Classroom Caffeine

A Conversation with Patricia "Pat" Edwards

December 01, 2020 Lindsay Season 1 Episode 4
Classroom Caffeine
A Conversation with Patricia "Pat" Edwards
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Patricia Edwards talks to us about literacy, advocacy, honesty, family communications, and continuous knowledge development. In the week this episode was released, Pat was announced as LRA's Oscar S. Causey Award winner for her outstanding contributions to literacy research! Pat is well-known for her work in family literacy and home/school/community partnerships. Pat is a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.

To cite this episode:
Persohn, L. (Host). (2020, Dec. 1). A conversation with Patricia “Pat” Edwards. (Season 1, No. 4) [Audio podcast episode]. In Classroom Caffeine Podcast series. https://www.classroomcaffeine.com/guests. DOI: 10.5240/5679-D92B-E427-EA44-C131-Q

Lindsay Persohn:

Education Research has a problem. The work of brilliant education researchers often doesn't reach the practice of brilliant teachers. Classroom Caffeine is here to help. Each week, I invite a top education researcher to sit down and talk to teachers about what they have learned from years of study. This week, Dr. Patricia Edwards talks to us about literacy, advocacy, honesty, family communications, and continuous knowledge development. Pat is well known for her work and family literacy and home, school, community partnerships. Pat is a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. For more information about our guest, stay tuned to the end of this episode. So pour a cup of your favorite morning drink. And join me your host Lindsay Persohn for Classroom Caffeine research to energize your teaching practice. Pat, thank you so much for your time today. I have just a couple of questions for you. And I hope you'll share your expertise with the teachers of the world. From your own experiences and education, will you share with us one or two moments that inform your thinking now?

Patricia Edwards:

When I was a small girl, I would say around seven or eight, I felt that I could teach everybody to read and I got in serious trouble, because I corrected the reading miscues on my Sunday school teacher, and I got severely reprimanded by Miss Viola. And I just thought little old ladies who wore glasses couldn't say good. And so when she said, Joshu-A , instead of Joshu-ah, I corrected her. And I discovered that that was not a good thing to do. And I thought my teaching career was going to be completely over. Because I felt like, Oh, my goodness, what have I done? I was right. And I told my grandmother, I said, Well, you know, I did correct her and she was wrong. My grandma said, Yes, but she's an adult, and your child that's above adults can be wrong. So I was a strong headed person. And so I thought, my teaching, I said, Look, I'm done grandma. So I got this bright idea, because my daddy on the barber shop, that I could teach the boys three. So the song were the boys or they were in my backyard. So I created Pat's Saturday school. And so I taught all the boys, had a captive audience, and every Saturday morning, I taught them everything I had learned for the week. And so if they had a permission slip that I made for all the boys, and it was the same permission slip. And I told them that mama had signed it. And so therefore, they were in my class. And then I can't progress reports on all of the boys. And I would report out to their parents what was going on. And so if they said, they didn't want to come to my school, I would say, Daddy, this little voice that he doesn't want to come to my school. And my dad would say, a little boy, whatever his name was, can you read? No, then you have to go to my class. And then of course, I would go haha. So that's what I would do. So that really gave me my grandmother made me a little smock jacket. So and I had on there Miss Pat's school, I had a little chalkboard that I had in my backyard. And so the boys would say things like, well, you taught that last Saturday, I would gasp and say, boys, I'm teaching reinforcement here. So you don't just teach something one time, boys. You have to like I have to do reinforcement. And by the way, I did write the school in my first grade teacher. And so whatever Miss Taylor taught, that's what I taught. So that was probably I was probably, I got excited about that, because I could make the boys do exactly what I wanted them to do. And this is really funny. One boy that was in my class, he is now a lawyer. He told me many years later that he was going to sue me for coercion. And I said, Winthrop! You can't sue me for coercion. I said, in fact, the statute of limitations has expired. And I said, but I didn't make you a Georgia lawyer. So we laughed about that. And, um, so I guess I that was my first experience. My second moment was when I was teaching at Louisiana Tech University. And at the end of student teaching, the students would always say to the faculty, they were two things that we had not done for them. We had not shown them how to work with families and children and we had not done a very good job dealing with discipline issues. And both those issues really resonated home. So every quarter that students would say to faculty, same thing. So I received the WK Kellogg Fellowship, those are the Corn Flake people in Battle Creek, Michigan, so I was still teachers eat your cornflakes, we could focus on an area outside of our area of specialization. So I decided that I was going to focus on the family from a psychological, sociological, educational, cross cultural and policy perspective, that sounds really good. But I kept thinking to myself, you know, at the university level, I don't meet with parents except graduations, weddings, but I'm sending students out mostly young white women, because I mean, that's what I've been teaching for the last over 30 years. And I thought to myself, one of the things that we don't do and teach preparation programs on a regular level is to work with teachers of how to deal with families and children. But at the same time that I received that WK Kellogg Fellowship, I was appointed to the Headstart National Board, looking at the incongruence, between Headstart and public schools. And you know, some kids do really well in Headstart, but they've missed the train before the train has left the station. And one of the things about being on that board, I had to volunteer to work in a Headstart center. And it was really funny, because the Headstart center was right down the street from my house, and I had never really done anything with the Headstart center. So I went down to the Headstart center, and I, I had a hidden agenda. But I wanted to talk with the families. And you know, everybody knows that Headstart was started by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, it was the war on poverty, to give, you know, try to level the playing field. But in this particular community Ruston, there was one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools. So I went out and visited with very smart teachers, kindergarten, first and second grade teachers. And I said to them, if you could tell me something to do with the Headstart families, what would that be? And now I know after going down to 49 Different states, and 54 different countries, teachers tell parents the same thing, read to your child. And so I said, okay, and all the teachers said, if those parents would do that, before their kids came into kindergarten, that would be something good, okay, I need to do a study here. And I started to read all the research. And what I kept seeing was that low income parents do this, middle class parents do that. So I said to the parents, I had 18 parents to volunteer for this quick study that I was going to do. And I only asked one question, I said, Look, even though you're not from the state of Missouri, I want you to show me what you would do if a teacher were to ask you to read to your child. And I first of all said, do you read to your child? And they said, Yes. And so I'm gonna tell you quickly about five of those parents, because that has been a pivotal study. And all of the work that I've done since. I had wordless picture books, picture, storybooks, environmental print books, all kinds of books, labeling books, on a table. And by the way, in this particular community, there was not a language problem. Everybody spoke English. I said, I want you to select the book that you feel you can read. I'm going to videotape you, because I want to know what I see. Because and they said yes. And so I had a big pink Chair of stuffed animals. I was trying to make it really pleasant. And so the first mother picks the book, Over in the Meadow, that mother could not read not one word in that book. Despite my coaching, begging, and pleading, this mother quit after the second try. Next Mother, this is a teenage mother. She comes in, she picks the book, Great Day for Up. And this mother was struggling to read that book. She did some reading but she was really struggling. And I you know, of course I can't coach him or anything because this is a research study. Third mother comes in this is also a young mother. And she picked a labeling book, Time for That. Some years ago, Jana Mason, who's the wife of Dick Anderson had created what she called a set of Little Books. And these were like labeling books. So if you saw a picture of a bed, that's what the word said. So this mother is asking me, What do I do? Do I point to pictures? Do I ask questions? So she's asking me all of these questions. And that's just show me what you do. Next mother comes in, this is the fourth mother, she picks the same book, Great Day for Up, she raised the book exceedingly fast. She's moving the book, from side to side, the kid never knows what happened in the book. I'm paying attention to this. The last mother comes in, and I'm sure some teachers have had parents who disagree with them, vehemently disagree. The teacher, the Head Start teacher said that this child did not talk in class, the mother said the child talk too much at home. So we have the first and second teacher and stark disagreement. All right, this mother picks the book, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. All right, she said to me, I'm not gonna read the book, I'm gonna have a conversation around the book. So I'm paying attention. And so the mother was trying to coach this little girl to get started. And this little girl was not responding. So this mother asked me to leave the room, I did not want to leave the room. But she asked me to, I came back, maybe five, six minutes, the mother is crying, and the little girl is crying. I replay the video, and this mother has spanked this little girl. Now I thought to myself, these are five cases of a parent's interpretation of a simple teacher directive of read to your child. So I didn't want book reading associated with Pavlov and the dogs, every time a book would come, the kid with cry. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers says when you read a book to a child, it's like passing down a family jewel. It's your time to cuddle up with your child, to really giggle and smile and laugh and have a good time. So I took that video of those five parents doing what I know teachers really all around the world, ask parents to do. And I always tell teachers, that they are trained to be teachers, parents on that train to be parents. And it was really interesting, because teachers talk about parents really badly. And parents also talk about teachers. So it's like the six men of Hindustan, you're all describing an elephant. You're all partly in the right. And from that study, this was my message that we needed to shift from telling to showing parents how to read to their children. And that really launched my career in very, very significant ways. And so I left Louisiana Tech and went down to LSU. And this is really interesting, because in the time, schools are not making annual yearly progress, ah, your school can get taken over by the state. So I, my associate dean at the time was Alden Moe and his wife was a SPUR Technical Assistant. In other words, a literacy coach. But back in the day, SPUR stood for Special Plan for Upgrading Reading. Well, I did not want to go to Donaldsonville. Donaldsonville, about 50 miles from New Orleans. A lot of people might have heard of the Sunshine bridge. It's right on the Mississippi River. Baton Rouge is about 40 miles away. So my associate dean's wife wanted me to come down to Donaldsonville. Well, Donaldsonville, 726 Children, 80% of them are black, 20% of them white, 35 white teachers, four black teachers, white principal, black assistant principal, and it's a hot mess. 12 school board men, and they, of course, whenever there's a hot mess, they always want women to come try to fix it. And so I get down to Donaldsonville. And it was really interesting. And I think I've been talking to school districts around the country about these issues. Whenever kids are not doing well, it boils right down to a race and class issue. I go in there. And so I met with the I told him I said No look, I'm just making this up as I go along. Because if I had written the research design, it wouldn't have worked because you got too many variables that you were dealing with. So if you go in and I'm just gonna collect data, the study would not have wored, so you have to work with people before you collect data. So I go in there, and Miss Shaw, Miss Matthews had worked, Miss Sharpe is white, Miss Matthews is black, and they had worked together for a lot of years. And so the superintendent wanted them to straighten up the school. All right. So I met with the black parents. And they assumed that I was going to be white because I was coming from LSU. And I told them, I really was, I was just pretending to be black. We got a good laugh out of that. And so, I said what's the problem here? They said, the teachers didn't like him, because they were black. I said, Well, you know, it's genetically too late for you to change what color you are, you can lose weight, gain weight, change your hair color, but I cannot deal with that issue. So I mean, what color you are, it's not a very, it's not a variable, it's going to be that same color, so I can't deal with that particular issue. So then I met with the white parents, and they told me the teachers did not like them, because they were poor. So I said to them, you know, in 1929, in our great nation, we had the Great Depression. And America didn't fold up and die because we have poor people. This is the only country you can be born with absolutely, unequivocally nothing. And you do have the option of gaining something. So I said, I can't give you any money, because I don't make that much money. So what I did, and I do think a lot of school districts should do this, I have a town meeting, and I said, Look, if we were getting ready to go down to the Superdome in New Orleans, we would not be talking about what color somebody was, or how much money they had, you would get the best kid on the bus to go to and play football game. I said, let me just tell you something. I said, I'm down here to improve reading instruction. I've listened to the teachers, and they've told me what they what they feel the issues are, and that a lot of kids are coming, they are chronologically five, developmentally two. So let me say this to you. Most of you have told me that your children learned better one on one. That's why you're the parent, teachers do not teach one on one. In America, we don't have one on one Education, it's too expensive. So you are going to have to do something at home. And the teachers are going to have to do something at school. And we're gonna have to change the way in which we interact. And I said, first of all, we're not going to talk about what color people are. And we're not going to talk about how much money people make, because those are two issues I cannot solve, but I can work with you around literacy learning. I said to them, we're gonna value academics at the same level, we value athletics. And said, no matter where you are in the country, when March comes, we have March Madness, but we're gonna have literacy madness this entire year. I want everybody to tell me what color you are. And I said, at the end of the school year, you're gonna be still that same color. But hopefully, we're going to have change perceptions and change lives. And that's what that's what happened. Parents as Partners ended up being recognized by Mrs. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush as one of the top 10 family literacy programs in the nation. And when I had a chance to meet her, I said to her, I was extremely happy that former First Lady Nancy Reagan said no to drugs. But if we're going to have a kinder and gentler nation, we need to do what President Bush said, in order to have a cannon gentler nation, we need to say yes to literacy. And I thought that was extremely important. And so that was a big project that I participated in. And from there, I got highlighted on the Dan Rather Nightly News is one of five Americans everyone should get to know. David Maraniss, who was the Clinton biographer was The Washington Post's regional person in Texas, Austin. And so that's how he did a story on that project. That project represented at the state of Louisiana at Mrs. Bush's Conference on Family Literacy in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1988. And I worked with governor's wives all around the country, working with him on literacy programs and trying to help them raise literacy learning in their states. So from there, I got invited to the Center for the Study of Reading at University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, and I did work in, in Chicago public schools and in Springfield, and then I came to Michigan State.

Lindsay Persohn:

Well, no doubt you have an impressive resume and you've done such important work in in education. And so I'm hoping that that will lead pretty naturally to you sharing with teachers what you think they should know about your research.

Patricia Edwards:

I'll give teachers a slogan. When I first came here, Michigan State had the Holmes group, and the slogan was Teaching for Conceptual Understanding. And I said to Dr. Lanier who was my dean at the time, how can you teach for conceptual understanding, where you don't conceptually understanding anything about the people that you're teaching. And so I do think that teachers need to understand something about the families and children that they teach, because there's no way for you to teach unless you make connections with the families. So even if you use the materials from a basal reader, basals are written for every school district in this country, so you have to adapt and adopt the material that you are teaching to the lives of the students. One thing I would like for teachers to do, we talk about creating learning communities, among our students. So you need to create learning communities with your colleagues, because some teachers have figured out how to best teach some children, and they need to have those cogenerative conversations with their colleagues. And that's what parents stories allow you to do. One of my colleagues, her husband was the head of the residency program here. And I went up to the hospital just as an observer just to see what doctors do. You have two senior doctors talking to four resident doctors, when in a school you have teachers who've been teaching more than 30 years, and I teach who's been teaching less than a year. Why can't they have those cogenerative conversations? Because once, is like a lawyer. A lawyer can can send his brief to his brother or his friend in any state and say, how would you approach this case? Teachers can use stories as a way of doing that. So I think that's a big contribution. That book that I wrote A Path to Follow, Learning to Listen to Parents was written in 1999. That book has done extremely well. I mean, Heinemann is still selling it. And so I think we live in a data driven society, teachers collect test data. But test data does not give you data about the child, all you have is a number. And so you, in order to get information, because when a child enters your classroom, all you have is a data set, but you don't have the context around that child, where this child come from, what kinds of issues they have. So I would say just as you go for an annual physical checkup, you need to have an annual literacy checkup, because a child's life can change from year to year.

Lindsay Persohn:

Right and so often the data teachers receive is is not fresh, right? It's from the prior school year, it's often collected under duress, you might say, you know, when students have that testing anxiety, so certainly developing some authentic data in order to get to know students is is such an important way to start.

Patricia Edwards:

Mm hmm. Yes, it is. And, and most of the teachers have found that it's, it's, it's a way of opening up a parent. Like, for example, if you go in and I tell teachers, this is you can't be afraid, because when this book was being written, Heinemann said, Well, you were asking parents personal information, as well, if I'm going to be personally responsible, I think I have a right. Because if you're a doctor, and the doctor says, Have you eaten in the last 12 hours, and you lie, that could be life or death? Because you can die and they say, Well, you wrote down allies, the same thing with a lawyer. If you go in, and your case is not factual, that can be a problem. So I say look, if a child comes in to your class, and the parent has said, I've done all of these things, then you should see some evidence of that. And I'm in my stories, in my conversations with the parents, you know, you have to go in there like you really want to get the information, not that you were tiptoeing around. So I asked out, like this study for this book was based on first grade teachers. So first grade is real school, it's big school. That's when kids are on that assessment treadmill. So I don't know whether in Florida, if kindergarten is required, but in some states, it's not. And you know that we don't have equal preschool. So Headstart is not Montessori. So some kids come in with a lot of cultural capital, and a lot of literacy coddling before they ever walk through the school door. And so that is just the fact. And so when kids come in, I think teachers need to be truthful with parents because we say we're professionals. And so, you know, I know when I was in college teachers say, is teaching a profession, is an art is you know, it's all of those things. And so therefore, I find that people trust you better when you tell them the truth. I don't just let just as you wouldn't want your doctor to not tell you the truth because he wants to protect your feelings, that's not good. If you say something, you need to say something, I would almost use John Lewis's phrase, you want to good and you want to get into good, unnecessary trouble. So if getting good and necessary trouble, as you tell the truth, then you need to tell the truth. Because if you don't, it's going to come back and get you at a later point. So I walked in, I told the parents look, the teacher has told me their assessment. So if you have a counter narrative, you tell me yours. And so when the parents were talking, I would say, you know, if you did this, I would see this, just as if you go in and your cholesterol is 286 and you tell the doctor, you haven't had any fried foods, or milk products, well they know you're lying. So as a teacher, you have a knowledge base and you know, when people are telling you the truth, because you see those evidences. You can tell who you have talked to.

Lindsay Persohn:

And I, I love the way that you speak of the world of education as a profession, because it does feel like over the last couple of decades, at least in our area, a lot of the professionalism has been drained from from teachers, and really what they're allowed to do, I feel like some of the professional latitude has been taken from teachers and replaced with, you know, mandates and people looking over over teachers' shoulders. So I think that, you know, when we present ourselves as though we're part of a profession, that's certainly a first step in reclaiming some of that, that freedom and that latitude to get to know parents and to do what's right and adapt, you know, as needed in the moment.

Patricia Edwards:

But let me say this to you, I agree with you totally. When people challenge teachers, a lot of teachers don't know how to fight back, right. And, um, legislators. I know, when I was, President of the National Reading Association, you go, and you meet with the House Select Committee on Education. And these guys have their own frozen memories of how school was when they were in school. And sometimes you have to push back. And we had a good lobbyists that showed us how to push back, because these are the people that are making policies. So when teachers don't go to school board meetings, they don't go in places and look at the people that's on those school boards. Because a lot of these people that are on school boards, they know nothing about education, lawyers, doctors, business people can be on teacher boards, but we can't be on Bar Review Boards, and you're not going to be on a medical board. So I think teachers need to push back and ask questions. And so silence gives consent. I always tell people Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was the Kindergarten Cop, and he got beat up by kindergarteners. So some of these people that are telling you all the what they know, they really don't know do much and nothing. And you have to call them out and be able to be proactive, rather than reactive. And I said, I mean, every legislator had to have a first grade teacher. So you couldn't be that stupid if if you were there teachers. And so I think what happens is that teachers need to learn how to argue that, which leads me to this point, in addition to training teachers, we need to show them how to justify the decisions that they make. So if someone says, Why are you doing that, you don't need to freeze up, you need to say I'm doing this because and I know a lot of teachers don't know how to push back. And I will say that people treat you the way you allow them to.

Lindsay Persohn:

And really one of the kind of covert goals of this podcast is to give teachers that information they need in order to speak up and to defend their choices and, and to make their intentions clear. So I think Pat, you've already begun to answer my third question for you. But I bet there's more to say here. So given the challenges of today's educational climate, what message do you want teachers to

Patricia Edwards:

I think that if you're going to be a teacher, hear? you're gonna have to be an advocate. If you believe something, you don't need to get scared off if someone challenges it, because you will be running for the rest of your life. There's, I mean, if you look at people who have been inventors, I'm sure people told them they didn't know what they were talking about. I do think that if you're going to be a teacher, and if you're going to stay in the profession for a long time, you're going to have to be knowledgeable. You're going to have to continue to learn new things you're gonna have to learn to get out of your comfort zone. You can't tear up when somebody challenges. I tell my students, because I said, I teach basically all white students and their white women and they don't like conflict. Teaching is conflictual. And I do think teachers have to learn how to deal with conflict. I don't think that teachers should apologize for everything that you do. You don't need to back down when you feel that you are right. Because if you do, you always be backing down. I don't think you should apologize for your personhood. That's why I think that teachers need to learn how to talk across race lines and class lines, you need to I ask my students, how many people do you know that's different from you, that you can have a controversy or conversation? And not many of them raised their hands. I do think, as an African American, I learned double consciousness. I think that white teachers need to learn multiple consciousness. Because if you don't, then you get frightened when somebody raises the issue. And it's not, it's not knowing what people eat, it's not knowing what clothes they wear, I think you need to know something about people and ask those questions. And I think, by so doing, I mean, as, as a black person who grew up in Georgia, I understood whiteness. And I think you need to understand whiteness, blackness, and with the climate that we're living in, because right now we're going to basically have young white teachers, and middle aged white teachers teaching non white students. And you need to know those lines that you can cross in lines that you don't cross.

Lindsay Persohn:

Pat, I think that's such an important message. And I think, you mentioned owning your personhood. And I think that that is such an important thing for us as teachers to do. And I think also that speaks to what you've said about getting to know students, we need to begin to understand their personhood, and not just who they are as individuals, but as you've mentioned, get to know their families, where did they come from? What do they do? What do they like? What don't they like? And you know, that's really the basis for a positive educational climate. And I think that's really the only way we're going to make academic progress is first through some social progress.

Patricia Edwards:

That's true. And don't give good news, when there's no good news to tell. I did a study one time and I wanted to work with a white teacher, who and this one teacher had 27 years of teaching experience, I would say, the best teacher in Lansing. All the parents loved her. And I told her, I wanted to get a study around parent teacher conferences, and I want her to choose three families across race lines and class lines. She chose a Latina, a black person, and a white person. The only person she told the truth was the white, was the white parent. And then I want to teach you that can disagree without being disagreeable. And we presented this at some conferences. And I said, Jan, why don't you and by the way, after she, I taped her conference, I interviewed the parents after the conference. And the black parents didn't believe not one word she said, not one. And they she told them good things and it's okay to tell good things. And so the question becomes an apparent teacher, if you think about it, there are touchpoints, like, fall and spring conference and then there's the open house, which I think is a waste of time. And that's another whole conversation that I talked to teachers about. And I said, Well, why don't you tell them all that good news, because they know a little bit about their child, and they put their child in your class because they know that you know how it's like Leo the Late Bloomer. Their kids might come in a little late, but you make bloom because you're that kind of teacher. So she was tearing up. I said, Jan, I tell my students don't cry, because tears are like potato chips, you can't cry one. So you get out of there as quick as you can, if you see yourself getting emotional. And she said, but I didn't want to tell him bad news. I said, Yes, but you want a person to respect what you say. So let me tell you from a black person's perspective. They thought you were being passive aggressive to tell them information, that it was at the extreme of trying to make it good when actually, they knew that what you were saying was not completely true. So and it had nothing to do with you then white, nothing. It um, what they wanted was that, was how many two Teachers know what parents think about what they said when they leave the conference. They don't.

Lindsay Persohn:

Now many, right.

Patricia Edwards:

So that was my contribution. And so the Latino family felt that their child was the highest child, that what she told them, they could have stayed home. You know, I know teachers do best practices, portfolios, I guess they still doing those. I think, you know, just do best practices, you need to give people a comprehensive look at their child's, In other words, their child, that's what your job is, is to give them a comprehensive look. And people can respect you better when you tell them the truth, than if you try to finesse the truth. So I worked with her on her conferences. So they were little, they were a lot better in the spring. Now the only person she told the truth was the white family, and she had taught their daughter before. So she knew she had Kimmy this year. But she had had Kathy a few years back. And she was spot on. And I asked her why. And it just boiled down to her level of comfortability. So we talked about that. I said yeah, but everybody's not gonna be Kimmy. What about, you know, Tawana and some of these other kids? You know, their parents got you on this pedestal as a teacher. And so they are not looking at what color you are. But it does become an issue when they feel as if you didn't tell them the right thing. I think teachers definitely need to deal with that issue.

Lindsay Persohn:

And it almost sounds like from what you're telling us that in some ways teachers create a racial divide by not being upfront and honest with parents.

Patricia Edwards:

I think so. And, and but I do think, Lindsay it has a lot to do with the social construction of whiteness, I think that I mean, I've been teaching white women for a long time. And I work with my colleagues now. And they have a difficult time sometimes even talking to graduate students in accurate ways. Whereas I don't care. I tell the white students and all students, but that's the way I was raised. And, and I think this, one of my graduate students, we wrote a paper together, it's about niceness. It's the whole niceness body of research where people think being nice, is good. But it's it's not that you're being bad when you're telling people the truth. And so that's why I do think that in my teaching, I talk to students about that. Because if you were being nice, because it makes you feel good, being nice, might not make the person you're talking to feel good. And I've heard so many teachers say things like, well, I can't say that because I'm white. I say well you just wiped yourself out. I don't ever say well, I can't say that, because I'm black. So why are you saying that? And so I do think we have to give teachers those conversations. So it's more than Well, you know, I, I talked to a black person or Hispanic person or whatever race person, but it's like they feel if they are saying something that they perceive to be negative, that's not good. But I don't know what negative means, when you are giving a person your professional opinion. Now, on the other hand, when you, I have found that a lot of times teachers tell what's wrong, but they don't give any answers as to what's right. And and I do think that's important, too. So if I go to the doctor, and he says I'm in bad shape, it's like, okay, I can breathe. Now, what is the method of treatment?

Lindsay Persohn:

Right? How did how do we get, how do we move from this point?

Patricia Edwards:

That's exactly right. So now I got the news. So what do I do? And I find that a lot of teachers are like, you know that, because we talk about differentiated instruction, and I came up with two terms called differentiated parenting, because not all parents are the same, and parentally appropriate, because I was invited to Georgetown, and I went there, and you're dealing with high profile parents who are married to senators and congresspeople, but they have children too. And you're not a good teacher unless you connect. So I'm talking to these parents the way I would talk to a PhD student, you do an analysis of a child, and these are the parents that will do exactly what you asked them to do. So I wouldn't be talking, asking these parents do they read to their children? 'Cause they do. So it's a it's a much more higher discussion, because you got to respect the fact that some of them, they are stay home parents because they are doing different kinds of things. Like if your husband works on Wall Street, you don't necessarily need to work, but you are doing a different kind of job. And so the job is to raise children who can go to Georgetown, if you know what I mean. So you can't talk to that Mama, or that daddy, or that grandma, the way you would talk to a person who is completely illiterate, but on the other hand, so that's, that's the variation in conversation.

Lindsay Persohn:

And there's good news to share and there are points for growth to share with every one of those families.

Patricia Edwards:

And people like that. If you said, Well, let me just tell you what, it's like a student teacher, like I'm dealing with interns now. And you know, it's not like they can

Lindsay Persohn:

And who are we serving with those decisions? make 25 on a test or whatever. So at this point, it's like, okay, so you're good at this, these are some things you need to work on. And so that's my job is to zero in, I'm going to be meeting with them on their lessons, and to say, Okay, I want you to think about this, you got to think about all of the students in your class, because they were supposed to have done a Funds of Knowledge audit on all of their students. And so they're beginning to learn how to talk, push back, and they taught some more. I don't expect them to be a seasoned 5 or 10 year teacher, but I'm getting them into that whole thing where they are learning to think like a teacher, to reflect like a teacher, like why did you make this decision?

Patricia Edwards:

That's right. And some teachers feel feel as if that's intimidating. No, you have to learn how to get that push and pull. Because in law school, a person will say, well, Lindsay, why did you say that? What's your evidence? So I'm saying the teachers what's you evidence, that's when they're dealing with their lesson. If you're going to discuss this with the family, what kinds of things would you say?

Lindsay Persohn:

Pat, not only are you an absolute delight to speak with, you've given us so much to think about, and I think your message for teachers is such an important one. Certainly now, but I think always. So thank you so much for your time today and I thank you for your contributions to education. And thank you also for sharing your ideas with teachers.

Patricia Edwards:

You're very, very welcome.

Lindsay Persohn:

Dr. Patricia A. Edwards is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in parent involvement, home, school, community partnerships, multicultural literacy, early literacy and family and intergenerational literacy, especially among poor and minority children. Pat has developed two nationally acclaimed family literacy programs, Parents as Partners in Reading and Talking Your Way to Literacy. She has served as the first African American president of the International Literacy Association. Pat is a member of the Reading Hall of Fame and a National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy Distinguished Scholar. Dr. Edwards is a member of the Michigan Department of Education's Family Engagement Task Force, the recipient of the Literacy Research Association's Albert J. Kingston Service Award, the International Literacy Association's 2012 Jerry John's Outstanding Teacher Education and Reading Award, the 2015 Michigan Reading Association's Outstanding Teacher Educator Award, and the 2019 American Educational Research Association's Scholar of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award. Dr. Edwards was named the 2017-2018 Jeanne S Chall Visiting Researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has published many books and many articles and highly refereed journals. Notably her 2019 book titled, Partnering with Families for Student Success 24 Scenarios for Problem Solving with Parents has been recommended for the 2021 AACTE Outstanding Book Award. This book is designed to help teachers gain confidence and build sensitivity when interacting with caregivers and families who speak diverse languages and may come from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds. Pat is a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Education at Michigan State University. For the good of all students, good research should inform good practice and vice versa. Listeners are invited to respond to our guests, learn more about our guests research, and suggest a topic for an upcoming episode through this podcast website at ClassroomCaffeine.com. If you've learned something today, or just enjoyed listening, please subscribe to this podcast. I raised my mug to you teachers. Thanks for joining me.