Catholic schools in inner cities are making a difference in the success and happiness of the children who live there. Many urban-area parents have removed their children from neighborhood schools troubled with violence and failure, sending them to the Catholic schools where teachers demonstrate genuine concern for these children suffering from trauma in their lives.
By attending professional conferences that address the problems and needs of urban families, Catholic school instructors learn how to reach out to inner-city children. One symposium this year hosted nearly 200 Catholic school teachers in the Philadelphia area. The second annual Catholic Urban Education Conference had the purpose of providing teachers an awareness and understanding of the effects and influence of trauma upon urban students.
Addressing the ways to identify students’ trauma of living in the inner city and the various teaching strategies that can be used to assist them in their learning was central to this conference.
Major factors that contribute to high levels of stress among inner-city children are mental health issues that often cause breakups in the family, as well as the prevalent use of drugs and violence in both homes and neighborhoods. These factors bring about what researchers refer to as “toxic” effects in the brain chemistry of children and adolescents. These “toxic” effects have been proven to exert a negative impact on children’s social skills and their achievement in academics. At the Catholic Urban Education Conference, teachers learned that inner-city children’s stress response systems are overactive because of the troubled environment in which they live.
Consequently, these children come to school nervous, fearful, and stressed. Because of conditions from what is termed adverse childhood experiences, teachers of students in the inner-city Catholic schools strive to create a safe environment for them.
Fortunately, the Catholic teachers’ unifying religious beliefs, directives, and teaching goals also provide students with stability and a sense of security–all of which help in their learning. Catholic school teachers employ various approaches to learning so that students learn to think in different ways and find what works best for them and gives them confidence. One method is “sequencing” in which students go through steps in the learning process, steps that can be measured in a sequence with color coding, timelines, or illustrations.
Another classroom method is team teaching. Students can often more easily relate to lessons by having different approaches to learning presented to them by various teachers.