Everyone should have someone in his or her life like my husband Bob. He is my biggest fan, someone who believes in me and the importance of what I do more than I can even begin to grasp. He carries around my cards and books and is quick to share a story about my classes on the golf course, at the gym, anywhere. He’s a hairdresser—yes, he does my hair—and his station at work looks like a Writing Your Life display; books and brochures stand out among the blow dryers, curling irons and brushes.

Last Saturday, he’s waiting as I walk in the door, a grin stretched across his face. “I have something I want to read to you,” he says. I put down my bag and give him my undivided attention. He picks up a small book, opens it, flips a few pages and begins to read:

He says the problem with teachers is
What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
was to become a teacher?
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true
what they say about teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I cringe a little inside. I’ve heard those same words, but I know my husband well enough to know this is not his destination. He continues,

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.
I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?
And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-¬kicking:
if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
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
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?

By now, I have tears in my eyes for a number of reasons, primarily because of my husband’s deep belief that I am in this category of someone who makes a difference, so much so that he would read these powerful words to me.

I’m also thinking about the many teachers I’ve had throughout my life who expected my best and settled for nothing less. Most recently, I think about Dr. Lezlie Laws, who teaches writing at the Rollins College Hamilton Holt School, and how fifteen years ago I crept into a class she taught on memoir. I had not written a word in more than a decade, felt defeated and went only at the suggestion of a friend.  Dr. Laws found the flicker that still lived inside of me and tended it with encouragement and guidance. She got me back to the page, which took my life in an entirely different and wonderful direction.

Bob read to the end:

Here, let me break it down for you,
so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a difference!
Now what about you?

He smiled. I cried. We hugged, and once again, I knew I was married to the best husband in the world.

The poem Bob read is titled “What Teachers Make, or Objection Overruled, or If Things Don’t Work Out, You Can Always Go to Law School,” and it was written by Taylor Mali, a poet, former teacher and advocate of the profession. His book, which combines both his poetry and prose, is What Teacher’s Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. You can click here to read the complete poem, or better yet, see him perform this work, click here.

So what about you? If you were a teacher, what did you make? Who was a teacher who took an interest in you and helped change your life?

Post your comments and pay tribute down below, and then send this to a teacher who has impacted your life or one you know is making a difference in the lives of his or her students. Dr. Laws…this is coming your way.

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