having a voice speak up over the criticisms and ignorant treatment of educators in this country is appreciated. Mali's book helps to honor the energy and heart we give as teachers a
This book was written in response to a lawyer who, unsurprisingly these days, had nothing good to say about teachers. And Mali overheard him and a poem resulted from it called "What Teachers Make." Now, in the original confrontation, Mali didn't say anything, but the next day, he wrote the poem, which got a HUGE amount of recognition over the years.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Mali talked about his experiences as a teacher. He talked about how the greatest moments weren't because of what
This book deserves 5 stars for the poem that kicks off the book and 3 stars for the rest of it. If nothing else, read the poem "What Teacher's Make" by Taylor Mali Then watch him perform it on YouTube. Now. I will wait for you.

If you're as in love with Taylor Mali as I was once you're done watching him perform his poetry life, then snag this book from your local library. And then buy it (used) and give it to every teach you know. Teacher Appreciation Week is happening RIGHT NOW (as
On New Year's Eve of 1997 Taylor Mali attended a dinner party where one of the guests, a young, arrogant lawyer, made it clear his opinion about the teaching profession: one must be of impaired intelligence to choose a career that paid so little money and earned such little respect.

While Mali could not find the proper words to put the man in his place on that particular night, his anger at that encounter resulted in one of the most famous diatribes to ever come out of the teaching profession.

Paul  Hankins
Whether it's sharing about the time a Steinway floated outside of his classroom window on a April morning, the time a group of boys shaved their heads in solidarity for another suffering from cancer, or describing the medieval sword project (wherein points were taken off if they could not withstand the "smack" and "poke" test, Taylor Mali has created a book that has come at the right time for the right group of people.

An extended love letter to the practice of teaching and to those who have answ
Yesterday I missed school to attend a workshop for teachers. I have to admit that I was the most excited to listen to the visiting authors, however, I did get some good strategies from the breakout sessions. One of the authors who spoke was Taylor Mali. I bought the only book they had for us at the conference. I thought that I was buying a poetry book, since he was known for his poetry, so I was surprised when I looked inside and found a regular book.
Some of the chapters tell the stories behi
Jan Priddy
WHAT TEACHERS MAKE: IN PRAISE OF THE GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD by Taylor Mali (2012) “is a valentine to teachers everywhere” according to Kirkus Reviews. I loved it almost as much as I loved seeing his video poem on YouTube for the first time years ago, “What Teachers Make” [Google it]. He seems to have accumulated the wisdom I have won over decades of teaching, and here is my quibble—with nine years of teaching in private schools, he’s now free-lancing. And there’s an irony in the fact that the ...more
"[I make a goddamn difference.] Now what about you?" - Taylor Mali, What Teachers Make

I think I'll come back to this book often to remind me of the importance of my struggles in the field of education. With all of the teacher hate that often happens during a time of economic turmoil, an advocate and teacher enthusiast like Taylor Mali is much appreciated. I have listened to Taylor Mali's poem, "What Teachers Make" thanks to TED, and I will admit that reading the poem choked me up just as Mali's
Colleen Wainwright
Given the small size and the title (for Mali's rightfully famous poem of the same name), I feared this might be a throwaway or worse, an opportunistic grab at the friends-and-families-of-teachers market. (And it's not completely cynicism: the endpaper has a "To:/From" inscription, outlined by the slogan "Teachers Make a Difference"; I would not be surprised if publication date coincided with Teacher Appreciation Day.)

Never mind all that. This is a lovely book full of wonderful stories that remin
Mark Schlatter
A paean to teachers written by a former teacher who is now a poet. I liked much of the book, including the perfect answer of "never" to the question "when we will use this?" --- because you will never use the exact same math problem you learned to solve, but will hopefully use the flexibility and problem-solving skills you developed. However, it's a fairly scattershot work with short chapters, digressive poems, and no strong theme except how teachers are undervalued.
Steele Dimmock
Inspiring and thought provoking look at Taylor Mali's experience as a teacher. His stories of teaching students were so rich and heart-warming, it certainly made me contemplate a career change.

I liked his approach of calling student parents with good news, as well as bad. It has made me appreciate the work teachers and showed me how rewarding the role can be.
I feel like the people who will read this book are the people who already agree with everything in this book. It's the people who don't agree and who treat teachers like second-class citizens and worthless contributors to society who probably won't read this book, but those are the people who need to read this book. The author, Taylor Mali, was a teacher for nine years, and he writes a lot about his personal experiences in the classroom. This is a short book with even shorter chapters, so it's a ...more
Brian Carr
Shortly after I began my studies for an education degree, a good friend shared a video with me for a poem entitled "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali. I'm not generally a fan of poetry, but this is free form and echoes my reasons for being a teacher. Teaching can be a thankless, low paying and frustrating job (although thankfully my job is not really any of these), but for those of us that love young people, are truly interested in what they have to say, and believe we can make the world better ...more
Mali is incredibly inspirational. Would have loved to get a few more ideas sprinkled in the book for my experience with teaching. Still a great book that I know will be good to rely on when I'm running out of enthusiasm (which hopefully won't happen).
David Christie
a kind of sermon likely, unfortunately, to be heard only by the choir, this reflection on the power and nobility and responsibility and wonder of the most important calling in our society made this teacher feel validated.
I borrowed this book a long time ago from a friend and fellow teacher, and I'm glad that I saved it to read until the lead-up to a new school year.

It's a timely read because currently, teachers in Ontario are negotiating a new contract with the government of Ontario, and as whenever this happens, the number of anti-teacher comments on newspaper articles, etc. skyrocket and always bring me down.

No one goes into teaching for money or summers off. You need to truly love the job, and the students th
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Taylor Mali is a former teacher and classically trained actor who now makes his living as a professional poet. One of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, he is a veteran of the poetry slam and the author of What Learning Leaves and several spoken word CDs and DVDs. He lives and writes in New York City. For more information, visit"
More about Taylor Mali...
What Learning Leaves The Last Time as We Are Conviction Bouquet of Red Flags O&s: Summer Volume 2, Issue 4, 2009

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“And I want to tell her… [that] changing your mind is one of the best ways of finding out whether or not you still have one.” 2 likes
“There is no better outcome of one’s education, which the American philosopher William Durant called “a progressive discovery of our ignorance.” 0 likes
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