A former student stops by my office today to catch up on her life and request a recommendation. She asks me about my current students. I tell her that I’m still trying to win them over and pretend that I’m cool.
She laughs and says, “Well, you should tell them about the time you watched the airplanes land instead of going to class when you were younger. Or tell them about your neighborhood pancake breakfasts. Make sure you tell them about your neighborhood.”
That’s what she remembers from class (besides all my favorite verbs). She remembers my off-hand, short, seemingly inconsequential life stories; that’s what connected her to me and helped her learn from me.
Building rapport with students means we don’t just share our knowledge. We share our lives. I didn’t remember sharing those stories, but she did.