Letting your students know that you are human too is essential to connect with them. This especially rings true for middle school aged students. Allowing yourself to do this opens your students' willingness to take you seriously and want to learn. We all know that keeping students engaged now a days can be difficult. It is not like you can dress up as an ipad, an xbox 360, or a cell phone; not that the idea hasn't crossed my mind. So, allowing students to see that you have feelings, can show your emotions, and are willing to connect with them can go far.
This past school year was the best yet. I laid it all on the line. I was willing to spend the extra time connecting with my students as individuals; not just as a class. Whether it was having one on one conversations, asking questions about their interests, writing back to them in their journals, playing dodgeball after school, or just simply talking over lunch. By the end of the year, my students knew that I cared about them. I cared about them as a student, as a person, as someone's child.