Mali's launch into popular culture was the result of an insult -- a very common one endured by teachers -- that hit him the wrong way but at just the right time. A lawyer (not one of the good ones) sneered that teachers are those who cannot do anything, and therefore do not make anything. Unable to rest after failing to deliver a snappy retort, Mali answered the question, "What do you make?" with biting wit. His slam delivery of the poem is invigorating; but he himself recommends the version below, delivered by fellow teachers.
Soon after learning about his poetry, I found his book What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. I had a class of future teachers together the day after I bought the book, and was not able to play a video for them (we were on a boat with limited WiFi). So one of these students read the poem to the others, to great effect. I highly recommend that teachers and future teachers read this poem aloud to each other, and I will be making this book a regular part of my pedagogy class.
I'll Fight You for the Library" that he understands as well as I do that the higher ranks of educational hierarchies include some who do not necessarily value teaching. The Peter Principle ensures that some administrators are educators who were "promoted" out of jobs at which they excelled and into jobs for which they had no aptitude, while others ended up in charge of schools by some career accident. His retelling of a true story that involved one of his mentors features one of each kind -- an administrator who remains an educator and understands the purposes of a library, and one who clearly does not.
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