Miracle Workers

by Taylor Mali (www.taylormali.com)


Sunday nights I lie awake—

as all teachers do—

and wait for sleep to come

like the last student in my class to arrive.

My grading is done, my lesson plans are in order,

and still sleep wanders the hallways like Lower School music.

I’m a teacher. This is what I do.


Like a builder builds, or a sculptor sculpts,

a preacher preaches, and a teacher teaches.

This is what we do.

We are experts in the art of explanation:

I know the difference between questions

to answer and questions to ask.

That’s an excellent question.

What do you think?


If two boys are fighting, I break it up.

But if two girls are fighting, I wait until it’s over and then drag what’s left to the nurse’s office.

I’m not your mother, or your father,

or your jailer, or your torturer,

or your biggest fan in the whole wide world

even if sometimes I am all of these things.

I know you can do these things I make you do.

That’s why I make you do them.

I’m a teacher. This is what I do.


Once in a restaurant, when the waiter asked me

if I wanted anything else, and I said,

“No, thank you, just the check, please,”

and he said, “How about a look at the dessert menu?”

I knew I had become a teacher when I said,

“What did I just say?

Please don’t make me repeat myself!”


In the quiet hours of the dawn

I write assignment sheets and print them

without spell checking them. Because I’m a teacher,

and teachers don’t make spelling mistakes.

So yes, as a matter of fact, the new dress cod

will apply to all members of the 5th, 6th, and 78th grades;

and if you need an extension on your 55-paragraph essays

examining The Pubic Wars from an hysterical perspective

you may have only until January 331st.

I trust that won’t be a problem for anyone?


I like to lecture on love and speak on responsibility.

I hold forth on humility, compassion, eloquence, and honesty.

And when my students ask,

“Are we going to be responsible for this?”

I say, If not you, then who?

You think my generation will be responsible?

We’re the ones who got you into this mess,

now you are our only hope.

And when they say, “What we meant

was, ‘Will we be tested on this?’”

I say Every single day of your lives!


Once, I put a pencil on the desk of a student

who was digging in her backpack for a pencil.

But she didn’t see me do it, so when I walked

to the other side of the room and she raised her hand

and asked if she could borrow a pencil,

I intoned, In the name of Socrates and Jesus,

and all the gods of teaching,

I declare you already possess everything you will ever need!


“You are the weirdest teacher I have ever—”

Then she saw the pencil on her desk and screamed.

“You’re a miracle worker! How did you do that?”


I just gave you what I knew you needed

before you had to ask for it.

Education is the miracle, I’m just the worker.

But I’m a teacher.

And that’s what we do.

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