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What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World Hardcover – March 29, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Anyone who goes into the low-paying profession of teaching is too dumb to teach. That insult, delivered by a lawyer at a dinner party, set Mali to writing a poem in answer to the question—What do you make?—that sparked the insult. His poem, which went viral, addressed the question not from the perspective of monetary earnings but from the perspective of what teachers actually make or contribute to the lives of students. Teachers make students wonder, think, create—all the great things we hope for children. Mali left teaching to explore his love of poetry but kept at the theme of what teachers make, eventually taking on a commitment to inspire 1,000 people to become teachers. This book is in part an inspiring anthem for teaching and in part a practical guide to effective teaching techniques. Mali ends with a plea for better teacher training, incentives for teachers to teach in underperforming schools, and a heartfelt plea never to give up on struggling students, whatever their backgrounds. An inspirational tribute to teaching and learning. --Vanessa Bush


 “Big, bright life lessons in a pocket-sized package…Delivers a powerfully positive message…A valentine to teachers everywhere. Mali proves himself a dedicated, caring teacher within what he considers a hobbled American education system.”

Kirkus Reviews

 “Straightforward, fast-paced, and trenchant. … [An] evocative, small book bulging with a big idea—“to remind teachers that they are dearly loved.” ”

Publishers Weekly

 “A heartfelt plea never to give up… An inspirational tribute to teaching and learning.”



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (March 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399158545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399158544
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Pokkyarath on March 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading this book I felt I was having a coffee get-together with a great teacher and a wonderful person. The book starts of with the poem that went viral and it's followed by close to thirty small essays where the teacher zips in and out of various topics. We hear a justified outrage towards society for "being judged by the size of our paycheck instead of by the difference we make"; personal anecdotes from the author's teaching experience from different parts of the world; tips, learning experiences and pointers that helps in the "art of explanation"; emotions and tears while making calls to the student's parents; introductions to the author's mentors and more. Towards the end, the teacher also counters the criticism levelled at teachers saying that ineffective teachers shouldn't be seen as representative of teachers everywhere and that the accusations of greed just doesn't hold up if you look at the numbers. The book touches upon some of the educational policy issues but the focus in on the author's personal experience. So it's not a detailed look or analysis of the points one see in the recent discussions regarding education policy: classroom size, publicizing the performance data etc.

Yes, good teachers certainly need to be reminded that "they're dearly loved" and I'm only glad to support Teacher Mali and his 'thousand teacher' cause. Plus one star for reminding me that it's been a while since I paid visit to some of my teachers back from the school days.

Now, a question to me and others:
Teachers make a difference.
Now what about you?
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Format: Hardcover
If the title of this book sounds familiar to you, it might be because you have witnessed author Taylor Mali perform the poem of the same title -- a stirring and freshly modern defense of teaching -- at your school or local performance space. Or maybe it was forwarded to you as a text via email, with Taylor Mali's name attached (or not). Or maybe you are one of the people responsible for the SIX MILLION+ hits the poem has received on YouTube (feel free to look it up yourself if you haven't seen it yet). And based on this, and Taylor's decade-plus long career as a touring poet & teaching artist, you might assume that this book is a collection of poetry.

But while "What Teachers Make" (the book!) does contain (some) poetry, it is so much more than that.

In this extraordinarily charming book of essays, Mali shares his thoughtful & smart insights on the ups and downs, challenges and breakthroughs, struggles and triumphs that comes the mantle of teaching. Mali inspires and motivates, and through an extensive collection of poignant & funny anecdotes showcases how teaching is truly a science and an art... and perhaps more than that, it is a calling which should be deeply respected and honored.

I highly recommend this book to any teachers or teachers-to-be. But also, I would recommend it to the parents or skeptical family members of people who are choosing the teaching profession. It makes an incredible & compelling case for teaching, and I wouldn't be surprised if people began gifting "What Teachers Makes" to the disbelieving people in their lives, and simply said, "Read this. It will explain everything."
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Format: Hardcover
Right out of the gate, Taylor Mali illustrates the basic disrespect our society has for teachers, those people we ENTRUST to teach (encourage, nurture and even raise) our children. "Those who can't teach" goes that mean old saw. "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" (sneers a guest at a dinner party). This kind of attitude is what drives our best and brightest away from what should be an honored profession, and degrades people who have taken on a vocation that most of us would find daunting. And it's not world-wide; for example, in Japan, the word "sensei" or teacher is one of the highest honorifics you can be awarded, and teachers are given a high place in society. But teaching our young is a terribly vital role, and this is just one disconnect in our society that is taking a terrible toll on our future. The author states categorically "There can NEVER be a lost generation."

In poetic and experiential terms, the author describes the illuminating moments in his life as a teacher, when he hit the heights of joy by inspiring his students, when it seemed impossible to make any changes at all in their lives. He tells us the story of the student who dies of cancer, but whose classmates shave their heads in solidarity with his him and his chemotherapy-ravaged scalp. He talks about kids who wear the same clothes every day and come to school hungry, the kids people give up on, and decides that he should never, EVER give up on anyone.

This is the attitude of a saint or missionary, and Mali seems to be making the case that being a truly great teacher requires faith, persistence and belief that there is something inside each of us that can be nurtured and brought to bloom.

Shouldn't we honor that?
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Format: Hardcover
As a high school English teacher, I am always a fan of books that promote teaching and encourage us to take a fresh look at one of the most influential and important positions in America. I was thrilled after glancing at Taylor Mali's book, and while I was excited to read it at the beginning, by the end, I was fairly disappointed.
Mali has a strong introduction, explaining how the poem which shares the same title as the book, came about, and how his career evolved as a result of this poem (he no longer is a classroom teacher, but instead, travels the world teaching poetry to students and teachers alike). Quickly, however, Mali begins focusing on short anecdotes intended to highlight the demands, intrinsic rewards and sheer joy of teaching, as seen through his own experience. I enjoyed this at first, but it soon began to feel very self-promoting and repetitive (Mali includes much of his own poetry and shares stories which are intended to highlight his academic genius).
Mali has great voice, but unfortunately, his time outside of the classroom shows. So much has changed since he was a teacher in the '90s that the book seems out of date and out of touch (Mali devotes a chapter to the genius behind creating a computer-based grade book - something that is fairly standard in most districts across the nation).
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