What Do Teachers Make?

a story retold from Taylor Mali by Alan Emrich

As we sat around the dinner table discussing our education system, our friend's guest committed an unpardonable faux pas. He asked rhetorically, "What can a kid really learn from someone who decided their best option in life was to become a teacher?" Adding that it's true what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

Since we're eating and this is polite company, I keep my thoughts to myself, but he goes on with "I mean, you're a teacher, Alan. Be honest, what do you make?"

Now he'd done it. He compounded his first mistake (mouthing off) with a second (bringing me into the conversation and, worse, asking me to be honest). Since he honestly deserved to have his head handed back to him on this subject, I let him have it as I went down the list:

"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.

  • And how dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best?

  • I make parents tremble in fear when I call home: "Hello, this is Rick's teacher from school. I hope I haven't called at a bad time; I just wanted to talk to you about something he said today. Rick said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?" and it was one of the most noble acts 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 growing minds wonder; I make them question; I make them criticize.

  • I make them apologize and mean it.

  • I make them write.

  • And I make them read, read, read.

  • I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, and 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 then hide it on their final drafts in English.

  • I make them understand that if you have brains then you follow your heart and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make (like some people), you pay them no attention.

"Let me break it down for you, so you know what I'm saying is true: I make the difference in the lives of hundreds of young people. So what about you? What do you make