Connecting with students is a part of building relationships. According to Paula Denton, author of The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn, “In schools, relationships are treated as luxuries. Relationship is a necessity for learning. We can't afford not to do it." It is truly wonderful to something that has seemed so obvious to me anecdotally supported by research and educational experts. Instructional strategies are useful and content expertise hugely important but both are of negligible effect if the students doesn’t like you and doesn't know that you care. Rita Pierson famously said in a TED talk, “kids don't learn from people they don't like.” She convinced her students of a saying: "I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I'll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go." To help students believe in themselves to that degree, a large amount of effort had to be taken on her part to make connections and build relationships. And it was worth it.
According to James Alan Sturtevant, author of You’ve Gotta Connect, students who connect with their teachers are happier, more productive, more creative, learn and retain more, have fewer behavioral issues, have their creativity unleasher, are less likely to drop out, feel better about themselves, get along better with other students, are more likely to be comfortable with themselves as students, and achieve at higher levels. Many of these externally observable results could be attributed to the internal anatomy and physiology of the brain LITERALLY CHANGING as new networks are formed and then lined with myelin to improve the connection speed of the network.
This critical age of adolescence (from 12-24 according to Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain) is a time for pruning of neural networks in the brain and myelination of established (and newly established) neural networks in order to increase the speed of those networks. This wonderful time of opportunity to increase of the efficiency of the brain is lost without proper relationship building.
Pierson, R. (2013, May). Every kid needs a champion. (R. Pierson, Performer) Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion?language=en
Sears, N. (2015). Building Relationships with Students. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from NEA: http://www.nea.org/tools/29469.htm
Siegel M.D., D. J. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.