Featured Community Jan 17

Relationship building sparks domino effect at Texas school district

When a tool is shown to effectively help build relationships between teachers and students, it’s worth shouting to the rooftops. That’s essentially what happened in 2023 when Thompson Intermediate School’s principal, Tanis Griffin, went to a meet-up with other school leaders in the Pasadena Independent School District (PISD) in Texas.

“We offer opportunities for our leaders to collaborate with one another to talk about what’s working, what’s not working at your campus, what do you think is having the biggest impact on students,” said Traci Powell, Executive Director – Innovation & Development for PISD. “Out of these conversations, Tanis was able to share about Along and I think that is why it has bridged out.”

Griffin has implemented a whole-school roll-out of Along at Thompson Intermediate School since the 2021-2022 school year. The success of Along at her school, in helping to build community and strengthen teacher-student connections, was well worth sharing to her fellow school leaders. Over the course of that first school year, educators sent over 1,268 reflection questions, leading to over 9,000 response reflections and a 95% response rate by students.

“I made it a priority to put relationships first and people first,” said Griffin. “That’s something that I always tell my staff. We’re always going to put people first, and the content will come.”

At the collaborative school leader session, Griffin shared her strategy for using Along throughout all advisory classrooms each week. Teachers share an Along question each Tuesday with their students, which has positively impacted school-wide culture and consistently offers opportunities for teachers and students to get to know each other and provide support.

This school year, two additional PISD schools—Bondy Intermediate School and Melillo Middle School—implemented a similar weekly strategy using Along. 

“I think the thing that stands out to me the most is when we talk to our students about Along and we have conversations about whether they like it or not, is that most of our students can talk in depth about the impact that it’s had on them,” shared Powell. “And, that they are appreciative to have the opportunity to build connections with their teachers.” 

Powell’s observations relate to all three schools in her district: Thompson, Bondy, and Melillo. These impacts are already being experienced at Bondy and Melillo in their first semester using Along across their advisory classrooms.

Claudia Denoon, a teacher at Bondy Intermediate School, said Along has “made an impact if [students] have problems with their parents or are upset about something that happened at home. It really has been great using Along in the classroom.”

For Tyler Oakes, a 5th grade reading teacher at Melillo Middle School, focusing on relationship building is “really hard without a tool. As teachers, we have a million things on our plate. [With Along], we’re able to keep track. Having a digitized form of questions helps the kid, because that’s what they are used to. It keeps some accountability on both ends.”

The Along team recently visited each of these schools and had the opportunity to see Along in action! We’ll be sharing more about these teachers’ experiences throughout the district, so keep checking back for updates. 

In the meantime, if you have a success story to share about how Along is working at your school or district, we’d love to spotlight it with our community. Please reach out to media@gradientlearning.org!

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