11. COVID-19: Teachers

Dear Parents,

Today we begin our transition to online learning. I want to pause and appreciate our teachers, not only our professors at AUN who have been working diligently to transition to our alternative learning platform but also teachers worldwide. 


This letter will be about COVID-19: Teachers


Students everywhere are missing their teachers. It is wonderful that we live in a time that we can be connected remotely and #TogetherAtHome. But really, we took for granted all of the other things that are associated with our teachers in real time -- the smiles, the encouragement, the unexpected that can happen in the classroom. We are social creatures, and our teachers are not just providing education in various subjects, they instill values and important competencies for the Book of Life. 


So today, I am sharing one of my favorite poems about teachers, written by Taylor Mali, an American spoken-word artist. 


What Teachers Make

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 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?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:

Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,

I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today. To the biggest bully in the grade, he said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you? It’s no big deal.” And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.

You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder, I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful

over and over and over again until they will never misspell either one of those words again.

I make them show all their work in math and hide it on their final drafts in English.

I make them understand that if you’ve got this, then you follow this, and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you give them this.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:

Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?


I encourage each of you to be that contagious, positive dose of emotion – reach out to that teacher who has made a difference in your life and say “Thank you!”


Always, with best regards, stay safe, Semper Gumby


Dawn Dekle, PhD

AUN President (Vice-Chancellor)


Teaser: stay tuned for the next letter from the desk of the AUN President, on the topic “COVID-19: The Future”