It ain’t easy being a teacher. Newsweek puts you on the cover, saying you need to be fired. Texas Gov. Rick Perry says you don’t need job security, as if getting additional money for teacher salaries would make teachers secure in places like Dallas, where mid-year RIFs are a too-recent, bitter memory. Heck, just looking at the curriculum in Texas can depress a teacher. Parents think you don’t call them enough, or too much — but never the Goldilocks optimum. Students? Even the best student is surly in the last period of the first day back at school.
Taylor Mali knows all about that. He taught for several years — but he struck out as a professional slam poet. His work there remains among the best tributes to teaching of the past 50 years, at least. You probably heard this poem, or somebody sent it to you in an e-mail (especially if you’re a teacher) — but attributed to “Anonymous.”
Well, here is Anonymous, the Unknown Teacher — whose name is Taylor Mali. Watch for him and his work.
This is an encore post from 2007. (Mild profanity.)
Killer lesson plans: Teachers as superheroes
Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.
Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.
[Update August 2010: Hmmmmm. Well, that video is out of commission at the moment — Mali and copyright?
Mali has a version at his website, for sale. Buy it, you have it in high fidelity audio, video and emotion.
Here’s a shorter version of the tape not available above:
It remains the single best piece about teaching and why teachers do it when they don’t get paid the big bucks, when administrators make it so hard, and when society at large wants to fire them all — they do it for the kids. What do they make?]
You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.
You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.
But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.
Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.