If I Were Starting Out as a Beginning Teacher

Aug 14, 2015 by


Martin Haberman is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A Laureate member of Kappa Delta Pi, he serves as Laureate Counselor to the Society’s 1996-98 Executive Council.

Martin Haberman – If I were starting out today as a beginning teacher—knowing what I now know-there are several things I would certainly do to broaden my window of opportunity. First, I would choose to teach in an urban school district. There are 120 such systems serving 7,000,000 children in poverty from diverse cultural backgrounds. To select the particular district, I would rely on several criteria. Does the district provide coaches or mentors who visit the classrooms of new teachers on a regular basis? Would I be working in a school building that groups its teachers into teams? Would I be assigned to a school with a nurse and a social worker available at least on a part-time basis? As a result of teaching in an urban school district, I would become deeply immersed in learning about the many aspects of African-American culture as that culture interacts with life conditions characterized by poverty. Because the majority of U.S. urban children will be children of color, and because our schools are not yet successful in meeting their educational needs, I would gain valuable background in learning firsthand what works.

Second, I would plan on volunteering a few hours each week in a community agency serving Hispanic children and youth. There are two reasons for this: to learn conversational Spanish and to learn more about the daily lives of children and youth with the highest school dropout rate and lowest achievement of any culture group. The largest minority group in the United States is Hispanic, and these activities would make me a budding expert in multicultural education.

Third, I would reserve one evening each week for graduate study. My preferred major field or emphasis of study would be on the uses of technology and information systems in schools. Almost all major universities offer such programs, although they might not be housed in the department of education. Some universities offer specializations in which computer assisted instruction is the medium for all technology studies. Achieving this task would make me one of the most sought-after teachers in any urban district, regardless of its size. I would gain insight into what will be needed in schools of the 21st century.

Fourth, I would spend the summer working in a private, profit making business. In order to prepare children and youth for the world of work, their teachers need in-depth experiences functioning in the private sector. I would approach different forms of enterprise (manufacturing, banking, service, entertainment, or whatever) and explain that I am a teacher seeking to broaden my life experiences. Businesses would Ukely be willing to hire a teacher temporarily with t e insight that he or she must learn more about the world of work in order to prepare children and youth for better functioning in society. Indeed, contacts developed in the summer would also be contributing resources to the teacher’s classroom program during the year. Pursuing this effort would ensure that I would be able to do what others merely talk about connect the school curriculum to the world of work.

Fifth, I would initiate and stick to a sound diet and exercise schedule. The work of a beginning teacher in an urban district is an extremely wearing one. Added to these burdens are the other four tasks I recommend. Beginners inevitably contract a variety of contagious illnesses in their first year as their bodies build up natural resistance to flu and other common contagions. It is typical of failures and quitters that they experience health and physical problems in their first year. It is also typical that they did not follow a rigid pattern of exercise and rest.

Developing yourself in these five areas is the surest way I know for you to make your job meaningful and steadily move ahead in terms of salary and responsibility. Your growth is the best predictor of your students’ growth.


Kappa Delta Pi Record34{l): 39
© 1997 Kappa Delta P

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1 Comment

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    Barry Stern

    A great man and teacher educator ahead of his time. As relevant today as 28 years ago. New teachers take note!

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