Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. Team!

Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. would like to wish all of you every happiness this Holiday Season and throughout the coming year. May your days be filled with Peace, Love, and Harmony! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Announcement: Professor Patty Cake Sponsors TRANS*CENDING GENDER Exhibit

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller is one of the sponsors of the TRANS*CENDING GENDER exhibit housed at the ArtRage Gallery, Syracuse, NY from November 8, 2014 - January 17, 2015. The exhibit features the work of artists, Gavin Laurence Rouille and Rhys Harper. The TRANS*CENDING GENDER exhibit poses questions about masculinity and femininity, traditional gender norms, and what shapes identity as well as highlights the challenges that transgender and gender-nonconforming people face daily. All Professor Patty Cake Consulting clients and followers are encouraged to visit the ArtRage Gallery to view this powerful exhibition. Information about the TRANS*CENDING GENDER exhibit can be found at:
ArtRage Info

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Announcement: Professor Patty Cake Guest on the Lane Kennedy Show

Lane Kennedy Levy, believer that women can and do change the world everyday, is a wife, mom, entrepreneur curator & committed cultivator of community experiences. Lane's mission is to "help women, uncover, discover and create a life they love, no matter what their circumstances are, we can all have the life we desire."  She brings over 20 years of consulting, personal coaching, and start up experience to the world through her innovative workshops, blog, and podcast- the Lane Kennedy Entrepreneur Experience, a show that features successful mom entrepreneurs. Lane recently sat down with Dr. Erica Miller to talk to her about Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. and the challenges/rewards of being a mom entrepreneur. Check out the complete interview here on the Lane Kennedy Show-The Professor Patty Cake Interview.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Announcement: Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. Celebrates One Year Anniversary

The Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. team would like to thank all of you for making our first year of business such a success. The last year was a banner year for our company and Professor Patty Cake herself,  CEO- Dr. Erica Vernold Miller.

Over the last year, Dr. Erica Vernold Miller has had the opportunity to share her expertise with over 500 educational professionals through her in-person trainings/consultations and the 4000+ visitors who have visited the Professor Patty Cake Website, Facebook and Twitter  pages. Her work has also been shared at numerous professional conferences such as the 2014 International Conference on Learning and featured in academic journals such as the Excelsior Journal of Leadership in Teaching and Learning. This year she was awarded the Sigma Alpha Phi- Excellence in Teaching Award, received a 2014 Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant, and was named a 2014-2015 Phi Delta Kappa International Emerging Leader.

We are excited to see what the next year of business will bring Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. and Dr. Erica Vernold Miller. Plans are already underway to expand our consultation/professional development offerings and products as well as to further develop the Intellectual Downplaying Research Hub- Dr. Erica Vernold Miller plans to wrap up the Intellectual Downplaying Study and publish the results. She is also working diligently to complete her book: PLAYING DUMB: A MEMOIR....LIKE SORT OF.  She is currently slated to present at the NYSATE/NYACTE and the NYSCEC Annual Conferences next month and will be traveling to Washington D.C. in December 2014 with the other 2014-2015 Phi Delta Kappa International Emerging Leaders to meet with representatives from the US Department of Education. We will continue to share updates and announcements as they become available.

If you are an organization/school interested in a consultation session and/or professional development training, please contact us today to discuss available dates and pricing. We are currently booking dates in 2015. We look forward to hearing from you.

Educationally Yours,
The Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. Team

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Announcement: Dr. Erica Vernold Miller Named 2014-2015 Phi Delta Kappa International Emerging Leader

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller (A.K.A. Professor Patty Cake) has been named a 2014-2015 Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International Emerging Leader. The PDK Emerging Leader program recognizes innovators, thought leaders, problem solvers, and change agents who are making a difference in the field of education. A committee made up of PDK’s past Emerging Leaders selected the 26 honorees from a competitive field of nominees, based on their visionary leadership, outstanding professional accomplishments, and commitment to the field of education.

Dr. Miller and the other 2014-2015 PDK Emerging Leaders, will be honored at an award ceremony and exclusive networking event taking place in December 2014. Her cohort will gather in Washington D.C. to network with each other, meet with federal education policymakers, and share best instructional practices. In addition to being honored at the Washington, D.C. event, honorees also have the opportunity to be published by PDK, apply for grants, and participate in PDK initiatives.

 “The Emerging Leaders program is our way of paying it forward in public education,” said William J. Bushaw, PDK International’s executive director. “We find people under 40 who are standouts in the profession and we bring them together for a weekend of networking and expertise-sharing in the nation’s capital. By investing in these young leaders, we are investing in the future.”

PDK International is a global association that represents thousands of professionals in the field of education from across the world. Every year, it recognizes a new class of PDK Emerging Leaders. Information about the PDK Emerging Leaders can be found at PDK Emerging Leaders Link.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meeting the Needs of Today’s Modern Families

       Today’s early childhood and elementary students’ families look more like Modern Family than Leave It To Beaver. Their family structures are often much more complex than mom, dad, and 2.5 children. Family households headed by single parents, grandparents, stepparents, same sex parents, co-habitation non-married couples as well as multigenerational caregivers are more prevalent today than ever before.
      According to the 2010 United States Census Brief (2012):
- Only 48% of all households in the United States were defined as husband-wife families; down 7% from the 1990 census data.
- 4.2 million children were living with stepparents
- 7.1 million grandchildren were living with grandparents
- 21.1% of households were headed by individuals with no spouse
- Same sex partner identified households increased by 80% since 2000
- Multigenerational households increased by .7 % since the 2000 census
      What does this data mean for those of us working in the field of education? Simply put, these changes in family structure require us to take a closer look at the policies that govern our schools as well as force us to reflect critically on the teaching practices used in our classrooms.  If we truly want to meet the needs of all of our students, it is important to ask ourselves, “Are the policies and practices used in our schools and classrooms respectful of our students’ diverse family structures?”
       A research study that I recently conducted examined the prekindergarten and elementary school experiences of students from nontraditional families. The study’s data suggest that the majority of the nontraditional families who participated in the study felt alienated by various policies and practices used in the schools attended by their children. In many of these cases, it was found that it was not the school’s intention to marginalize nontraditional families, but rather the alienation occurred due to a lack of consideration for their needs when the policies and practices were developed. It was concluded that once nontraditional families’ needs were considered, small adjustments could be made to existing school policies and classroom practices to improve the school experiences of the students from nontraditional families. The study identified the following five (5) key areas which could easily be adjusted to make a school and/or classroom more welcoming for such students and their families.
Area 1: Intake/Enrollment Paperwork- Intake/enrollment paperwork is often the first communication that schools have with new families. Therefore, it is important to consider the wording used on your school’s intake/enrollment forms.
Questions to ask:
- How does your school ask for parental/guardian contact information?
- Is there a place on your intake/enrollment forms for families to write their information in a manner truly representative of their family structure?
       If you find that your school’s intake/enrollment forms are structured to only accommodate traditional families, consider recommending changes to the forms.
Suggested solutions:
- Revamp your forms to ask for guardian #1 and guardian #2
- Leave the blanks unlabeled to encourage caregivers to write in the titles that are used by their family.
Area 2: Correspondence Home- It is also important to think about the language used in other forms of correspondence sent home with your students.
Questions to ask:
- What kind of greetings do you use in your correspondence home?
- Do you begin your correspondence with greetings like, Dear Parents, or Dear Moms and Dads?
       If you find that your greetings exclude other types of caregivers, consider changing your greeting.
Suggested solution:
- Use a more inclusive greeting like, Dear Families or Dear (insert classroom/school name) Community in your correspondence home.
Area 3: Holidays- Even the most well intentioned holiday related activities can be problematic for students who come from nontraditional families. 
Questions to ask:
- Do you celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in your classroom?
- Do you have alternative activities to offer students who do not have a mom or dad in their household or may have same sex parents or stepparents
       Alternative activities are not difficult to implement and can easily be adopted.
Suggested solutions:
- Allow a student to make two Mother’s Day projects if he/she has two mothers or changing the wording on Father’s Day cards to say grandfather or stepfather.
- Forego Mother’s and Father’s Day activities all together and instead observe a Family Day where each student can celebrate the uniqueness of his/her individual family
Area 4: Displays and Posters- Items displayed on classroom walls have the potential for sending unintended messages to students and families. 
Question to ask:
- Do the displays and posters found on the walls of your classroom reflect various forms of family structures or are they primarily depictions of traditional families?
       If you find that your classroom displays and posters primarily depict traditional family structures, make an effort to also include posters and displays that highlight diverse family structures as well.
Suggested solutions:
- Purchase and hang posters/displays which feature nontraditional family structures.
- If purchasing such posters/displays is not feasible due to financial constraints, consider creating homemade posters/displays which feature your students. You can easily do so by asking your students to provide pictures of their families. You can also keep a digital camera handy at drop-off and pick-up and/or at Open House to capture candid shots of families. These pictures can be used to create My Family Posters to be displayed prominently throughout your classroom illustrating the diversity of your student population.
Area 5: Classroom Libraries- The books included in or excluded from your classroom library can send powerful messages to students and their families regarding the types of family structures accepted and valued by your school and classroom. 
Question to ask:
- Do you regularly review the books in your classroom library to determine the types of family structures represented in their text? 
       If your classroom library currently does not have books depicting different types of family structures, it is suggested that you purchase and/or create reading materials that depict a wide variety of family structures. 
Suggested solutions:
- Purchase or borrow books from your public/school library that depict different types of family structures. Examples of such books are:  
Families by Susan Kuklin
The Family Book  by Todd Parr
A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager
Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell
Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman
My Uncle's Wedding by Eric Ross
Two Homes by Claire Masurel
My Bonus Mom: Taking the Step out of Stepmom by Tami Butcher
Sometimes It’s Grandmas and Grandpas: Not Mommies and Daddies by Mary Haverfield
- If purchasing or borrowing such books is not an option, consider creating individual Family Books featuring pictures and stories from each student’s family.  Once the books are complete, laminate them, and add them to your classroom library.
       Please note that this list of suggestions is not exhaustive.  May this article serve as a spark for you and your colleagues to begin critically examining how your school and classrooms meet the needs of the students from nontraditional families who you serve? You are encouraged to implement the suggestions provided as well as brainstorm additional ways to adjust your policies and practices to ensure that students from nontraditional families and their caregivers feel welcome in your school and classrooms.

Lofquist, D., Lugaila, T., O’Connell, M. & Feliz, S. (2012, April). Household and families: 2010 census brief.  Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration U.S. Census Bureau.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Announcements: Professor Patty Cake Visits NYC, Publishes New Article, and Launches Intellectual Downplaying Research Hub

June 2014 proved to be a busy month for Professor Patty Cake. Highlights from the last month include:

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller (AKA- Professor Patty Cake) traveled to NYC to attend Soapbox Inc.'s Feminist Intensive Camp. During her trip, she worked closely with feminist authors/activists Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards and attended the United Nation’s "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity – Picture It!" launch event of the Beijing+20 campaign held at the historic Apollo Theater on June 26, 2014. While in NYC, Dr. Miller also had the chance to catch up with author/comedian/ editor, and co-founder of Laughing Liberally, Katie Halper. Katie was a blast to hang out with, as always, and even graciously opened up her home so that Dr. Miller could extend her stay in NYC. Check out Katie's latest article,10 Most Un-Christian Church Signs on AlterNet.

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller's article, Meeting the Needs of Today's Modern Families, was featured in the NYSECTA Newsletter, Volume 1, Edition III. Spring 2014. She will be presenting on the same topic at the 21st International Conference on Learning in NYC on July 14, 2014.

Last month, Dr.Erica Vernold Miller launched the Intellectual Downplaying Research Hub. The Intellectual Downplaying Research Hub was created to educate the world about the practice of intellectual downplaying and to serve as a place for showcasing current intellectual downplaying research. Dr. Erica Vernold Miller is currently conducting the Intellectual Downplaying Study, the first large scale study to research the practice of intellectual downplaying. The purpose of the study is to:
- Determine the prevalence of intellectual downplaying behavior
- Find out which sex engages in the behavior most often
- Examine the contributing factors that motivate individuals to engage in intellectual downplaying behavior. 
 A summary of the Intellectual Downplaying Study results will be posted on the Intellectual Downplaying Research Hub upon the completion of the study. Inquiries about the Intellectual Downplaying Study can be sent to her at

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller with feminist authors/activists
Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Building Teacher Resiliency

       The end of the school year is almost here. For many of us in the field of education, this is a bittersweet time. Often we experience a mixture of sadness for the year that has gone by, excitement for the upcoming summer break, and anxiety about how to accomplish everything prior to the conclusion of the school year. Add into the mix the mounting pressures of APPR, Common Core Standards implementation, and state testing; it is no wonder that many of us are so overloaded that we feel stressed.
       In small increments, stress has a minimal impact on our well-being. However, stress over a prolonged period of time can have a pervasive negative effect on our health and job satisfaction.  I researched teaching related stress in my study Special education teacher resiliency: What keeps teachers in the field? (Vernold, 2008). In my 2008 study I stated,

“Stress and the emotional and physical effects that accompany it, can manifest itself in a variety  of ways. Individuals under stress often feel physically and emotionally drained. Workplace stress that is sustained over time can lead to job dissatisfaction and 
burn-out” (p. 15).

Why are job dissatisfaction and burn-out important issues?  They are important because burn-out and job dissatisfaction have a longstanding history of being linked to higher rates of teacher attrition and illness (Belcastro, 1982; Billingsley, 2004; Seidman & Zager, 1991). Given that a revolving door of  new teachers and substitutes brings instability to a school community, it is imperative that workplace stressors are acknowledged and ways are sought out to minimize their negative impact on teachers’ health. 
       Thus, according to Bobek (2002), “The prevailing conditions associated with teaching make it necessary for all teachers to be resilient,” (p. 202). Resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back, to cope, to adapt, and to develop social competence despite adversity (Gordon, 1995; Henderson & Milstein, 2003; Linville, 1987; Vernold, 2008; Werner & Smith, 1982). Researchers, who study teacher resiliency, examine the internal and external factors that allow individual teachers and/or groups of teachers to persevere when faced with stress.
       Several teacher resiliency studies conducted by my colleagues and me at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill sought to find out how teachers built and maintained their own resiliency as well as how school administrators fostered resiliency building in their staff members (Malloy & Allen, 2007; Roman-Oertwig, 2004; Vernold, 2008). Below you will find several suggestions for preventing burn-out, increasing job satisfaction, and building resiliency that I have generated based upon our research and my experience.
Build Strong Support Networks
       The Beatles got it right when they sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  Think about it, don’t you feel better when you get a little help from your friends? This goes without saying, but it is important to note that having a strong network outside of school will allow you the opportunity to share your concerns and solicit feedback in a low stakes environment. People within your network can serve as confidants and problem solvers.
       Early in my career a group of my friends and I would meet regularly after work on Fridays for off campus “meetings.” These “meetings” took place at a variety of locales, including but not limited to our homes and restaurants. Our time together allowed us to talk about our job related stress and seek solutions for our problem. We came away from our “meetings” feeling better not only because we had the opportunity to vent but also because we had a game plan for how to tackle our issues when we returned to work on Monday. 
Seek Out Unofficial Mentors
       It is not uncommon for new teachers to be given official mentors when they are hired. Each school and/or district has a different process of pairing mentors and mentees. Some of these pairing are wonderful and lead to enduring professional relationships. Others are not so great and may seem forced or artificial. 
       My first official mentor relationship could be described as the latter. It was very obvious from the start that my official mentor was not the best match for me. My mentor, although well meaning, was not able to give me the kind of support that I needed. This forced me to seek out unofficial mentors.
       Finding my unofficial mentors was not as daunting as you may think.  I did so by reflecting on my weaknesses, identifying the type of support that I needed, and looking around for colleagues who seemed to have an aptitude in areas where I was lacking. Many of the colleagues that I approached were open to becoming one of my unofficial mentors because they were flattered that I noticed their expertise.  For example, my colleague Amy had an aptitude for organization and scheduling, so she became my organization/schedule mentor. My teammate Steve was amazing at classroom management, so he became my classroom management mentor.
       Through the years, in all of the varying teaching and administrative positions that I have held, I have continued to seek out unofficial mentors. Recognizing that no one mentor can be an expert in everything has opened me up to developing a wealth of other beneficial mentoring relationships. These relationships have been invaluable and  have helped me navigate my way through a host of challenging situations.
Make Your Expectations Clear
       In my 2008 study, many of the respondents reported that their greatest challenges occurred when there was a mismatch between their expectations and the behaviors/expectations of their students, students’ parents, colleagues, and/or administrators. They shared their frustration with the amount of time and effort that it took to “fix” issues that occurred due to this mismatch. Many of the respondents indicated that making their expectations clear at the beginning of the year helped to prevent issues from bubbling up later in the year.
       As a principal, I had the opportunity to work with many phenomenal educators who were extremely proficient in making their expectations clear. These teachers utilized a variety of high and low-tech methods for communicating their expectations. Classroom newsletters, morning meetings, handbooks, behavior  constitutions, blogs, websites, open house presentations are all great avenues for sharing your expectations with your students, students’ parents, colleagues, and administrators. Being clear about your expectations and communicating them effectively can go a long way in preventing future issues from rising and will eliminate the need to devote large amounts of time to issues later.
Participate in Meaningfully Activities Outside of Your Classroom
       Teaching can feel isolating at times, especially when you are part of a small grade level team or the only one teaching at your grade level. Often success in the classroom takes time and when achieved receives little to no recognition. Although none of us went into education seeking fame, we do  appreciate feeling like our efforts are making a difference and our work is valued.
       Participating in meaningful activities outside of your classroom such as those conducted by school/district committees, unions, professional organizations, extracurricular clubs, professional development  training organizations, and institutions of higher education allow you to be connected to a larger network of professionals with similar interests. It gives you the opportunity to share your expertise, grow professionally, and potentially impact the world beyond your classroom.
       Participating in such activities has afforded me the opportunity to travel around the world and learn from experts in and outside my discipline. I feel a greater connection to my profession and have become more satisfied in my career because I continue to grow as an educator and revitalize my teaching with new techniques and resources. Through my previous and current work with various professional organizations and unions, I have had the opportunity to educate non-educators such as parents, journalists, and politicians about educational issues and dispel misconceptions that they have about teachers and schools. This work has empowered me, given me purpose, and made me feel as though I am having a positive impact beyond my classroom. 
Toot Your Horn
       At the beginning of my teaching career, I mistakenly thought that my principal, school board, colleagues, and students’ parents knew all about the great things that my students and I were doing in my classroom. I soon learned that the only way people would know about the great things we were doing was if I shared our success with them. 
       Contrary to what you may think, sharing your success in moderation does not constitute bragging. Self-promotion is necessary in today’s political climate where there are people outside the field of education who are lining up to speak poorly about teachers, administrators, and students.  By sharing, you are educating your community about all the wonderful things that are happening in your classroom rather than letting the public guess what you are doing or worse believe incorrect information.
       When I was a classroom teacher, I made it a point to share at least one classroom success story in each of my newsletters. I also made it a point to send my supervisors and the PTA periodic emails highlighting the achievements made in my class each month. When I attended community events, I always sought out community members and told them all about the classroom activities we were doing and gave them suggestions for how they could partner with us to do even more. Many of my classroom volunteers, grants, and donations came from conversations that I had with community members.
       You will be amazed by how many people are willing to help once they know what you are doing and what your needs are. Having additional support and resources takes the burden off of you and allows you to do what you do best, teach.
Make "You" Time
       Many of us that go into the field of education do so because we want to help others. We have what one of my former supervisors called  “bleeding hearts.” We care so much about others that we often neglect taking care of ourselves.  It is important to recognize that maintaining our health is crucial. If we don’t set and maintain boundaries to ensure that we give ourselves some much deserved “me" time and refocus our attention on meeting our own needs, we will wake up one day with nothing left to give others. Meeting your own needs first, will allow you to give your best to everyone later. 
       Saying no, passing on an activity, or setting limits on the amount of time that you devote to your job after hours is totally acceptable. I always think of this concept in terms of the spiel that flight attendants give us when we board a plane. They say, “In case of an unexpected landing, please secure your oxygen mask first. Then you can tend to those around you who need assistance.”  Your “oxygen mask” may be exercising, reading, working in your garden, spending time with your family, or taking a hot bubble bath. It may be leaving work when it is still light outside, getting a full night’s sleep, or making time to mediate.  The key is finding what works best for you and ensuring that you make ample time for it.
       My “oxygen mask” is running. I am in my happy place when my feet are pounding the pavement and I have the wind in my hair. My running time gives me the peace that I need to prepare for my hectic workday. After a good run, my stress level is decreased and the neurons in my brain seem to fire faster.  I am at my best when I make time for my running, and by being at my best, I can better meet the demands of my job. 
Cut Yourself Some Slack
       Many teachers enter the field of education because they have excelled in school and have a desire to help their students reach the same success. Such teachers have high standards for themselves and are at times their own harshest critics. Teachers who set high standards, but recognize that it is necessary to be flexible at times, have been found to have greater job satisfaction than those who are inflexible. 
       Respondents in my 2008 study shared that they became frustrated when events and/or issues derailed them from meeting the goals that they had set for themselves. The respondents stated that being flexible and occasionally cutting themselves slack was necessary for them to keep from burning out. They indicated that although they felt having high standards was important, reassessing their standards in response to the realities of their current situation held even greater importance.
       This is something that I must remind myself of daily. I know from personal experience that the standards that I have for myself far exceed those set by others. At times I have become so weighed down by my own self-imposed standards that I felt like I was going to crack under the pressure. Stepping back, reassessing my self-imposed standards, recognizing that they are just that, self-imposed, and cutting myself some slack has helped me persevere in my career. 
       Please note that this list of suggestions is not exhaustive. It is merely a Reader’s Digest version of some of the findings from my research and personal experiences. I highly recommend that you seek out additional teacher resiliency information and practice resiliency building activities in your personal and professional life. Details about the studies mention in this paper can be found in the following references section.
Belcastro, P.A. (1982) Burnout and its relationship to teachers’ somatic complaints and
              illnesses. Psychological Reports, 50, 1045-1046.
Billingsley, B.S. (2004). Promoting teacher quality and retention in special education
              Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37 (5), 370-6.
Bobek, B.L. (2002). Teacher resiliency: A key to career longevity. Clearing House,  
              75 (4),202-5.
Gordon, K.A. (1995). The self-concept and motivational patterns of resilient African
              American high school students. Journal of Black Psychology, 21, 239-255.
Henderson, N. & Milstein, M. (2003). Resiliency in schools: Making it happen for   
              students and educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, INC.
Linville, P.W. (1987). Self-complexity as a cognitive buffer against stress-related illness
              and depression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52 (4), 663-76.
Malloy, W. W.,& Allen, T. (2007). Teacher retention in a teacher resiliency-building
              rural  school. The Rural Educator, 28 (2), 19-27.
Roman-Oertwig, S (2004). Teacher Resilience and Job Satisfaction. Unpublished
              doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Seidman, S.A. & Zager, J. (1991) A study of coping behaviors and teacher burnout. Work
               & Stress, 5 (3), 205-216.
Vernold, E. L. (2008). Special education teacher resiliency: What keeps teachers in the
               field? (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations
               Database. (UMI No. 3310973).
Werner, E.E., & Smith, R.S. (1982). Vulnerable and Invincible: A longitudinal study of
               Resilient children and youth. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Dr. Erica Vernold Miller working on her own resiliency! Run ....Patty Cake.... Run! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Announcement: Dr. Erica Vernold Miller in the News

Cazenovia College Press Release
Date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 9:30am
Cazenovia College Education professor Erica V. Miller, Ed.D. (left) and Stefanie Lints, CCP Director (right) are looking forward to providing preschool students at CCCP with multicultural literature and literacy resources this fall.
The Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant Selection Committee and the Society Board of Directors recently notified Cazenovia College that its literacy grant proposal, Multicultural Books in Early Childhood Students' Hands, has received full funding in the amount of $2,000.

According to Erica V. Miller, Ed.D., assistant professor and program director of Cazenovia College’s Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Inclusive Elementary Education Programs, “The grant will support our efforts to strengthen the existing partnership between Cazenovia College's Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program and the Cazenovia Community Preschool through the sharing of high quality multicultural literacy resources.”

This project will allow faculty with expertise in the area of multicultural literacy and literature the opportunity to provide Cazenovia College students in ED 325- Multicultural Literacy class and the Cazenovia Community Preschool (CCP) staff with training for how to integrate high quality multicultural literature into their instruction. Miller added, "College students in ED 325- Multicultural Literacy will gain real life experience in curriculum design and implementation, while the preschool students from Cazenovia Community Preschool will have their literacy instruction enriched through the integration of multicultural literature and literacy resources."

In the upcoming fall 2014 semester, Dr. Miller’s education students will make multicultural-themed backpacks filled with books and literacy activities and give them to the Cazenovia Community Preschool.  College faculty and students will also train the CCP staff on how to integrate the backpacks into their instruction.

Educators at both Cazenovia College and the Cazenovia Community Preschool hope that through providing such resources the preschool students will not only gain literacy skills but will also gain the positive lifelong skills of embracing diversity and understanding the role that they play in the global society.

About Phi Kappa Phi
Founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Its chapters are on more than 300 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Each year, approximately 30,000 members are initiated. Since its founding, Phi Kappa Phi has initiated more than 1 million members into its ranks; it is a global network comprised of the best and brightest from all academic disciplines - a community of scholars and professionals building an enduring legacy for future generations.

About Literacy Grants
The Literacy Grants program was initiated to mobilize members and resources of Phi Kappa Phi and the higher education community to champion literacy initiatives. Grants of up to $2,500 are available to Phi Kappa Phi chapters and individual members to fund ongoing literacy projects or to create new initiatives. The Society's commitment to the cause of literacy grows out of and is consistent with its mission, which was expanded to include "…and to engage the community of scholars in service to others."

Dr. Erica V. Miller is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, making her eligible to apply for the Literacy Grant on behalf of Cazenovia College. She was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi in 2003  by the California State University, Sacramento chapter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Annoucement: Upcoming Professor Patty Cake Presentations

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller is slated to share her research at the following professional conferences:

July 14, 2014
9:10-10:40 AM
Changing Early Childhood Policies and Practices to Meet the Needs of Nontraditional Families
Paper Presentation at the 21st International Conference on Learning
Lander College for Women at Touro College
New York City, NY

August 13, 2014
Unintended Hidden Messages in Our Classroom Libraries
Workshop Presentation at the New York State Elementary Classroom Teachers Association Annual Conference
The Hilton Westchester
Rye Brook, NY

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Intellectual Downplaying Study

Intelligence and Beauty: Why do they have to be mutually exclusive?
Recently the California-based clothing company Betabrand launched an advertising campaign exclusively featuring female models that either had already obtained a Ph.D. or were in the process of obtaining one. This campaign was the brainchild of Betabrand founder Chris Lindland. Lindland has said in a statement. “Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?”

Since the ads debuted they have received major media buzz. It seems as though the public is fascinated with the "novelty" of a smart women who is also beautiful. ("Yes Virginia, they do exist!") Really, is a smart woman who is also beautiful a "novelty"? You would think we were talking about an improbability comparable to pigs flying or hell freezing over. The public reaction would be laughable if it were not for the sobering fact that such a response is the result of the deeply entrenched societal belief that female intelligence and beauty are mutually exclusive.

All one has to do is to look back in history to see the longstanding narrative of women being categorized as either smart or beautiful but never the both. Naomi Wolf states in her book, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, "Culture stereotypes women to fit the myth by flattening the feminine into beauty-without-intelligence or intelligence-without-beauty; women are allowed a mind or a body but not both (p. 59)." She further asserts that literature, pop culture, and the media have perpetuated such stereotypes by consistently presenting juxtaposing female characters; those that represent intelligence against those representing beauty. A perfect example of this can be seen in the 1970s cartoon Scooby Doo, where the intelligent Velma is made to appear frumpy while her clueless (no pun intended) counterpoint Daphne is portrayed as the bombshell.

Beyond creating the public misconception that beauty and brains in a woman is a novelty, this cultural stereotype has also had an impact on the way in which many women, me included, have viewed themselves and how we have portrayed ourselves to others. Much of my past and current research has been focused on the intersection between this cultural stereotype, the media, and the phenomenon of intellectual downplaying.

What is intellectual downplaying? Intellectual downplaying is a term that I have coined and defined as the practice of an individual acting as though he/she is less intelligent than he/she really is. Examples of intellectual downplaying or colloquially referred to as "playing dumb" can be found in literature and on both the small and big screens. A modern day example can be seen in the movie, Mean Girls, where the lead character fakes incompetence in her math class as a way to become more attractive to her crush. The prevalence of characters that play down their intelligence in such genres begs the question, "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?"

One would think that the practice of intellectual playing would cease to be a desirable practice in the 21st century where the emphasis on academic achievement is at an all-time high and overall college graduation rates are on the rise. This would seem to be especially true for women given that females now obtain the majority of college, master's, and advanced degrees. However, my research has uncovered that intellectual downplaying- 1) still occurs and 2) is a practice that continues to be overwhelmingly employed by women. Hence, this has become the impetus for me subsequently coining the term "female intellectual downplaying."

Motivated by my own past experience with "playing dumb," my current research project is focused on finding out what influences a person's decision to play down his/her intelligence (Survey Link). My preliminary analysis of the survey data suggests that the majority of respondents believe that the media glorifies dumb female characters, clearly equates intelligence with unattractiveness, and serves as one of the biggest catalysts for female intellectual downplaying behavior. Many respondents relayed personal examples of their own experiences with playing down their intelligence. Respondents indicated that social acceptance, media pressure, and the desire to appear attractive to a love interest motivated their decision for doing so.

Findings from this research will be shared in greater detail at the upcoming Cazenovia College Women's Research Symposium (Symposium Details), and will be included in my forthcoming book titled, Playing Dumb: A Memoir...Like Sort Of! Be on the lookout for information regarding my book release date as well as details regarding my other upcoming presentations/publications.

Until then....

Educationally Yours,
Professor Patty Cake

Wolf, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth. New York: Doubleday.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day!  This year's International Women's Day theme is, "Inspiring Change." According to, this means "encouraging  advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way, challenging the status quo for women's equality, and inspiring positive change." With this in mind, Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. would like to take a moment to thank the following fabulous, fearless women who through their activism have inspired change and improved the lives of women in the US and abroad.

We thank you: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Shirley Chisholm, Ellie Smeal, Sarah Weddington, Naomi Wolf, Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner, Rebecca Walker, Jennifer Baumgardner, Katie Halper, and Jessica Valenti

For more information on International Women's Day please see:,

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Brick in the Wall: Pink Floyd, Race to the Top, and the "Standardization" of Public Education

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller will be presenting at the 2014 NYSFEA Annual Meeting at Colgate University on February 28, 2014. A summary of her presentation is as follows:
In 1979 the iconic band, Pink Floyd, released the album and subsequent movie (1982) The Wall. Hailed by critics as one of the best concept albums ever released; The Wall used graphic lyrics and imagery to tell the story of the fictional character, Pink Floyd, a troubled man struggling to find his way in post-WWII Britain. Traumatized by the after effects of the war, an ineffective educational system, an authoritarian government, and the superficiality of pop culture consumerism, Pink builds a metaphorical mental wall closing himself off from reality (Urick, 2010).

Semi-autobiographical, the educational system, described in The Wall, is a dramatization of band member, Roger Water’s, own educational experiences. Penning the lyrics,

We don’t need no education.

We don’t need no thought control.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

Teacher leave them kids alone.

Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

All and all you’re just another brick in the wall.

(Gilmour & Waters, 1979, track 5)

Waters and bandmate, David Gilmour, expressed their concern that rote standardized learning, likened to thought control, produced compliant drones who could be easily manipulated by the government (Urick, 2010).

Although written 35 years ago, the messages found in The Wall seem to resonate prophetic today given the current state of the U.S. educational system, rife with top down unfunded mandates, pushes for standardized curriculum/testing, and growing educational product consumerism.  This paper presentation will use the lyrics and imagery from The Wall as a lens to examine how Race to the Top is impacting the delivery of education in our public schools. Special attention will be given to the role that the standardization movement has played in the demise of creativity in today’s classrooms. The presentation will culminate with examples of teachers who despite the governmental reform agenda, have resisted the adoption of rote drill and kill practices and instead found creative methods to successfully meet the individual needs of their students.

Gilmour, D. & Waters, R. (1979).  Another brick in the wall part two. On The wall [CD] . New York, United States: Columbia Records.

Urick, B. (2010). Pink Floyd’s The Wall a complete analysis. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Announcement: Professor Patty Cake Honored

Professor Patty Cake Consulting, L.L.C. is happy to announce the following:

Professor Patty Cake, aka Dr. Erica Vernold Miller will be honored with the Sigma Alpha Phi- Excellence in Teaching Award at the upcoming Cazenovia College Student Leadership Celebration. Dr. Vernold Miller was nominated by the members of  Cazenovia College chapter of Sigma Alpha Phi to receive this award based upon the work that she has done both in and outside of the classroom to promote learning and leadership on campus.

Dr. Erica Vernold Miller's writing will be featured in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Excelsior: Leadership in Teaching and Learning. Check out the article by Professor John Livermore, Dr. Kim Wieczorek and Dr. Erica Vernold Miller titled- Three Teachers Meeting the Challenges of APPR. 
Dr. Erica Vernold Miller is also slated to share her research at the following professional conferences:

February 28-March 1, 2014
Time: TBD
Another Brick in the Wall: Pink Floyd, Race to the Top and the "Standardization" of Public Education
Paper Presentation at the NY State Foundations of Education Association's Annual Meeting
Colgate University
Hamilton, NY

July 14-17, 2014
Time: TBD
Changing Early Childhood Policies and Practices to Meet the Needs of Nontraditional Families
Paper Presentation at the 21st International Conference on Learning
Lander College for Women at Touro College
New York City, NY

Ms. Tiffany Varlaro and Dr. Erica Vernold Miller
with their Sigma Alpha Phi Awards

Professor Patty Cake's ® Spring 2019 P-12 Teacher/Educator Job Fair List

Are you graduating soon and are in search of your first teaching job? Are you currently employed in a school but are looking to make a mo...