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Connections before content

This past school year, the educators at Thompson Intermediate School put their students’ well-being front and center by focusing on building relationships.

When a survey revealed that their middle schoolers were concerned about relationships with their teachers, peers, and family members, the leadership team opted to introduce Along school-wide. 

Along, an offering of Gradient Learning, has provided a fun and easy way for Thompson educators to build meaningful connections with their students—but that’s not all. The use of Along at Thompson Intermediate in Houston, Texas, has opened doors for other schools in their school district.

Walking the halls of Thompson Intermediate School, it’s evident that students of all ages feel seen and heard. That’s because school leader Tanis Griffin set the tone at the start of this school year with a clear message: connections before content.

“Coming into this school year, we knew that we were going to have so many challenges,” Griffin said.

After multiple years of unexpected turmoil in the world and the constant changes in the student experience, Griffin knew that her middle schoolers needed to establish connection to school in order to thrive and move forward. So, before students stepped onto campus, she worked with her full staff to come up with a plan to use Along in every homeroom classroom on a weekly basis.

Thompson, which is part of the Pasadena Independent School District (PISD), was already part of a culture that understood the power of mentoring. However, the use of Along provided a more direct approach that would reach all students.

“Tanis and her leadership team utilized Along to help focus and be more intentional,” said PISD’s Alyta Harrell, associate superintendent for campus development. “This is a tool that starts relationship-building in a safe way where, ‘I’m going to have voice, I’m going to have choice, I belong here, and I am a part of this community. If I’m having something going on at home, I know that I have support here and I can just reach out.’

“When that is felt, then the environment is conducive to learning and growing.”

Watch this video to learn more about how Along is helping students at Thompson:

Partway through the school year, the team at Thompson was already seeing a big difference in their students.

“With the Along tool, they are maturing,” Griffin said. “They are learning how to talk to each other. They’re learning how to talk and interact with adults in a positive way.”

These impacts have been shared with district leaders, who are expressing their support of introducing Along in other schools. 

“We have to meet the needs of all students, but how you really truly do that can’t be left to chance,” Harrell said. “Along is a tool to get it started. And from there, the sky’s the limit.”

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