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"Memento Mori"

What is the PRECIOUS thing you TREASURE most in your LIFE?

"Memento Mori" means:

Remember you are mortal...

Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur,
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur,
Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur,

Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.


"What Teachers Make"



Inside the dining room owned by a lawyer, there sat a several guests from different jobs whom he had invited. One of them is a banker, one is a doctor, one is a teacher, and others were from various jobs. The dinner was simply begun with the host’s speech. The lawyer questioned the problem with the teacher, “What is a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option life was to become a teacher? The guests all laughed, but one.

The lawyer continued, “You know,” he glanced to everyone. “People studied, and those who excelled in what they learnt, they chase after their dreams. Just like us, sitting here. But those who were unlucky, teach.” Again, everyone burst out their laugh. Their laughter brought them to tears, anyone but Taylor Mali. He decided to bite his tongue instead of following along his colleagues, and resisted the temptation to remind the dinner guests that it is also true what people said about lawyers. But he held his tongue. After all, this is a polite conversation held in a dinner reserved by a lawyer himself.

“Well, I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor. Be honest, what do you make?” suddenly the host addressed the question into Taylor.

“You really want to know?” Taylor angered. He let out the urge which he had long kept. “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 for those who are not the brightest, and an A- feel like a slap in the face for the brightest ones. I have kids sit through forty minutes of study hall in absolute silence at exams. I didn’t let them to go to the bathroom? Because why? They are bored, that’s why. I could distinguish those who really were going to the lavatory and those who pretended.”

“And do you what else I make? I make parents terrible in fear when I call home. I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read and read. I make them spell, 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’ve got brain and follow the heart.”

Gritting his teeth, Taylor walked into the lawyer’s seat, clenching his hand. “You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them recognize the world. Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true. Teachers make a lot difference. Now, what about you?” He walked out the room, leaving the lawyer and the guests swallow their silence.

This dialogue actually happened, experienced and expressed in a famous American slam poem (free verses) which has won four winning teams at the National Poetry Slam competition. The poem’s title was ‘What Teacher Make’ by Taylor Mali.

Taylor was a teacher. He worked as an English, History and Math teacher for 9 years and continues to be an advocate for teachers all over the world. This poem would make very good follow-up to the Erica Goldson graduation speech. While the education system nowadays might not be perfect, teachers are the unsung heroes of the education system and there is nothing for them but praise and respect for the profession. Teachers can make all the difference – having a mediocre one can really damage a student’s potential, but the right one can inspire a child to greatness.

‘What the teachers make’ is all what Taylor insisted. The students are not to do only what they were told. They should ask questions. They must not mindlessly memorize then regurgitate facts and figures. They must not write out an entire essay for homework, memorize it, only to promptly forget it and move on to the next assignment. Well this could be good in some way. Those who followed along the system most prominently are near the top of the class. But on hindsight, did they learn much? While the pattern still continued as they went on to college, and yes, the piece of paper the students received at the end of university did help them to land a job. But did they finish their purpose in a proper way?

While basically managing the student’s activities in school and offering them the basic knowledge, the teacher’s duty is to bring out the potential in every student, maximize it, teach them the right manner and guide them in the proper way. Before doing so, teachers must come in term with their selves, do they love their jobs or not? If someone teaches hatefully, they will not do as well as those who love it. Rather than just having an effect on the teacher himself though, it trickles down into children. How well the students learn the subject, their interest in that subject, their desire to be at school sometimes, will be determined by how well the teachers could appoint it to them, how great the life at school is ever be.


After all, the good education system will never allow the students to be a robot wandering the streets mindlessly without having a single clue about what he wants to do in his life. Becoming a teacher is not only to make students excel in every subject. They must able to be acquainted with them professionally (as the teacher and student relationship) and emotionally (as befriending them, becoming the guidance whom replaces parents at school). Teaching is not a simple profession. While maintaining the proper acquaintance, they must able to guide the students to utilize what they learn in the best of what should they become. So, we ordinary people still, what do we make?

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Once published in La Tansa magazine, December edition.