Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Professor Patty Cake ® Professional Pointer #2- Building Teacher Resiliency

Previously published on this blog (June, 2014) and in the NYSECTA (New York State Elementary Classroom Teacher Association) Newsletter (Winter, 2015).  
Citation: Miller, E.V. (2015, Winter). Building teacher resiliency. NYSECTA Newsletter, 2(1), 9-11. 
 Building Teacher Resiliency
By- Dr. Erica Vernold Milller
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.

Me working on my own resiliency! Run .... Professor Patty Cake.... Run!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Professor Patty Cake's ® Spring 2017 P-12 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 move into a new position? Chances are you have spent hours scouring the web for information about open positions only to be directed to sites with inaccurate information. Wouldn't you love to find out about open positions directly from the schools/school districts who are hiring? If so, then attending a job fair might be just the type of job search tool you are looking for.

Job fairs offer candidates, like you, the opportunity to connect face-to-face with schools/school districts who are looking to hire educators for their open teaching positions. Recruiters at job fairs come knowing the most up-to-date vacancy needs of their organizations and serve as key gatekeepers in the hiring process. Impress a recruiter and you will be surprised just how quickly your resume will get into the hands of the school leader who is making the hiring decisions.

Unsure of where to find information about upcoming educator job fairs? You are in luck, we have taken the time to create the Professor Patty Cake's ®  Spring 2017 P-12 Educator Job Fair List. Below you will find links to over 20  upcoming  Educator Job Fairs. Click on the live links and be connected to job fair information pages. It's just that easy! Good Luck!

Districts across the US-
Districts in FL-
Districts in AK- 
Lee County School District, FL-
Districts in CO and WY-
Candidates in UK-
Cherokee County District, SC-
Districts across SC-
Districts in MT and Surrounding States-
Districts in WI-
Districts in MN-
St. Johns's School  District, FL-
Prince George's School District, MD-
NC Virtual Job Fair-
Northeast FL Virtual Job Fair-
Northwest FL Virtual Job Fair-
Districts in TX-
Capital Region NY-
EdTech positions in NYC-
Districts in MA-

Need a resume or help prepping for an interview? Visit to be connected to expert career coaches and resume writers who want to help you improve your hireability!
NEXT POST- Interview Pointers from the Professor

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Professor Patty Cake ® Professional Pointer #1

Professor Patty Cake ® Professional Pointer #1- For many educators, it is the time in the academic year when you are feeling overworked, underappreciated, and burnt out. Here are some unique ways that you and your colleagues can tackle fatigue and keep burnout at bay.
  • Color the Rainbow Parties- Ask that each grade level team/department to select a color of the rainbow and a day to share edible treats of their selected color in the faculty/staff lounge. Not only is it nice to share treats with your colleagues but it is also fun to see how each team/department creatively addresses the color challenge.
  • Magazine/Book Swaps- Nothing is more relaxing than curling up with a good, non-educational and simply entertaining, magazine/book. One way to enhance your reading collection is to participate in a school wide magazine/ book swap. You and your colleagues can bring in magazines and/or books that you are willing to swap and set up a “swapping” library in your classroom after school. Better yet, make it a swapping party and add some refreshments to the festivities.
  • After School Zumba or Yoga Club- One way to reduce stress is to exercise and you can make exercise more fun if you do it with friends. Many fitness trainers offer discounted rates for their classes if you supply the space and a have a group of willing participants. Another option is to use workout videos. All you need to do is select a day/time of the week, reserve your school’s gym or cafeteria, grab your colleagues, and get moving!
Do you like what we have posted here? Contact Professor Patty Cake ® Consulting, L.L.C. to learn more about our Practicing Educators Stress Management Package and our Boosting Teacher Resiliency and Managing Stress in Times of Change workshop.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Professor Patty Cake ® Career Hack #102

Professor Patty Cake ® Career Hack # 102- We recently had a client ask us whether or not it is important to include an objective statement on her resume. This was our response to her- We typically leave objective statements off of resumes because most employers view them as "fluff," outdated, and think that they are redundant. In most cases, the applicant's objective is to obtain the position that he/she is applying for. Hence, that is why he/she is applying for the position in the first place.This is especially true in education because applicants are applying for a specific position that the school district has advertised. Here is a link to an article that shares our view of objective statements- USNews
We prefer to use the space traditionally used for objective statements to showcase succinct headers and/or well-written professional profiles/summaries, 1-2 short sentences summing up an applicant's qualifications. Do you have a well-written professional profile/summary? If not, contact Professor Patty Cake ® Consulting, L.L.C.  today to learn how we can help!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Professor Patty Cake ® Career Hack #101

Professor Patty Cake ® Career Hack # 101- Most school districts and educational agencies do not have the budget nor the time to post each and every open position on external directories like Indeed, SchoolSpring, or in local newspapers. They will however post open positions on their employment web pages. Regularly checking multiple employment pages can be tedious. You can save time and maximize your job search efforts by following these 4 easy steps: 

#1 Create a folder labeled "job search" in your browser favorites folder

#2 Visit the employment web pages and favorite them

#3 Add the favorite pages to your "job search" favorites folder

#4 Make a habit of checking your "job search" folder each time you log into your browser. 

This Professor Patty Cake ® Career Hack will help you save time, stay up to date with open positions, and be first in line to submit your application to your desired school districts and/or educational agencies! Want to learn more career hacks? Contact Professor Patty Cakes Consulting, L.L.C. today to learn more about career coaching options.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How To Guide: Meeting the Needs of Today's Modern Families

Previously published on this blog (August 2014) and in the NYSECTA Newsletter (Spring, 2014). Citation: Miller, E. (2014, Spring). Meeting the needs of today's modern families. NYSECTA Newsletter,1(3), 6-8.

Updated 12/27/2016
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.*See The Professor Patty Cake ® Shop to view a selection of such posters.
- 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. * Visit the Professor Patty Cake ® Amazon Resource Store to link to the following books on Amazon. 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. 

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, visit to read how you can bring the Professor Patty Cake ® Workshops- "Effectively Meeting the Needs of Diverse Families In Our Early Childhood/Elementary Schools" and "What's Hiding In Your Classroom Libraries" to your school/organization.

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...