Book Review: What Teachers Make

I suspect if you are reading this blog that you have come across one version or another of poet Taylor Mali’s now-famous poem, “What Teachers Make.” If not, here is the video of him performing it.

I share that performance because Mali, a former teacher himself, has put out a wonderfully inspiring collection of short essays that are built around the themes of the poem, and this book-sized love letter to the profession of teaching (the book is subtitled In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World) struck so many nerves with me (at turns, I was laughing; at others, I was tearing up) that you just have to add this to your collection, and then you just have to pass it along to a colleague.

I won’t go through all of my reactions to the book, mainly because I was doing that on Goodreads as I was reading, so it makes more sense just to share what I wrote there, here. I will say that Mali’s sense of humanity and passion for seeing the whole student — the critical thinker, the writer, the member of a community of the world and the classroom — underlies all of his pieces here. And he also mentions how he is still on his mission to inspire 1,000 people to become teachers (he may have hit his goal. He was close when the book was going to the publisher.) Even he acknowledges that the number itself is not all that meaningful. But raising the profile of teaching, and of teachers, in this day and age of political teacher-bashing is something he takes on with pride.

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the WorldWhat Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Years ago, I read the poem, watched the video (you should, too), and thought: you go, man! And that one poem turned me on to other Mali poems, which were also powerful and beautiful. So, I was excited to see that he was using that famous poem as the narrative structure of a series of essays about teachers. This book is a keeper. And when you are done … pass it on.

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what teachers make 2

I, for one, appreciate having this poet on my side. Thank you, Taylor.

Peace (in the profession),


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