If You Hate People Asking What You 'Make,' You'll Love This Teacher's Reply


Tenth-generation New Yorker Taylor Mali describes himself as a "poet, performer, educator, and agonist." A graduate of Bowdoin College and Kansas State University, the 49-year-old spent nine years teaching math, English, and history and has been on four winning National Poetry Slam teams.


Mali is probably best known for this piece where he addresses his role as an educator with the voice of a poet.

The poem, "What Does A Teacher Make," has seen regular viral popularity for nearly a decade. It's a hard-hitting takedown of the status anxieties inherent to American society that lead some people to judge others by their income or profession.

The question, "so what do you make?" is less an inquiry into someone's personal financial situation than it is an attempt to assert income as the primary indicator of personal or societal value.

Mali succeeds in dismantling the argument with the sharp wit of a poet... and the passion of a teacher. 

We're happy to present it to you again as a reminder that people are not their paychecks.


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