In Front of the Class
by Brenda Dyck, Education World®
Martin Haberman's research reveals that not just anyone can
or should teach in high-poverty schools. Wondering if she has what it
takes to succeed in a challenging setting, Brenda Dyck decided to take
Haberman's "Star Teacher" On-Line Pre-Screener test. Here she shares
In my last Voice of Experience reflections, Do You Have What It Takes to Teach in a High-Poverty School?,
I introduced the work of Martin Haberman. Haberman has studied the
characteristics of successful teachers who work with high-poverty
populations. He has translated those characteristics into interview
questions that might predict a teacher's likelihood of success in such
schools. As I reflected on Haberman's rigorous characteristics of effective teachers, I had to catch my breath! How would I fare if measured on those attributes? I needed to find out…
There was something rather sobering about taking Haberman's Star Teacher Test.
First of all, I've never thought of myself as a star teacher. Those
kinds of teachers win national awards and draw large crowds when they
present at conferences. But after reading Haberman's description of a
star teacher, I realized that being a star teacher was actually about
more than fanfare and glitz. "Star teachers" were everyday educators
who, because of their unique skill-sets, were successful teaching
children who caused most educators to throw up their hands in defeat.
According to Dr. Haberman, star teachers are persistent; they keep
going when the tough get going.
I wondered if I was one of those teachers.
Putting Myself to the Test
As I logged onto Haberman's "Star Teacher" test site, I was secretly
thankful for the privacy this online multiple-choice test offered. No
one needed to know if I turned out to be significantly lacking in the
ten beliefs demonstrated by teachers who have a proven track record
teaching in diverse classrooms in high-poverty schools. No one but me,
As I began to answer the test questions, I knew I was under deep
scrutiny. I spent a lot of time trying to second-guess the answers the
test-writing folks might be looking for.
After a few minutes of trying to play the test-taking game -- and
growing weary of it already -- I roped myself back to reality. I
realized that I needed to concentrate on discovering my right answers,
As I tried to focus on authenticity over correctness, it became
evident that the Haberman folks were prepared for people like me.
Certain question themes reoccurred with regularity. Each question was
worded differently and placed in a different context than the one
before. It was as if they were needling me with the same question over
and over in hopes of finding out what I really would do when confronted
with specific situations. The test's 50 questions repeatedly poked and
prodded me about:
my level of persistence;
my ability to organize and plan within a complex classroom organization;
the value I placed on student learning;
my competence in moving theory into practice;
my ability to work with diversity among at-risk students;
the variety of ways I approach students;
my ability to survive in a large, depersonalized organization;
the criteria I use to determine teaching success;
the criteria I use to determine student success; and
how I plan to deal with mistakes made in my classroom.
As I pressed the submit button I wondered what strengths and
weaknesses would show up. I thought back to star teachers like Betsy Rogers and Ron Clark,
who have used the recognition they received for their work with at-risk
students to inform the public about the need for highly accomplished
teachers in high-poverty schools.
I also wondered if being an exemplary teacher was only part of that success equation… A recent ASCD Research Brief, Characteristics of High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools,
had made it clear to me that while the teacher plays a significant role
in the success of students in high-poverty schools, a variety of
support practices in the most successful schools provide the
underpinnings that can lead to teachers' success. Those support
a school-wide ethic of high expectations;
caring and respectful relations between stakeholders;
a strong academic and instructional focus;
regular assessment of individual students;
collaborative decision-making structures and a non-authoritarian principal;
strong faculty morale and work ethic; and
coordinated staffing strategies.
And the Answer Is [Drumroll] . . .
The results of my Haberman Star Teacher interview revealed strengths in many of the ten areas.
And one notable weakness: my organizational abilities.
What can I say? My mother would tell you the same thing!
Organization has always been a thorn in my professional flesh. It is
one of the areas I work on each year. I've made progress, but the
watchful eye of the Haberman test spotted this area where work still
needs to be done.
Reflecting on the Test
So was the test worth taking? With out a doubt! Going through the
assessment process got me thinking more deeply about my beliefs about
schools, teaching children, and learning -- and how those things either
benefit my students' learning or interfere with it.
Often I've pondered how student success hinges on a so many personal
characteristics, ideas, and beliefs working in concert with one
another. Prominent astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington said it so well:
"We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one
are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about
The Haberman Education Foundation
Take the "Star Teacher" On-Line Pre-Screener and read about Martin
Haberman's efforts to help 15 million at-risk students in the U.S.
The Teaching Perspectives Inventory
Looking for another way to examine your teaching practices? This free
online inventory will help you collect your thoughts and summarize your
ideas about teaching. Find out if your teaching beliefs are in line
with what happens in your classroom.
About the Author
Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in
Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math,
Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her
"Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle
School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor
for Midlink magazine.
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