Supporting children in the wake of violence at the U.S. Capitol

This is a guest blog post by Maria Theodorakakis, a City Connects Research Associate and a psychologist at  Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Watching — and often rewatching — the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week can be incredibly destabilizing for children. Seeing the seat of government desecrated by mob violence and symbols of hate can be upsetting and scary.

So it’s crucial to address children’s questions and concerns in a supportive and age-appropriate manner. Children may have difficulty making sense of what they are seeing on the news or overhearing adults discuss. In response to such events, younger children often wonder whether they and their loved ones are safe. Older children may ask about the underlying social justice issues. Encouraging children to ask questions makes it clear what information they want and need. We can then offer realistic reassurance based on facts and point out, as Mr. Rogers advised, that in a crisis there are always people who help.

We should also think about how adults can serve as socio-emotional role models. As adults process their own real-time emotions, they have to be aware of how their responses will be interpreted by children in their lives. Often there’s this misconception that adults should not react, they should avoid bringing challenging topics up with children, and that adults should be brave and stoic and hide their distress. But it’s healthier for kids to see adults have authentic reactions, name their feelings, and effectively implement strategies for managing them. For example, adults can be role models by developing their own good habits, limiting media consumption and choosing not to stay glued to televisions and phone feeds all night, because information overload can raise everyone’s anxiety.  Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 1/11/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Educators can help students process the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol.

The CDC says teachers should be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines.

Educators and local television stations team up to reach students who don’t have Internet access.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 12/21/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

In-school tutoring programs could slow students’ COVID-19 learning loss.

Massachusetts educators and staff in the cue to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Teachers learn to provide trauma-informed care for undocumented students.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

Coordinating for the holidays

As this difficult pandemic year ends, City Connects Coordinators are making many lists and checking them twice to ensure that families have what they need to get through the holiday season.

Across the country, coordinators are making sure that children have access to the practical, educational, and even magical resources they need to have happy holidays and a successful new year. These include: 

• coats, food stamps, rental assistance, and help for newly arrived immigrants

• tutors, bus passes, and an in-school paraprofessional to support a child with disabilities

• holiday meals and gifts as well as two Trees for Tots Christmas trees — one Minion-themed, and one book-themed – being decorated by City Connects Coordinator Gabrielle West and her colleagues at Catholic Central’s elementary school in Springfield, Ohio. The trees are being donated to two families in need. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 12/14/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Mental health support for teachers is a top priority in Colorado and other states.

California parents sue, claiming remote learning programs are inequitable.

An elementary school in Zillah, Wash., wins recognition for closing achievement gaps.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

10 things we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic (so far)


1. City Connects’ system of integrated student support, which is
delivered by skilled coordinators, allows schools and districts to be resilient in the face of crisis — even a global one.

2. The core practices of City Connects — the whole class reviews, individual student reviews, and personalized support — can work virtually.

3. By moving our model online, “We got to know families better,” City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh says. “When we were in schools it could be hard to schedule meetings with working parents. But online, “we got to see families at home and get more of a sense of their challenges.”

4. Having a record of every child — thanks to our data system — meant that once the pandemic hit, we could quickly reach out to every student. We knew who our most vulnerable families were, so we could re-establish connections with community-based providers like telehealth services and afterschool programs. And we had a system in place to respond to rapidly changing family needs. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 12/7/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

City Connects shows how schools can systematically help students during the pandemic.

Students are falling behind in math.

Schools are working hard to provide meals for students.

Teaching mindfulness skills to help students cope.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

National momentum to support the whole child

At City Connects, we have learned that a combination of supports and opportunities is needed to change children’s lives. And we have an evidence base that shows our model helps students succeed.

Now, our organization is playing a supporting role as part of a national movement for change that is focused on the whole child. Along with partners and coalitions, we are working to grow this movement into a campaign of action that could transform education by improving students’ access to comprehensive services.

This month, for example, we joined over 350 organizations and individuals in support of a White House Office on Children and Youth, which would be dedicated to improving the coordination of federal programs, bringing sustained attention to research and policy, and elevating the wellbeing of children, youth, and their families. We are also engaged in partnerships, coalitions, commissions, and advisory boards. Our goal is to contribute to the momentum for change and share what we are learning: both our knowledge about effective approaches to integrated student support or “wraparound” services, and our evidence that when implemented well, support that addresses the needs of the whole child can transform students’ lives.

City Connects is also part of an advisory group to the Sciences of Learning and Development alliance (SoLD), which uses “insights from the sciences of learning and development…to serve as a resource to connect and support leaders in research, practice, and policy to transform America’s education systems and achieve equity and excellence.” Continue reading