In recent years, research has confirmed what any educator will tell you: When teachers know their students, they learn better. But the more we talked to educators, the clearer it became that they often don’t have the practical tools and support to make relationship-building a focus in the classroom. We took these findings to heart when we developed Along. We wanted to help educators understand the ins and outs of developmental relationships, and how they can quickly apply this know-how into their classroom routines.
So what does that mean in action? Now that Along is being used in classrooms across the country, we can take a look at educators’ experiences as they focused on fostering deeper connections with students.
Reserving space for relationships.
In Milipitas, Calif., Dr. Kimi Schmidt has adopted new technologies and embraced Along “to build relationships with my students and understand how best to support them.” She uses Along as a way to check in, giving both herself and her students space to reflect and connect. Dr. Schmidt notes, “I’m careful not to use this space for ‘business’ or schoolwork. Instead, it’s an opportunity for students to take the lead, reflect on aspects of their lives, and develop their social-emotional skills.” This connection runs both ways. Dr. Schmidt believes that Along has given her students better insight into her own world with glimpses of her family life in the video background.
Using check-ins to model and mentor.
For principal Dr. Stacy Perez, Along has proven to be a key tool in her role as mentor. It lets her cultivate trust, gain transparency, and model behavior without taking up loads of her time. She explains, “I choose a variety of questions to encourage students’ reflection, and because I answer each question first, it allows me to model important skills and habits like problem solving, critical thinking and goal setting. I also can share my own feelings and vulnerabilities, and because these video messages are shared securely, students feel safe and empowered to do the same.” With each video check-in, Dr. Perez provides a space for genuine insight and deeper relationship-building.
Gaining insight into what excites students.
To elementary school teacher Tava Dennis, Along has given a better sense of her students’ interests — information she’s been able to use to engage students in the classroom. “[Along] has created a space that is comfortable for them to reflect on their learning, while introducing me to their interests and hobbies — all of which carry great weight in the classroom. If I know that one of my students is passionate about playing baseball, it gives me something to call upon when they’re struggling in class and need to be reminded of the power of practice.” This is what it’s all about — using check-ins to discover what makes a student excited and motivated to succeed.
Giving students a voice in how they learn.
Teacher Curtis Noon sees Along as a way to turn the tool’s research-informed framework into an opportunity to engage and empower students. Not only has it provided his students a space to tune into their thoughts, but it has also given them a voice on how the classroom operates. Noon explains, “By allowing students to share honest feedback about lessons, classroom procedures, and even my teaching, it’s given them a safe space to practice advocating for themselves.” Having a say allows students to play an active role in the classroom, their community, and their education.
Whether using Along for mentorship, relationship-building, or as a tool of empowerment (or, all of the above), these educators all have something in common. They’ve taken the step to utilize easy-to-use technology and research to support students in new ways. The result? Deeper connections for everyone involved.