Monday, April 28, 2008

What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

Taylor Mali is a self-described teacher, poet, and vocal advocate of the nobility of teaching. In 1999 he wrote the poem "What Teachers Make," which according to Taylor has since been "elevated/reduced to the level of Inspirational Cyber Spam." On his personal website, Taylor explains how his poem went viral:
Since the poem appeared on my website, I figured my name was unnecessary. But I was wrong. I suspect the text of the poem got copied, pasted, and sent by well meaning teachers and fans. Soon enough, the poem became anonymous, and people began to edit, alter, and "sanitize" it. There are, to my knowledge, at least five different versions of the poem out there circulating. All of them are anonymous.

The poem has taken on a life of its own. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, quoted one of the anonymous versions in its entirety as part of his Yale graduation speech in 2003. This led to quotation by Harvey Mackay, the syndicated business columnist. National Public Radio did a story about the adventures of the poem in 2004. Am I disappointed not to have received credit for writing this poem that has inspired so many? Used to be. But the truth will always come out in the end. And if I had to choose between inspiring teachers anonymously or not inspiring them at all, I would choose anonymous inspiration every time.

Taylor has been on seven National Poetry Slam teams, of which six appeared on the finals stage and four won the competition. He has appeared on the HBO original series 'Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,' and is still active in the Poetry Slam circuit. Taylor also currently lectures and leads workshops on teaching.

Here he is performing the unsanitized "What Teachers Make:"

And here is a second, shorter video titled "The Miracle Workers," originally performed in 2007 at Bowdoin College (Taylor's alma mater).
Taylor is captivating because of his inherent intensity. The crazy Willy Wonka eyes help. The delivery is top-notch, the flow fantastic, and the message inspiring without being cheesy. A+ teach.
(From my friend Justin 5 eons ago, and Wikipedia.)


The Teej said...

This blog entry made my day. It's hard to be a teacher, and he makes it just a bit easier. Thanks, Carol.

W. E. B. Du Blag said...

I'm glad you like it Teej! Taylor makes me wish I taught.