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Day 29: What Do Teachers Make?


Day 29

Teachers make weeds feel beautiful, tall, and loved.

I came back to America from Korea and was sick and tired of the hatred against teachers in the education system. I hate how it became a political agenda and there was a need to vilify educators for stupid short term goals and saving money. Teachers are blamed for everything – from not doing enough to doing too much. I don’t want to go too deep into it. But I want to show three videos. Two by Tayler Mali and one video response to him. I’ve also included his written words.

What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school

He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about
teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite company.

“I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor,” he says.
“Be honest. What do you make?”

And I wish he hadn’t done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you get a drink of water?
Because you’re not thirsty, you’re bored, that’s why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

Miracle Workers
by Taylor Mali (www.taylormali.com)

Sunday nights I lie awake—
as all teachers do—
and wait for sleep to come
like the last student in my class to arrive.
My grading is done, my lesson plans are in order,
and still sleep wanders the hallways like Lower School music.
I’m a teacher. This is what I do.

Like a builder builds, or a sculptor sculpts,
a preacher preaches, and a teacher teaches.
This is what we do.
We are experts in the art of explanation:
I know the difference between questions
to answer and questions to ask.

That’s an excellent question.
What do you think?

If two boys are fighting, I break it up.
But if two girls are fighting, I wait until it’s over and then drag what’s left to the nurse’s office.
I’m not your mother, or your father,
or your jailer, or your torturer,
or your biggest fan in the whole wide world
even if sometimes I am all of these things.
I know you can do these things I make you do.
That’s why I make you do them.
I’m a teacher. This is what I do.

Once in a restaurant, when the waiter asked me
if I wanted anything else, and I said,
“No, thank you, just the check, please,”
and he said, “How about a look at the dessert menu?”
I knew I had become a teacher when I said,
“What did I just say?
Please don’t make me repeat myself!”

In the quiet hours of the dawn
I write assignment sheets and print them
without spell checking them. Because I’m a teacher,
and teachers don’t make spelling mistakes.
So yes, as a matter of fact, the new dress cod
will apply to all members of the 5th, 6th, and 78th grades;
and if you need an extension on your 55-paragraph essays
examining The Pubic Wars from an hysterical perspective
you may have only until January 331st.
I trust that won’t be a problem for anyone?

I like to lecture on love and speak on responsibility.
I hold forth on humility, compassion, eloquence, and honesty.
And when my students ask,
“Are we going to be responsible for this?”
I say, If not you, then who?
You think my generation will be responsible?
We’re the ones who got you into this mess,
now you are our only hope.
And when they say, “What we meant
was, ‘Will we be tested on this?’”
I say Every single day of your lives!

Once, I put a pencil on the desk of a student
who was digging in her backpack for a pencil.
But she didn’t see me do it, so when I walked
to the other side of the room and she raised her hand
and asked if she could borrow a pencil,
I intoned, In the name of Socrates and Jesus,
and all the gods of teaching,
I declare you already possess everything you will ever need!
Shazzam!
“You are the weirdest teacher I have ever—”
Then she saw the pencil on her desk and screamed.
“You’re a miracle worker! How did you do that?”

I just gave you what I knew you needed
before you had to ask for it.
Education is the miracle, I’m just the worker.
But I’m a teacher.
And that’s what we do.

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April 30, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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