Handle Hard, Old School, and the Good Life

Topics for this week include cultivating resilience, flash cards for retrieval practice, and using memes in the classroom.

Handle Hard, Old School, and the Good Life
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TGIF Teacher Newsletter


TGIF Teacher Gadgets and Gifts
Every day should be Teacher Appreciation Day. Here are some teacher-approved gifts and gadgets that will bring smiles in and out of the classroom.

Happy Friday!

Today is the first day of my winter break. I scheduled this newsletter to be sent out early on Friday morning, so as you read this, I am likely sitting in my most comfortable clothes, sipping coffee in my well-worn reclining red chair, with a relaxed smile on my face.

I raise my coffee mug in a toast to you.

I hope you find at least one snippet below that you'll find inspirational, helpful, and/or interesting.

Here are three things that I've been pondering this past week.


There is power in a pause. It’s not something teachers get to do too much during the school year. I love everything about winter vacation. It’s a welcome pause. One of my favorite activities is compiling my annual "The Good Stuff" list. I open a page in Notion and start making a bullet-point list of my favorite memories from the past year. I can't help but feel grateful by the time I’m done. Here’s my list from last year.


Helping students develop time management skills is helping them build life management skills. This week, I taught my 8th-grade students about the benefits of using to-do lists, which can help with stress management and accountability. I’m hoping to build a Monday routine where my Crew (homeroom) students focus on their Habits of Scholarship. So far we reflect on the successes of last week and create a task list for the upcoming week. Finally, they pick the frog they want to eat.


The possibility of failure is what makes success feel so sweet. Instead of trying to eliminate the chance of failure, investing time in teaching and learning how to use failure to emerge stronger is a worthwhile investment.

In today’s newsletter…

  • Cultivating resilience
  • Flash cards for retrieval practice
  • Memes in the classroom

The News

Here are some articles and resources that grabbed my attention.

  • True Happiness - Resilience, not happiness, should be the focus when raising children, according to Dr. Becky Kennedy. In her book "GOOD INSIDE: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be," Kennedy argues that teaching children to regulate their emotions and cope with everyday feelings is key to their long-term happiness. By cultivating resilience, children can develop the skills necessary to overcome challenges and find true happiness.
  • Old School - When students use retrieval practice, such as using flashcards, it leads to a greater increase in fluency. It is effective both in the short and long term. Using flashcards as a study aid has stood the test of time. Using them also has the added benefit of providing a break from screens. If you want to learn more about retrieval practice this resource will get you started.
  • Memes - By integrating memes into the classroom, you can tap into students' interests, foster engagement, and promote discussions on social media. This can help students develop digital literacy skills and enable them to analyze the visual and cultural aspects of memes critically. They might also have some fun in the process.
  • Games - Digital games have been found to be more effective than traditional instructional approaches in improving students' mastery of the material, according to a meta-analysis by researchers at Saarland University in Germany. The study analyzed over 30 high-quality studies and found that digital games were not only more motivating for students but also had a positive impact across various school subjects. Like with most things, balance is the best way forward. There is still great value in students developing the ability to listen to, and learn from, someone who is speaking to them in person.
  • Resource - Math Facts Practice: 43 Fun Games and Activities for Kids
STRONG Teacher Toolkit
Here are some of my favorite resources, ideas, tools, services, and miscellaneous gadgets and goodies that keep me STRONG in both my personal and professional life.

Ideas, resources, tools, and free downloads to make your teaching life easier and more enjoyable.


Personal Development and Wellness Resources

  • Handle Hard Better - Women's basketball coach Kara Lawson teaches a valuable life lesson to her players. Any worthwhile endeavor comes with its unique set of challenges. It’s how we engage with these challenges that determine our level of success.
  • Just Keep Swimming - Regular swimming has been found to provide unique benefits to brain health, including improved memory, cognitive function, immune response, and mood. Swimming may also help repair damage from stress and promote the creation of new neural connections in the brain. Research suggests that swimming can stimulate brain pathways, increase neurogenesis, and enhance cognitive function.
  • The Good Life - “If you could change one thing in your life to become a happier person, what would make the biggest difference?” Spoiler alert, it's about relationships. Read more.


"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." — Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)*

Teacher Commuter Playlist: Good Time by Niko Moon ft. Shaggy. This fits well with my vacation state of mind.

Favorite Things

  • Photos - Explore the top 100 photos of 2023 from TIME magazine.
  • Book - The Good Life* by Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Shulz, Ph.D. Lessons from the world’s longest scientific study of happiness.
  • Shower Thought - You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they react to a child accidentally bumping into them. [source]
  • Connections - Let’s Connect

Teaching and Learning are Acts of Community Service

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