Are You A Michelin Star Teacher?

If we operated the Michelin star system to teaching and schools then life would be more interesting.

Most of us would have no stars and just have to make do with a mention in the Good Food Guide or its educational equivalent.

For some, that would be accolade enough because they’d be satisfied they were doing a decent enough job. Others would be quite happy just plodding along and shirk the very idea of awards or recognition seeing it as ego-involving and a bit ‘common’.

But then there are those teachers who like to chase stars and stardom. To them being recognised as a star teacher is everything and to get three of them would be the ultimate.

These Michelin teachers are crazy about teaching and create “effective, efficient, and enjoyable educational experiences just as a 3-star chef in a restaurant creates delicious, nutritious, and visually pleasing eating experiences” (Kirschner and Neelen).

Star chasers are evidence-informed learning professionals who like to experiment with different ‘cooking’ techniques, tools and ingredients by using a range of pedagogies and approaches, resources and teaching elements. They are “obsessed with generating engagement in their classrooms.

If we really want to know what Michelin star teachers do then I think we can look at what Dr Martin Haberman shares in his book Star Teachers: The Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty. He believes that mindset (ideology or beliefs) shapes behaviour (practice).

For starters, star teachers are not quitters. They keep on going and they never give in. So many teachers have quit their jobs for various reasons but for star teachers this is never an option. Their work is crucial and “Stars have the same view of their work as air traffic controllers or surgeons. They believe that they are dealing with children’s lives in critically important ways.”

Haberman (2005) lists 7 key dispositions for effective teaching which together combine to make someone a star teacher.

Star teachers:

1. Are Persistent

Teacher persistence is reflected in an endless search for what works best with each pupil. Star teachers constantly ask: “How might this activity have been better – for the class of for a particular individual?”

2. Protect Learners and Learning

Protecting learners and learning refers to protecting children from classroom distractions or school bureaucracies. They find ways to make and keep learning the highest priority.

3. Put Theory into Practice

Star teachers can crosswalk from theory to practice and from practice to theory. They lead colleagues collaboratively in and beyond the school to identify professional development needs through detailed data-analysis and self-reflection.

4. Approach Learners At Risk

Star teachers assume personal accountability for their students’ learning even though they cannot control all in-school and out-of-school influences. They from productive relationships with students and have high expectations for all learners.

5. Orientate to Learners

Star teachers maintain a professional orientation to learners by displaying respect and care about children, even when they do things they regard as despicable.

6. Survive in a Bureaucracy

Star teachers maintain a healthy perspective about working conditions, they utilise resources and peers to effectively navigate the demands and duties within a learning organisation and they utilise self-care to preserve emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.

7. Accept and Admit Fallibility

Star teachers readily admit mistakes and correct them. They utilise their own mistakes and student mistakes as ‘teachable moments’ which establishes the classroom climate for growth.

Haberman’s research reveals that not just anyone can or should teach in high-poverty schools and if teachers are struggling to make a difference then they are ill-suited to their context.


Haberman, M. (2005) Star Teachers: the ideology and best practice of effective teachers of diverse children and youth in poverty. Houston, TX: The Haberman Educational Foundation

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