What do teachers make?

The dinner guests were
sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain
the problem with education.


He argued, ‘What’s a kid
going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a

He reminded the other
dinner guests what they say about teachers: ‘Those who can, do. Those who
can’t, teach.’

To emphasize his point he
said to another guest; ‘You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?’

North Park University


18 pt
18 pt


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Bonnie, who had a
reputation for honesty and frankness replied, ‘You want to know what I make?

(She paused for a second,
then began…)

‘Well, I make kids work
harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the
Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40
minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an I
Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I
make?’ (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)

”I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and
mean it.

I make them have respect
and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and
then I make them write.

Keyboarding isn’t

I make them read, read,

I make them show all their
work in math. They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from
other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving
their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place
where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand,
placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the
Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America .

I make them understand that
if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they
can succeed in life.’

(Bonnie paused one last
time and then continued.)

‘Then, when people try to
judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my
head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…


You want to know what I


do you make Mr. CEO?’

His jaw dropped, he went


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  • Phil

    My wife’s a teacher, I’m a pastor. Too true…

  • Too bad there aren’t more Bonnies in our public schools. Some school’s policies would even prevent a ‘Bonnie’ from doing half the things she manages to do.

  • Now that is a keeper! What a statement.

  • RJS

    Good thoughts.
    Your composition or from a source?

  • My wife’s a teacher. She makes a difference in kids lives. Thanks for the post, Scott.

  • Joan Ball

    Teachers also make CEOs.

  • ChrisB

    Nice, but being a blogger, I have to rewrite it for brevity:
    “I make CEOs.”

  • Jon

    Yes I agree wholeheartedly! Teachers make a difference while people fuss about how much they are making in terms of cash. I aspire to teach and be a teacher and these words further reaffirm the need and purpose for teachers!

  • Thanks for sharing this piece, it is awesome to remind the money machines of the world we are nothing without our teachers. Some are overpaid, others are underpaid.

  • Clay Knick

    Yes & amen!

  • Clay Knick

    One thing she could have said is, “I train future CEOs.”

  • Giving credit where credit is due, the original – and much better – version of this is by Taylor Mali. There’s a great performance on youtube:

  • RJS

    Excellent video.

  • Nathan

    Why should a student be made to feel barely passing is equal to the honor of achieving something worthy of the Congressional Medal of Honor? What does that leave the student who actually succeeds in getting an A, do they get to feel like they’ve ascended into heaven?
    A teacher like this makes the rest of us feel like we wasted our time.

  • Chris

    As the son of a high school English teacher and an adjunct teacher for some colleges and seminaries, I duly appreciate Bonnie’s chutzpah. However, I would take issue with her making “students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America.” As a Christian and a father, I do not want anyone “making” my children pledge allegiance to anything. I hope that my children one day pledge their allegiance to Jesus. I hope I model for them what that sort of allegiance looks like. Whether they pledge allegiance to a flag is not for a teacher, no matter how effective he or she may be at making students do other things, to decide.

  • Nathan,
    What a terribly reductionistic and overly-simplified way to look at that statement. I was a pretty good student, got a lot of A’s through all my schooling, and until college and graduate work, I pretty much coasted. I, in fact, probably wasted more time in my secondary education than many of my classmates who had to bust their butts to graduate, to get that C+ that allowed them to walk proudly across our graduate stage. The point is that education is about learning, and sometimes a C+ for certain students is the best they can do, and in fact they did learn something. Why we would want to make them feel bad about this, or not encourage them in what they can do, is beyond me. So, good for those teachers that are willing to see the contextual nature of teaching, who are able to discern when a C+ is worthy of accomplishment, and an A- is a chance to encourage a different student to work harder next time.

  • Karl

    Nathan, C means (or is supposed to mean) average. A C+ should mean just slightly above average.
    If a kid is only of average ability – or say the kid is of less than average ability – then getting a C+ is a heck of an achievement for that kid and if a teacher sees this and inspires the kid to do the best possible job and earn a C+ and then makes such a kid feel like a medal winner instead of a dummy, that teacher is doing a heck of a good job.

  • Pete

    I don’t want my kid in Bonnie’s class.
    What an ego!

  • This is a shortened version of a spoken word piece done on Def Poetry Jam, Season 1. It was a guy performing it and he rocked it.

  • Jonathan

    Nathan – we live in a society in which everyone gets a trophy, she is trying to make kids earn theirs!
    Chris – she is teaching them to be patriotic!
    Pete – SHUT UP!

  • Stephen

    Paul, it’s not a shorter version, it is ripped off from Taylor Mali’s original, with several bad changes like the pledge of allegiance addition.

  • Barb

    I posted the Taylor Mali video to my Facebook–it’s great.
    Pete, I don’t understand your comment about the teacher’s “ego.” I loved when my child was taught by a teacher with that kind of confidence in her ability and gifts as a teacher.

  • Chris

    “Chris – she is teaching them to be patriotic!”
    How so?

  • Stephen’s right – the above version is ripped off and watered down from Taylor Mali’s truly brilliant original. Check it out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU

  • Chris at #15,
    Thank you. I was feeling much the same, but didn’t know how to say so without sounding overly critical of the REST of the statement. That portion was a little too much for my tastes. To Jonathan in #20, frankly, it’s not real patriotism if someone’s “made” to do it.

  • As the “kids” say these days, “owned!” (or pwned but that just looks stupid to me!)
    At one point in my undergrad I was feeling incapable and discouraged, especially in math. My discrete math prof taught with enthusiasm. He would have chalk (he was one of the last teachers to go to white boards) all over his face, hands, and clothes. He pushed us hard but he showed the way. He helped my hold my head up again and gave me hope. That’s worth a lot.
    I have taught a couple classes in prison for a college extension program. The classes had to do with making web pages (they didn’t have Internet access but they could make their own pages and view them). When we got to the section that let them use color – set background and borders and colored areas of the page and such – they LOVED it. They see a lot of khaki and gray. I didn’t make them do it but I helped them smile. In prison, that’s worth a lot.

  • Whoa!!! Now I know why property taxes are so high!!!

  • I think Bonnie’s example is a perfect illustration of the mental thought process that leads many female teachers to burn-out. It is honorable to give oneself for others, but I would like to see some stats on the long term effects of adopting this as a personal teaching philosophy. Many female teachers I know – who remain good teachers for a lifetime – have needed to pull away from ideals like this.

  • Taylor Mali (http://www.taylormali.com) is the original author of this piece (so it would be good to name him in the blog post) he also has a number of videos of his work and other pieces of work on his website. his youtube channel has the original piece online (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xuFnP5N2uA)
    honestly, i prefer his original than the piece you ended up including in this post…

  • Mike

    As an executive for a large company with a rising stock price, I feel the calling to a deeper, more important role as a teacher. Pray that I might have the courage, strength and intelligence to follow my calling.

  • Nathan

    Erik #16,
    The goal of a teacher SHOULD be to reward progress and push them to excel beyond a C+, even if they worked REALLY hard to get there. But it’s also important to keep in mind that the people who get As have managed to accomplish something of significant value and should not be ignored in favor of the people who barely-get-by.
    Karl, 17:
    The fact that a C is considered acceptable is one of the problem with our society. We should never aim for slightly-above-average as the level of success, it drags our standards down to mediocrity.
    Pete, 18:
    I think you have a point. We need to be cautious of anyone who appears to thinks they function as the lynch pin of society.
    Jonathan 20:
    That’s exactly the point. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone succeeds, a C+ is the Congressional Medal of Honor—what’s the point then?

  • Jared

    As a culture we like those aspects of life which are measureable. Knowing roughly a persons income gives you a sense of their ‘value’ to society. I am sure we would agree this is a poor measure but an easily captured piece of information. I like the teachers response because it questions the premise of the ceo’s question; how valuable are you. Answering the question would cheapen her as a person not just her working contribution. We are much more concerned with what we do than the nearly immeasureable value of being people of good value.