What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World

Taylor Mali. Putnam, $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-399-15854-4
An insult from “an arrogant young lawyer” delivered to a prize-winning slam poet led to a work that was “copied and pasted and e-mailed around the world” and watched on YouTube by millions; this led Mali to become “a poet with a plan to improve the world one teacher at a time.” In vignettes from his peripatetic career as a middle school teacher (teaching variously English, history, and math, in locations as widespread as New York, London, Kansas, and Maine), and in interspersed poems, Mali recounts his experiences as teacher and pays tribute to those who taught him. Thoroughly anecdotal, his examples of lessons, activities, and projects are offered, not as patterns to be followed but modes of liberation for teachers. Part memoir, part encomium, this prose extension of the slam “What Teachers Make” keeps an eye on pedagogical usefulness, while eschewing a manual tone. Although occasionally treacly, the slammer in Mali keeps the work straightforward, fast-paced, and trenchant. Mali’s goal, “to convince one thousand people to become teachers,” formalized in his the New Teacher Project, finds an effective boost in this evocative small book bulging with a big idea—“to remind teachers that they are dearly loved.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 03/29/2012
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