Who Is a Star Teacher?
Meredith Lazar and Mitchell Glover

Becoming a successful "Star Teacher" is a teacher who will understand the set backs that at risk students face in their schooling career. Teachers should understand that a student who is not receiving a full potential based curriculum will push the child further into becoming an at risk student. These children then leave the schooling environment set up for failure in life which can result to the use of crime, abuse toward them both physically and mentally, and an out lashing on society as a whole for the injustice they have and will receive. A "Star Teacher" will stop this downward spiral acclimating to the students not as whole, but as individuals. In order to teach children in poverty you have to understand where these children are coming from. You need to set your own guidelines to help that child succeed in their schooling and in real world context outside of the school. Professor Martin Haberman has compiled an extensive research on teachers who qualify in helping out these students of poverty. He has labeled these teachers as "Star Teachers."

"These teachers are described as "teachers who, by all common criteria, are outstandingly successful: their students score higher on standardized test; parents and children think they are great; principals rate them highly; other teachers regard them as outstanding; central office supervisors consider them successful; cooperating universities regard them as superior; and they evaluate themselves as outstanding teachers” (Haberman, 1995, SEE ALSO, Samaras, 2002)
Teaching children of poverty is not just adapting the curriculum and altering your teaching methods, but also putting forth the effort needed to help at risk students build self-esteem and realize the importance and necessity of a good education.

In order to teach children in poverty you have to understand where these children are coming from. You need to set your own guidelines to help that child succeed in their schooling and in real world context outside of the school. Professor Martin Haberman has compiled an extensive research on teachers who qualify in helping out these students of poverty. He has labeled these teachers as “Star Teachers.”

“These teachers are described as “teachers who, by all common criteria, are outstandingly successful: their students score higher on standardized test; parents and children think they are great; principals rate them highly; other teachers regard them as outstanding; central office supervisors consider them successful; cooperating universities regard them as superior; and they evaluate themselves as outstanding teachers (Haberman, 1995, SEE ALSO, Samaras, 2002)

By examining and looking into what will help create a teacher like this you need to begin by thinking what their motivation is. For children in poverty you to have a teacher who is strong willed in wanting to see their students succeed within school to help promote a better life for themselves out of school. These types of teachers will also help the student want to stay more focused on school and less likely to want to drop out. A “Star Teacher” is a person that the student can look up to and have along their side to help guide them on the right track through the early years of their life. What sets this teacher apart is having compassion and a heart for their students. These are the teachers that not only come into the school building to teach, but to touch lives. Love from the teacher to the student is important when thinking about teaching children of poverty. A way to begin to touch lives is through love. You need to think about the “love” for teaching. Ask yourself, why do most teachers even think about becoming teachers? An answer that will usually follow from a teacher is love. Most teachers have wanted to teach because they want to give something back to their community or to the next generation and because they want to help impact a child’s life to make them realize the potential that child carries. Think of love for teaching as, “Not simply a sentimental conferring of emotion. Rather, it is a combination of trust, confidence and faith in students and a deep admiration for their strengths (Nieto, 2003).” With that initial thought as a teacher, they are a teacher who could potentially rise to be able to effectively teach children of poverty.

Teachers who are currently teaching in urban schools face many different types of hardships. Ridicule from the parents is often the hardest to deal with when coming across it. A lot of parents from children of poverty do not see the benefits to a good education. As the saying goes “poverty breeds poverty” and those parents see no need to have their student succeed in school when after graduating their child is not going to gain any support in the real life. This can become an emotional drain on the teacher not seeing the parental involvement and parental consent about teaching. We need to make a connection between the teacher and parents that each party can benefit from including the child as well. A way in doing this is focusing on the teacher’s education before they join the field. Universities and schools place heavy emphasis on middle class America and the students within that context. They need to reconstruct the university programs and classes to help deal with these issues. Take the class for example that this packet is made for, this is the only class on this campus and provided for undergraduate education majors that focuses on developing, researching, and understanding children who are in poverty. Many of the other classes help prepare a teacher with ideas on content, not ideas on where the child is coming from or how to deal with issues that might arise in a place of employment that does not conform to your typical middle class American based school. Neito states that,

“We must rethink teacher education so that it focuses on preparing teachers to work with enthusiasm, competence, and caring among the students in our urban schools. We must prepare teachers—not for missionary work, but for public service. We must rethink professional development—not as a way to fill teachers’ heads with new and innovative ideas that may come and go, but rather as an approach that builds on teachers’ professionalism and encourages their intellectual activity (Neito, 2003).

Becoming a star teacher takes time and quality work from you, the school, and its surroundings. The community will play a big role in how effectively you can teach. You need to become familiar with the schools’ surrounding community to understand what the child is faced with everyday. You need to be sure you ground a connection between you and your student’s parents and you and the school it’s self. Developing a strong bond with the teachers in your school will help in finding what works well for the student and understanding the child’s background in education. Most importantly be aware of the child and developing ways to see what potential that child has. Those potentials will shine within the child and all you have to do is make it to where the children can see the potential in themselves. Creating that connection will help the child transition from the school world into the real world.

Methods for a Successful Star Teacher

At risk students need the help of teachers today to reach their full potential. Many at risk students have low self-confidence and do not even consider their education to be important or necessary. Teachers today need to realize the problems facing at risk students and adjust their teaching methods and ideology to adapt to these students. It is recently becoming better known that not every student learns the same especially when considering children from poverty, yet some people still rely on old teaching methods of solely lecturing students, worksheets, and maintaining the same methods for each student. At risk students need the extra help and flexibility from teachers in order to become successful otherwise they will more than likely fall into the stereotypes of at risk students, meaning they will likely drop out of high school, hold a minimum wage job and have a high risk of jail time. Unfortunately, there is more to becoming a successful star teacher than changing your teaching methods; as a teacher you must also work towards building a safe classroom community, presenting the students with the opportunities to succeed and encourage the students towards higher education and a better future.

Much of the research done comparing and contrasting the achievement of at risk students to their teacher’s background, points to the teacher having strong verbal and literacy skills. Before one can proceed in any aspect of his or her education one must be literate. Ronald F. Ferguson from Harvard University conducted research on the correlation between teachers ACT scores and the score of that teachers students on their basic skills exam given through their school. Ferguson noted a strong relationship between the test score of the verbal section and the higher test score of the students, thus suggesting that the better the verbal skills and literacy of the teacher, the higher the students basic skills.

Another aspect of successful star teachers is a teacher with strong content knowledge, meaning that he or she has a major in their field of their teaching. Although this may seem obvious to many, until recently with the No Child Left Behind acts, teachers were often times considered equally as qualified to teach in a subject area other than their major. Studies show higher over all test scores in at risk students who have had consistence experience with teachers teaching in their major content area.

Again what may seem obvious, good content knowledge and high scores on the verbal section of your Act’s does not ensure an effective teacher. Administrators and Superintendents beware a good degree and test score are not always what they seem. Teachers of at risk students need a knack for teaching as well (Ferguson 1997).

It is important to remember that at risk students typically have low self-esteem, little to no goals for the future and focus on money making rather than a successful carrier. To many at risk students, college or higher education does not enter their mind. According to Stodolsky and Grossman making simple changes in ones curriculum and their classroom can be helpful in creating a successful learning environment for at risk students. Changes such as using technology such as, computer labs for subjects of math and science can be motivating and exciting for students. Changing up the daily routine of your classroom can keep the students attention and give them another option to be successful. A student struggling with mathematics skills may find a knack for computers and using the computer lab could be in missing link to their mathematical comprehension. Using hands on manipulative and other leaning tools helps the teacher stray from a lecture style that can lose the students attention. Although these tools are not a guarantee or cure all for problems, they keep the students moving, thinking and allow the teacher to be more of a facilitator rather than a lecturer.

A major method star teacher’s exercise is a change in their assessments of at risk student’s work. Many at risk students score low on test and written examinations. Making adaptations such as allowing for visual representations and creative works for subjects, such as math and science, allow the students to express their comprehension and understanding of the content material without the anxiety and pressure of an actual exam. Written examinations are quite common among English subjects, but allowing students to perform skits, make posters, or other forms of representations, the students are still demonstrating their understanding, while building their confidence.

The key to making these methods successful is a teacher that is flexible and willing to make these adaptations to their teaching style and curriculum. Changes can vary from small to large, but being willing to make these changes is step one. Being open minded to a students comfort level and ability can be helpful (Stodolsky and Grossman. N.D.).

A successful star teacher does not only strive for a successful classroom, but a successful school environment and community overall. Assuming the classroom is in perfect harmony, the students are also involved in other classrooms, hallways, gym class and after school activities where the effective classroom work can be diminished. A star teacher works with a star school to create a successful education environment, thus surrounds at risk students throughout their daily activities with a positive, education and accepting community. This community is accomplished by keeping the school faculty and staff updated in their education of diversity, teaching methods and alternative methods to instruction and assessment.

“…the culture of the school encourages and supports the active involvement of all students, parents, and members of the community in supporting and participating in the instructional program. Peer tutoring; parents as tutors, role models, and resource persons; community service projects; adult education courses and seminars; and home visits by all school staff are just some of the ways of creating a culture of participation, belonging, and involvement across the entire school community… (Hixson and Tinzmann, 1990).”

Creating a bond between students and staff is key to a successful educational at risk environment. As previously stated, at risk students have low self esteem and rarely think of education in their future, thus these students will not volunteer their concerns about their future or even consider other viable options. Teachers must take on the role of showing these at risk students how their future is important and education is a possibility. At risk students often times do not think scholarships, financial aid etc are even options for them, so it becomes the teacher’s responsibility to inform the students and encourage their education. At risk students must feel safe and secure with their teachers in order for honest communication to occur. Teachers should portray themselves as open minded and welcoming (Hixson and Tinzmann, 1990).”

Star teachers play and essential and vital role in the success of many at risk students. The more star teachers a school can have will increase the number of graduating students as well as the number of students who continues on with their education. To be a successful star teacher comes down to a few traits, open minded, properly trained, willing, and accepting. These traits set a base for good learning environment and show the students that you are someone they can create a bond with, trust and rely on to show them the opportunities that lie ahead of them. The opportunities for at risk students are ready and waiting, all we as teachers need to do, is show them the way.

References

Ferguson, R. F., Kati Haycock Good Teaching Matters: How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap, “Evidence that schools can narrow the black-white test score gap.” 1997. p. 32.

Grossman, P., Stodolsky, S. Changing Students, Changing Teaching. University of Chicago and Washington. N.D.

Haberman, M. Star Teachers of Children in Poverty. Kappa Delta Pi. Indianapolis, IN. 1995.

Hixson, J.,Tinzmann, M.B. Who Are the "At-Risk" Students of the 1990s?. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. 1990.

Nieto, S. What Keeps Teachers Going? Teachers College Press. New York. 2003.

Samaras, A. Technology Helps Increase Poverty Awareness. Momentum. Washington, D.C. http://www.ncea.org. 2002.
4018 Martinshire Drive
Houston, Texas, 77025-3918
Fax/Phone (713) 667-6185