It's often said that students tend to learn best when they feel comfortable, safe, and welcome at school. Additionally, plenty of studies, along with anecdotal testimonies, show how strong, positive connections between teachers and students can lead to better achievement, more classroom participation, work completion, and increased attendance.
Unfortunately, this aspect of our job gets pushed to the wayside, in favor of breaking down test scores, prepping for standardized tests, modifying educational plans, etc. While ALL of these things are incredibly important, I believe people tend to overlook the importance of making and maintaining healthy, fun, and positive connections with students.
I can think of so many students over the years that I was able to have a really great connection with...and it hardly ever centered around the curriculum! Instead, we would talk music, sports, the pains of older siblings, managing life/school/family/activities, movies/tv, etc. I have had students do poorly from time to time in a class of mine, but because our relationship was positive, strong, and not centered on the material, these kids have always been able to regroup and end up doing pretty well in many ways. Other students have really outperformed where they normally would because of how good they felt about themselves and their place in the classroom that year.
The saying goes - "students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." This is a great message to always keep in the back of our minds...more and more students are coming to school with greater needs for connections, and we need to be able to be here for them. In the end, it can be just as powerful a tool as analyzing test data.