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April 5, 2011 / amivglobus

Making a Fucking Difference

I have a thing for teachers. It breaks my heart, the disrespect and the negative media attention they get. The blame they are assigned for things way beyond both their control and their job description. Don’t get me started.

Anyway, I’ve read the text of this piece several times and I don’t think I ever saw it properly attributed. The author, Taylor Mali, explains it this way on his web site:

The story of “What Teachers Make”

I am well aware that “What Teachers Make,” a poem I wrote in 1999, has been elevated/reduced to the level of Inspirational Cyber Spam. It started happening shortly after I posted an unattributed draft of the poem on this very website. Since the poem appeared on my website, I figured my name was unnecessary. But I was wrong. I suspect the text of the poem got copied, pasted, and sent by well meaning teachers and fans. Soon enough, the poem became anonymous, and people began to edit, alter, and “sanitize” it. There are, to my knowledge, at least five different versions of the poem out there circulating. All of them are anonymous.

The poem has taken on a life of its own. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, quoted one of the anonymous versions in its entirety as part of his Yale graduation speech in 2003. This led to quotation by Harvey Mackay, the syndicated business columnist. National Public Radio did a story about the adventures of the poem in 2004. Am I disappointed not to have received credit for writing this poem that has inspired so many? Used to be. But the truth will always come out in the end. And if I had to choose between inspiring teachers anonymously or not inspiring them at all, I would choose anonymous inspiration every time.

So here he is performing it. Inspiring. And making a difference.

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