Curtain Call: Instigating Inspiration

Taylor Mali to ‘make a difference’ at Marywood March 19

Best known for the slam poem “What Teachers Make,” Taylor Mali’s passionate performances leaves listeners begging to be teacher’s pet, if not out-and-out considering a career change. Written in response to a man’s dinner party doubting of the profession, the poem has literally “inspired a movement.”
In the past 12 years, Mali has personally persuaded 1,000 potential educators to take the plunge with his New Teachers Project. He’s celebrating this success with the release of a new book What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World, and a book tour that will bring him to Marywood University’s Sette LaVerghetta Center for the Performing Arts on March 19. The poet’s performance is sponsored by the English Department and the English Club and is offered free of charge.
“You wanna know what I make, I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write, write, write, and then I make them read,” the famous poem reads. Or, is meant to be read out loud.
In keeping with the performance requirement of slam, the piece is best experienced out of the mouth of the poet himself. Watch Taylor Mali read “What Teacher’s Make” at the Bowery Poetry Club on Nov. 12, 2005 via the poet’s own YouTube page at It’s estimated this clip and other takes have been seen and forwarded millions of time on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Born in New York City in 1966 to a children’s book author and a business executive, Mali studied at Bowdoin College and earned an M.A. in Engligh/Creative writing before teaching for nine years at an Upper East Side Boys’ School and later a private school in Massachusetts. He also studied drama with the Royal Shakespeare Academy at Oxford. His great-great-grandfather is the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Of the seven National Poetry Slam teams he has been on, six made it to finals and four won the competition. He appears in the 1997 documentary SlamNation and HBO’s Russell Summons Presents Def Poetry among other films. Previous books include What Learning Leaves and The Last Time as We Are. He has also recorded four CDs.
The official release day of What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World is March 29 (the day after the poet’s birthday). It’s been described as “an impassioned defense of teachers and why our society needs them now more than ever.” Those in attendance at the March 19 show, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., will be among the last to see Mali before he cuts off his trademark long locks on stage at the Bowery Poetry Club on April 7. Ten inches of wavy dark blond ponytail will be donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths to make wigs for children battling cancer.
“Teachers make a goddamned difference,” Mali’s poem concludes. “How about you?”
Call 348-6211 x2266 or email for more information. The poet’s website can be found at

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