City Connects and its Impact on Teachers

We know that City Connects helps students, but recently published research also looks at its impact on teachers — and on how they teach.

The article — “The impact of comprehensive student support on teachers: Knowledge of the whole child, classroom practice, and Teacher Support” — appears in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

As the article explains, teachers know that children living in poverty often face a long list of challenges, including hunger, homelessness, family chaos, and obesity.

Citing Charles E. Bach’s “Healthier Students are Better Learners,” the article notes, “No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, no matter what accountability measures are put in place, no matter what governing structures are established for schools, educational progress will be profoundly limited if students are not motivated and able to learn.”

This pressing load of unmet needs also takes a toll on teachers, according to research — and to teachers who say they can often feel the emotional burdens that children bring to school.

City Connects intervenes by helping children and their families manage out-of-school challenges, and this does two things: provides teachers with insight into their students’ lives and frees teachers from having to struggle with their students’ problems.

Teachers, in other words, can focus more effectively on teaching.

As the City Connects article explains, “an understanding of the whole child affects the teacher-student relationship. The quality of this relationship may change as teachers understand more about a child’s strengths, needs, and out-of-school life.”

Developing greater teacher-child closeness “serves as a protective buffer against maladjustment and is associated with factors important to academic success such as participating in class and liking school.”

Knowing more about students also means it “may directly impact instruction by allowing teachers to have a better sense of children’s strengths and needs across a variety of dimensions.” The article adds, “As evidenced by teacher responses, we believe that City Connects, and systemic student support more generally, may directly facilitate differentiated instruction, which research indicates is important for optimizing student achievement.”

The implications of this research?

“While teacher preparation programs will likely continue to focus on curriculum and academic instruction, the findings presented suggest that teachers would benefit from receiving support regarding non-academic needs, particularly via professional development programming and/or other professional experiences that tap the expertise of supportive colleagues, such as the City Connects Coordinator,” the article says, adding:

“With increased knowledge about the whole child, the influence of students’ out-of-school needs, and the potential resources to which students can be connected in order to have these needs met, it is possible that teachers could engage in a re-conceptualized approach to collective inquiry and co-constructing knowledge in their schools.”

These new approaches could dramatically improve both instruction and outcomes among students who have the greatest needs.

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