Day 48: What do teachers make? A post inspired by ted speaker Taylor Mali

When setting out to do my Amazing Human series I didn’t set out to feature teachers.  It’s not that I was intentionally staying clear of teachers, it’s just that they weren’t front of mind when I was thinking about who to include in my Amazing Human series, but after listening to Rita Pierson talk earlier this week I have a new found appreciation for teachers and what they do.

 I am ashamed to say this, but I never gave teachers proper credit before. Sure on some level I knew that teachers are important at educating new generations, but I never really stopped to think about what difference they could really make, not only on an academic level but also on character building.

On Day 42 I published a post by Tedx speaker Barbara Corcoran. Barbara candidly spoke about the emotional scars that her primary school teacher had left on her self-esteem. That reminded me of the damage that teachers could do.  Perhaps this why, on some subconscious level, I chose to feature good teaches this week. Teacher with heart, who are well aware of the responsibility that parents and the community have given them.

Who is Taylor Mali?

Taylor Mali is a former teacher and current poetry-slam artist. Although no longer a teacher he is still a teacher’s advocate, protecting the nobility of an occupation that seems to loose it’s shine with each new generation.    Taylor’s talk/poetry-slam “What teachers make” is  a talk inspired by a dinner conversation that Taylor had with a lawyer.  The lawyer reminded the other guests of that well-worn out phrase used to describe teachers “those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.”  I guess it hadn’t occurred to the lawyer that some people genuinely love helping others by teaching.

The lawyer argued that “the problem with teachers is that, what’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided that his best option in life was to become a teacher?” A brazen question loaded with patronisation and intended to cause shame.

What do teachers make?

The lawyer asked that one question which we all hate to ask and be asked; “what do you make?” It’s a question with a hidden agenda.  It’s a nosey question that some cant resist asking as if finding out that they make more money than you makes them a higher quality person. It’s a question that can make one feel inferior for not making the same amount of money as other people.   The truth is, it’s a question that reveals more about the values of the asker than the person actually being asked the question.

What Taylor makes as  a teacher

I absolutely loved Taylor’s response to that question and highly recommend you watching the clip to hear it for yourself.  To give you a hint Taylor took the question out of the financial frame and instead reframed into the tangible things a teacher does such as “I can make a C+ feel like a congressional medal of honour.” “I make kids wonder. I make kids question. I make them criticise. I make them apologise and mean it.”

Taylor may no longer be a teacher but he is still very much a teachers advocate and has helped to generate a new breed of teachers, 1000 teachers in fact. 1000 teachers who he has inspired to take up the profession through “poetry, persuasion and perseverance” You can read their stories on Taylor’s website.



What did you think about taylor’s response to being asked how much money he makes? I would love to know what you think in the comments below.

Vanessa Rose