WACCABUC, N.Y. – In his 35 years working in public education, Dr. Randall Glading noticed that similar words were consistently used to describe the traits of a favorite teacher.
“Every time I’d ask the question about a beloved teacher,” he said, “people would describe my grandmother or my favorite uncle: caring, engaged, a listener, unique, funny, witty, and it was not necessarily about how smart they were.” After a professional lifetime in the field of education, Glading wanted to delve into the formula of this magical combination of attributes.
Glading, a former Yorktown High School assistant principal, retired from the district in 2013. The Waccabuc resident, who is currently the department chair and professor in the education literacy department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., pondered these timeless themes as they apply to successful learning environments and wrote the book, “The Qualities of a Master Teacher Today–What’s Essential in Reaching All Students.”He explains the power of these qualities in a teacher, ones that inspire and motivate students to learn and grow.
Every teacher develops their own style and personality, the professor said, and these are qualities that might not be easily included on a formal evaluation. “Where do you enter empathy, where do you enter humor, where do you enter a teacher’s energy?” Glading wondered. “How do you talk about relationships with students?”
He uses an acronym in his book to outline some key pedagogical techniques, with each chapter providing examples on how these traits strengthen teachers and can help them make profound differences in their students’ lives:
“There are so many factors that come together and I think the acronym really captures it—you have to have empathy and you have to have energy,” Glading said. “We all remember that quiet teacher whose eyes pierced you and went through you and you knew that they cared about you.”
The professor, who worked in New York City as a teacher and later at Yorktown High School as an administrator before earning his Ph.D in educational leadership, acknowledges that teaching styles have evolved.
“Years ago, when I was in school, teachers were not empathetic—they didn’t care that much—they lectured and gave tests,” he said. “You were passively learning; you sat there with a pen and paper.” Nowadays, he explains, “the classroom is loud, engaging and fun and students are at the center of learning. With technology and other outside sources, teachers are able to build a positive environment where students take responsibility for their learning.”
To support the development of a master teacher, Glading recommends that parents talk to their children about the relationships they have with their teachers. He says they should simply ask their kids whether they have introduced themselves, whether they personally speak with their teacher, whether they know anything about their teacher—and encourage them to enjoy what is going on in that class.
“I think that communication between parents and teachers is critical,” Glading said. “I tell teachers that it is very easy to send out positive comments to parents–even just one sentence to say how a student is progressing. It carries so much weight.”
According to Glading, the focus on building relationships, on being reflective regarding the teacher-student connection and on developing an engaging personal style to create a culture for positive learning in the classroom are some of the cornerstones of the profession that a master teacher will exemplify.
“It’s funny, if you look at professional athletics, if you look at football, there is not a lot of difference team to team as far as talent is concerned—it’s the head coach, the culture of the team, just like the culture of the classroom, and that is so critically important.”
In his first book, “Overcoming the Senior Slump,” Glading examined the phenomenon in this country that typically happens to seniors who perhaps don’t feel adequately motivated when they reach their final year of high school. He asserts that the incredible amount of energy and talent in the senior hallways might be better served by offering students internships or other college-like models to motivate and prepare them with critical skills related to work and time management.
Both of his publications attest to Glading’s lasting commitment and passion for the success of teachers and students alike.
“In the world of data today, we forget that we are in a human business. We’re not building cars, we’re building human beings and there are just so many things that go into that.”