Service, Smartphones, and Resilience

Topics for this week include service learning, smartphones' impact on test scores, and how to feel better in the new year.

Service, Smartphones, and Resilience
Photo by Rami Al-zayat / Unsplash
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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.

I'm in the middle of a Thirty-Day Challenge. This is 17/30.

Happy Friday!

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


It's easy to be pessimistic and complain. It's harder to share ideas, take risks, create something new, and take action. Optimism appears for those who do the hard things.


Taking the time to explain the relevance of what you expect students to learn is a way to increase engagement.


What’s the best idea you’ve implemented in your classroom or school this year? How can you build on it?

In today’s newsletter…

  • Learn about the benefits of service learning.
  • Impact of smartphones on test scores.
  • Feeling better in the new year.

The News

Here are some articles and resources that grabbed my attention.

  • Everyone Can Serve - Service learning benefits students, schools, and communities. It helps develop empathy, critical thinking, and civic responsibility through meaningful projects that address real community needs. Students can positively impact their communities by engaging in service learning and gaining valuable skills and experiences.
  • Phones and Test Scores - “For over a decade, American students' test scores have continued to decline compared to students from other countries worldwide. The slide coincides with the proliferation of smartphones and social media in everyday life as teenagers spend much of their time looking at a screen.” According to a recent study, children's use of smartphones has been linked to lower test scores. The study found that increased smartphone use among children was associated with decreased academic performance. This research suggests a potential negative impact of excessive smartphone use on children's educational outcomes.
  • Value of College - College enrollment in Arizona has decreased over the past four years, with only 47.3% of high school graduates enrolling in college in 2024. Overall, college enrollment in the U.S. has declined since 2010. The value of education is still important, as individuals with post-secondary education contribute to the local economy, experience individual prosperity, and reduce social spending. To address this issue, parents play a crucial role in instilling a passion for education in their children from an early age.
  • Resource - provides various interactive tools and resources for educators and learners. Teachers can easily create online flashcards, quizzes, games, timelines, and more using Google Sheets as a foundation. These interactive activities engage students, enhance learning, and make educational content more accessible. Learn more about here.
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

  • Tightrope - “Walking the tightrope of discipline is just as intricate as navigating the boundary between the present and the future. Discipline is beautiful when it allows you to make the most of a given moment, but loses its utility when you only think of who you might one day be.” Using discipline to set up your ideal day will help you become the person you hope to be one day.
  • Feel Better - The start of a new year has become a time of goal-setting, wish listing, and personal reflection. Here are some tips to help you feel better physically and mentally. It might also be the year that you decide to do less.
  • Resilience and Nobility - Teachers and school leaders quickly learn that conflict is inevitable. Even with the best intentions, it’s impossible to please everyone. In the end, we can only control our actions and reactions. When we know ourselves, we can feel confident in ourselves. This confidence will help us weather awkward moments and conflict.


"Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, Nass discovered, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. To put this more concretely: If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the “mental wrecks” in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work—even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration."— Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)*

Teacher Commuter Playlist - Dignity by Bob Dylan

Favorite Things

  • Motivation - It’s a great feeling if you’ve got enough of it. It’s really hard to sustain. Here’s how to increase your motivation levels in the dead of winter. I wish you many moments of Hygge.
  • Gadget - Today is our school-wide STEAM Day. Our 8th graders will attempt to construct working vehicles made entirely of pasta and hot glue. I never knew I needed a cordless glue gun until I used it with students.
  • Warmth - It has been a week of subzero temperatures here in Northern WI. These past few days, it has risen above zero a few times. You know it is cold when a temperature of five degrees feels pretty good. Perspective is a powerful thing.

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