One of the most important ingredients of success in teaching (and in community organizing) — if not the most important one — is building relationships. I harp on that in all my books, I repeat it constantly on this blog, and even have a related “The Best…” list — The Best Resources On The Importance Of Building Positive Relationships With Students.

One way to begin to make that happen is to learn our students’ stories (I’ve written more about this topic in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership).

But we need to do more than that….

Relationship-building, even public relationship-building — which is what we do in the classroom (as opposed to “private” relationship-building), has to be about exchanging stories. We teachers need to share our own personal stories, too. If we’re not willing to risk a bit, why should our students be willing to open up to us?

But even that is not enough…

Again, as I share in my books, we need to encourage students to share their own stories with each other as a way to help them build relationships.

A new study reinforces why both — our exchanging stories with students, and students exchanging their own stories — are important for learning and teaching success.

In “It Is Motivating to Belong to a Group,” Art Markman (who, by the way, is contributing a post to my Education Week Teacher blog next month), describes new studies that showed that students worker longer and harder on problems when they felt they shared something in common with others — even as little as having a birthday in common with the author of an article on math (they read it and then worked on math problems).

Imagine how much harder students (and, perhaps, we teachers, too) might work if we strengthened more genuine shared connections…