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Special Friday Notes Edition
March 31, 2003


Though Martin Haberman's (1995) focus is on teachers of children at risk, his points are worth considering for all teachers and teacher educators. Since the early 1960's, Martin Haberman has been studying successful teachers of students considered the most difficult to teach, namely those at risk, those in poverty, and those in urban schools. The Haberman Foundation was established in 1993 to continue Haberman's search for new and better ways to find excellent teachers for the 15 million children and youth in America that live in poverty. Believing these children have few, if any, choices regarding their future, the Haberman researchers emphasize the critical piece of carefully selecting teachers. To establish a selection instrument, the Haberman researchers interviewed teachers whom principals, parents, other teachers, and students named as "highly" successful with at-risk students. From the data gathered, the Haberman researchers identified seven characteristics and beliefs these "highly" successful teachers had in common. A structured, personal interview of approximately 30 minutes was designed to "get at" these effective characteristics in those whom Haberman named "Star" teachers.

These seven characteristics, or beliefs leading to behaviors, found to be common among Haberman's Star teachers of students in poverty and at risk include:

1. Persistence. Star teachers have persistence and a commitment to problem solving in the educational arena. Star teachers hold a rationale for their behavior; they are continuously generating and maintaining student interest and involvement in learning. They perceive problems as part of their regular job, and they are skilled at involving the child in learning and constantly searching for more effective ways of involving children.

2. Promoting Learning. Star teachers protect learners and learning, and they respond to authority and bureaucracy by valuing learning over most anything else. They have sufficient and essential knowledge in their subject matter to teach; they know the joys of learning; they understand that children of poverty are less likely to have out-of-school models of learning so they "turn on" their students to learning. They are able to convince their principals that the benefits of these beliefs are worth it and protect children from school bureaucracy. Star teachers never stand still on what they think would help children, and they find ways to neutralize their adversaries.

3. Theory and Practice. Star teachers are able to put generalizations and big ideas into practice. They are able to conceptualize about teaching, connect ideas with actions, and turn abstractions into specific sets of classroom activities. They continue to grow throughout their career by reflecting on their behaviors. Star teachers are continually thinking about why they are doing what they are doing, what they hope to accomplish, and how doing it connects with everything else in the lives of their students.

4. Approach to At-Risk. Star teachers have appropriate approaches in working with at-risk children. With 50 percent of all urban children labeled at-risk, Star teachers do not blame the students and believe the school curriculum or methods as the potential problems. Star teachers find ways to involve children in learning no matter what children's out-of-school lives are like. These teachers genuinely care about their students. Haberman claims this quality is the most powerful predictor of teachers who will stay in a challenging urban teaching environment.

5. Professional Versus Personal. Star teachers have professional-personal orientations to students; they care, respect and trust their students. They establish close and supportive relationships, and they realize the basic goal of the teacher is to connect children with meaningful learning in ways that are interesting to the learners. Star teachers help students become self-directed learners. The Stars are the teachers who can teach those students who have failed. Star teachers model learning.

6. Burnout. Star teachers realize that school bureaucracy is systematically organized to prevent effective learning. They acknowledge that burnout is an occupational disease of all urban teachers, and they learn what rules to follow and what rules can be ignored. Star teachers are expert at how the bureaucracy works, and they protect themselves knowing what skill they need to survive. Star teachers protect children from the formal bureaucracy, and they find a way to not function as an isolate. Star teachers realize support networks counteract burnout.

7. Fallibility. Star teachers acknowledge fallibility; they confess to serious errors, admitting, recognizing, and abiding mistakes in themselves. If they didn't, they wouldn't be likely to be tolerant of others' mistakes. These teachers believe there can be no learning without mistakes.

All Guilford County Schools facilities, both educational and athletic, are tobacco-free learning environments.

2004 Guilford County Schools, 712 North Eugene Street, Greensboro, NC 27401 336.370.8100

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