Taylor Mali (1965-) is a an American slam poet who has been part of four winning teams at the National Poetry Slam competition. What Teachers Make is Mali’s most well-known poem and was born out of an actual dinner conversation he had. You can view Mali performing the poem in this video and more of his work on his YouTube channel. The poem was also the title of a book Mali wrote: What Teachers Make – In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. Mali worked as an English, History and Math teacher for nine years and continues to be an advocate for teachers all over the world.

I thought this poem would make a good follow-up to last week’s Erica Goldson graduation speech. While the system might not be perfect, teachers are the unsung heroes of the education system and I have nothing but praise and respect for the profession. Teachers can make all the difference – having a mediocre one can really damage a student’s potential, but the right one can inspire a child to greatness.

I’m really honoured that a lot of teachers have told me they use Zen Pencils comics in the classroom. It’s something I never planned on happening and is such a thrill. It also makes perfect sense – I would have paid way more attention to poetry and history if they were taught with the aid of cartoons. If you’re one such teacher (or a student on the receiving end), then please share how you use them in the comments.

UPDATE: I’ve been in touch with Taylor Mali and he has kindly given me permission to make this available as a print. He also will be donating his share of the profits to The Atlantic Center for the Arts, where he is currently teaching poetry. Taylor even told me that he has used the comic as a slideshow while performing the poem – which is pretty freakin’ awesome!

– Taylor Mali’s official website.
– Thanks to George for submitting the poem.
Zen Pencils is on GoComics! My archives will be updating regularly on the biggest comics website in the world, where you can also read the entire archives of hundreds of famous comics such as Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert and Peanuts. It’s really an honour to have my work alongside these legendary strips, especially Calvin & Hobbes, which is my all-time biggest influence and inspiration. There’s also a great GoComics app you can download so you can read all your favourite strips on your phone or tablet.