Friday, March 23, 2012

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

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.

Today, Mali writes this memoir and series of essays as not only a tribute to the teaching profession, but also as a way to explain everything that inspired him to write that poem. The encounter with the lawyer was the impetus for writing the poem, but he also goes on to explain all of the other stanzas that he wrote as a result of the lawyer that fueled his ire.

But Mali wants to do more than just explain his motivations for writing a poem in this book. He wrote it as a tribute to teachers. In a society that has pegged us as greedy and lazy, Mali asks that we take a step back and look at what teachers sacrifice for the sake of their students. He logically and thoughtfully reminds us of the very things that teachers have been saying for years: in a country of extreme greed and brazen excess, the people who give of themselves the most are the ones who are being attacked. How is that justice?

The purpose of this book, as Mali states in the introduction is, "Someone needs to remind teachers that they are dearly loved. I'm that guy."

This book, however, isn't just a stating of the obvious injustices of how teachers are treated today, but it's also a celebration of small victories and the little moments in our classrooms that so often make us laugh or cry. Mali taught in classrooms for nine years and then left to pursue a career as a full-time poet (who does that in this day and age?) and advocate for the teaching profession. But from reading this book, you quickly realize that the classroom lost a wonderful teacher. Not only is his wisdom easily apparent, but you quickly begin to wish your own children could have him as their teacher.

This book is the perfect gift for any teacher, but as it is preaching to the choir, a better choice would be for a person in need of some enlightenment about how hard teachers work (for so little money).

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali
Publication Date: March 29, 2012
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 197
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Book received for review from publisher

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