Leveraging the Science of Learning and Development to Combat Loneliness in Schools

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Understanding the Loneliness Epidemic

In a profound exploration of the modern societal challenge, Harvard professor Robert Waldinger sheds light on the growing epidemic of loneliness in his recent YouTube lecture. He defines loneliness as a subjective experience where an individual feels less connected to others than desired. This feeling is distinct from isolation, as one can be isolated and content, surrounded by people, yet feel profoundly lonely.

The Rise of Loneliness

Loneliness has been on an upward trend since the 1950s. Factors contributing to this rise include increased societal mobility, the introduction and evolution of television, and the digital revolution. These changes have gradually eroded community engagement and personal interactions.

The Health Impacts

Research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad highlights the severe health implications of loneliness, equating its danger to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. Loneliness contributes to physical health deterioration and accelerates brain decline in later life.

The Power of Connections

Waldinger emphasizes the importance of investing in relationships for well-being. It’s not just close relationships that count; even casual interactions with community members, like a mail carrier or a grocery store cashier, can foster a sense of belonging.

Student Mental Health: A Guide For Teachers, School and District Leaders, School Psychologists and Nurses, Social Workers, Counselors, and Parents
  • Dikel MD, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages – 08/16/2022 (Publication Date) – W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

Schools’ Role in Building Inclusive Communities

Recognizing Loneliness in Students

Schools must first acknowledge that loneliness can be a significant issue among students. Young adults, in particular, are highly susceptible to loneliness. Educators can play a crucial role in identifying signs of loneliness and providing support.

Creating Inclusive Environments

Schools can use the science of learning and development to build inclusive student communities. This includes:

  1. Promoting Social Skills: Integrating social skill development into the curriculum can help students who feel lonely and are hesitant to reach out. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be adapted for the classroom to help students revise their assumptions about social interactions.
  2. Encouraging Community Engagement: Activities that foster community involvement can help students feel more connected. This might include group projects, community service initiatives, or school clubs that cater to diverse interests.
  3. Building Casual Connections: Schools should create environments where casual, positive interactions are encouraged. This could be in the form of mentorship programs, buddy systems for new students, or structured social time during the school day.
  4. Supporting Emotional Health: Schools can provide resources for emotional support, such as counseling services or workshops on managing feelings of loneliness and building healthy relationships.

Empowering Students

Empowering students to understand and combat loneliness is essential. This involves teaching them that seeking connection is normal and healthy and providing them with the tools and opportunities to build meaningful relationships.


Loneliness is a complex and growing challenge, but schools can play a pivotal role in addressing this epidemic by understanding its dynamics and implementing strategies to promote connection and belonging. It’s about creating a culture where every student feels, as Waldinger concludes, “You belong. You matter. You’re connected.”

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

New Year, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel

man with fireworks
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It’s the first newsletter of the new year, and I’ve got several cool things to share with you.

I’m still struggling to adjust back to normal life after the swirling nothingness that is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We didn’t do much at our house besides reading, listening to new vinyl, and eating way more snacks than we should have.

But, life continues, and we meet a new year with new challenges head-on, no stopping.

I hope this year holds much joy and happiness for you. For now, here’s this week’s “10 things”…

10 Things Worth Sharing

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Forget Happiness. This Ancient Greek Concept May Matter More for Student Mental Health

santorinni greece during daytime
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I think if there’s one thing that this project has highlighted, it’s the need to take more of a systemic look at our education system and the role that things like purpose and meaning play, and at different times, in children’s development

Tania Clarke

Just how important is finding fulfillment and purpose to a child’s education? More than you may think.

A recent study suggests that eudaimonia, an ancient Greek concept of fulfillment and purpose, correlates with higher academic performance in English and math.

It challenges the conventional focus on happiness in education, advocating for a deeper understanding of student well-being, including personal fulfillment and self-confidence.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

The Ultimate Summer Self-Care Guide for Teachers: 15 Invaluable Tips

The Ultimate Summer Self-Care Guide for Teachers: 15 Invaluable Tips

Teaching is both a demanding and rewarding profession. Even before the onslaught of COVID-19, teaching was incredibly demanding. Now that we’re in the post-COVID world, teaching is even more difficult.

Face it; you need a break.

As the school year comes to an end, it’s important to recognize the hard work and dedication that all teachers put into their jobs. You all spend countless hours preparing lesson plans, grading assignments, and supporting students. Despite facing many challenges, teachers persevere and continue to make a difference in the lives of their students. Taking a well-deserved break to recharge and prepare for the next school year is crucial.

Here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of your summer break, resting and recharging before the new school year:

1. Set Boundaries

Just as you set boundaries in the classroom, it’s essential to establish boundaries between your professional and personal life. Turn off email notifications after work hours, and use your free time to focus on your interests.

180 Days of Self-Care for Busy Educators (A 36-Week Plan of Low-Cost Self-Care for Teachers and Educators)
  • Tina H. Boogren (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages – 09/20/2019 (Publication Date) – Solution Tree Press (Publisher)

2. Unwind with a Book

Summer is the perfect time to delve into that book you’ve been meaning to read. Reading is an excellent way to exercise your mind, expand your vocabulary, and gain new knowledge. Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, there is a book out there for everyone. If you’re not sure where to start, consider exploring different genres such as mystery, science fiction, or romance. Reading also has the added benefit of reducing stress, as it allows you to escape into a different world and forget about your worries for a while. So, take advantage of the warm weather and find a cozy spot to curl up with a good book this summer.

3. Prioritize Physical Health

Taking care of your physical health is an essential part of self-care. Engaging in regular physical activity not only helps to maintain a healthy body but also promotes mental wellness. Consider incorporating activities such as yoga, jogging, swimming, or cycling into your routine. Additionally, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet can provide the necessary fuel to keep you energized throughout the day. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other healthy fluids. In summary, prioritizing physical health can have positive impacts on both your physical and mental well-being.

4. Nurture Your Mental Health

It’s important to remember that teachers’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. To perform their best, teachers should do things that help them relax and reflect, like meditation, yoga, or just spending some alone time. It’s also important to create a supportive environment where teachers can talk about any challenges they’re facing. By taking care of their mental health, teachers will not only be happier and healthier, but they’ll also be better at teaching their students.

5. Invest in Learning

Professional development is an ongoing process that requires effort and dedication. One way to continue growing your skills and knowledge is to take advantage of the summer break. This time can be used to attend workshops, webinars, or online courses that focus on specific areas of interest. You can also use this time to immerse yourself in industry-related reading material, such as journals, magazines, or books. Another great way to develop professionally during the summer is to network with other professionals in your field. Attend conferences, meetups, or connect with colleagues on social media platforms. By doing so, you will expand your knowledge, gain new perspectives, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. Remember, investing in your professional development is an investment in your career success!

6. Foster Creativity

Being creative has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health. By engaging in creative activities, we can reduce stress and anxiety and enhance our overall sense of well-being. In addition to painting, gardening, and cooking, there are many other ways to be creative, such as writing, playing music, or dancing. These activities can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which can boost our self-esteem and confidence. Furthermore, being creative can help us to develop new skills, learn new things, and expand our horizons. It allows us to express ourselves in unique and meaningful ways, which can be incredibly fulfilling. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health and boost your happiness, why not give creativity a try?

7. Build a Self-Care Routine

Establishing a routine can help you stick to your self-care goals. It has been shown that those who have a regular self-care routine are more likely to maintain good physical and mental health. Dedicate specific time slots for your self-care activities, such as practicing mindfulness, going for a walk, or taking a relaxing bath. You can also try incorporating self-care into your daily routine by taking breaks throughout the day to stretch or meditate. Remember that taking care of yourself is important and can lead to a happier and healthier life overall.

8. Embrace Nature

Nature is a fantastic healer that can help you relax and rejuvenate both your mind and body. Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improve overall well-being. So why not plan a hiking trip to explore a nearby trail, pack a picnic to enjoy with your loved ones, or simply start your day with a cup of coffee in your backyard? You’ll not only get a great dose of fresh air and exercise, but you’ll also have the opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.

9. Indulge in Guilty Pleasures

Whether it’s binge-watching your favorite TV series, having a luxurious spa day, or eating your favorite dessert, indulging every once in a while is important for maintaining a healthy balance in life. Taking some time to decompress and pamper yourself can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall well-being. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, but it’s important to prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring joy and relaxation. So go ahead, treat yourself to that extra slice of cake, or take a day off to lounge in bed and catch up on your favorite shows – you deserve it!

10. Nurture Relationships

Spending time with loved ones and friends is an important aspect of self-care. It helps us to relax, recharge, and connect with those who matter most to us. You can also consider reconnecting with old friends or making new ones. Sometimes, spending time alone can also be rejuvenating. This could mean indulging in activities like reading, taking a walk, or simply relaxing in a quiet place. Whatever it is that brings you peace and happiness, make sure to carve out some time in your busy schedule to do it.

11. Limit Screen Time

Summer break is a fantastic opportunity to disconnect from digital devices and immerse yourself in the world around you. As you spend less time in front of screens, you can spend more time exploring and experiencing the world in new ways. Take a hike in nature, go for a swim in a nearby lake, or simply take a walk around your town or city and discover new things you may have never noticed before. With so much to see and do, there’s no reason to miss out on the beauty and excitement of the real world during your summer break!

12. Embrace New Experiences

There are many ways to broaden your horizons and gain a fresh perspective on life. One way is to try something new, such as learning a new skill or exploring a new hobby. For example, you could try learning a new language, which can help you better understand and connect with people from different cultures. Likewise, trying a new sport can help you stay fit and healthy while also providing a fun and exciting challenge. Finally, exploring a new city can be a great way to learn about different cultures and history, while also satisfying your sense of adventure. By trying new things, you can expand your knowledge and experiences, which can ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.

13. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is an essential aspect of our mental and emotional well-being. It is the practice of recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of our life, no matter how small they may seem. By doing this, we can cultivate positive feelings and improve our overall quality of life.

One way to incorporate gratitude into our daily routine is to keep a gratitude journal. This involves writing down things that we are thankful for, such as the people in our lives, the experiences we have had, or the opportunities that have come our way. By doing this, we can train our minds to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and develop a greater sense of appreciation for what we have.

In addition to keeping a gratitude journal, there are other ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives. We can make a conscious effort to express our gratitude to others, whether it be through a kind word or a thoughtful gesture. We can also take time to appreciate the beauty of nature or the simple pleasures in life, such as a good meal or a warm hug.

Ultimately, gratitude is a powerful tool for improving our mental health and well-being. By incorporating this practice into our daily lives, we can cultivate a greater sense of happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.

14. Volunteer

Volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience that not only helps others but also has numerous positive impacts on your own life. When you volunteer, you have the opportunity to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships, which can increase your sense of belonging and social support. Additionally, volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, as you are contributing to a cause that you are passionate about. This can boost your mood and self-worth, and even improve physical health by reducing stress levels. So take some time to research local charities or causes that align with your interests and values, and consider giving back to your community through volunteering.

15. Plan for the Upcoming School Year

As summer comes to an end and the new school year approaches, it’s a good idea to start getting ready. While it’s tempting to kick back and relax, taking some time to plan and organize for the upcoming term can really pay off in the long run. Check out your class schedule, textbooks, and syllabus to see what you’ll be learning and what you need to do to succeed. There are tons of online resources available to help you get ahead, too. Consider making a study plan and setting achievable goals for each week leading up to the start of school. That way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and crush it when classes begin.

Teachers, take this summer to refresh and rejuvenate. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a necessity. Here’s to a happy, healthy summer!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Reading, Writing, but maybe not ‘Rithmetic

Summer Starfighter, a sleek interstellar vessel with a polished silver hull reflecting the setting sun, intricate markings adorning its wings like tribal tattoos, Coastal cityscape during twilight, skyscrapers casting long shadows onto the shimmering sea, the atmosphere tinged with both anticipation and tranquility as the starfighter hovers, ready for takeoff, Photography, captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens

Greetings starfighters. It’s time for another edition of “10 Things” worth sharing with you. It’s almost the end of the school year here in the Bluegrass, and my thoughts turn to summer and to my daughter’s impending move to middle school. I’m old.

Anyway, I hope your life is just as interesting. Perhaps some of these shares will make it even more so.

10 Things Worth Sharing

-I read around 100ish books per year, but as a doctoral student, I’m having to read more. Here are some tips from two experts on how you can read more than you thought possible.

-If you’re in grad school, these books will help you get through and maintain your sanity.

-Some thoughts on how we can avoid raising machines (hint: let’s stop standardized testing) and raise humans.

-I put together some quick resources on Juneteenth that you may find helpful. I know most schools aren’t in session by the time Juneteenth rolls around, but we can’t overlook teaching this important date.

-One of my elementary teachers (and Future Shift Fellowship cohort member) created a podcast with her students. Actually, the students did all the work. It’s pretty awesome.

-Friend and professor John Nash, Ph.D., has done some amazing work with AI in his classes. In a recent episode of his podcast, he talks about testing AI and what does and doesn’t work.

-Fun stuff: if you’re of a certain age, you may remember The Midnight Special. What you may not know is that the show is back, thanks to the official YouTube channel.

-Have you ever seen a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio? Here’s your chance.

How Makerspaces in Schools Can Support Student Mental Health

-Final thoughts: Daft Punk released a tenth-anniversary edition of Random Access Memories, including what may be the “last Daft Punk song ever” and I’m totally not over it yet.

BONUS: As I was compiling this list, I got the notification that you can now provide input on the National Educational Technology Plan. Polls are open for K-12 Educators and Families. Please take some time to let your voice be heard. This is the first time since COVID-19 hit that this important policy document is getting an update. You can access the links to either poll right here.

Thanks for reading. The end of the school year means we’re officially in the “dads and grads” gifting season. I’ve put together a couple of book lists for quick and easy gifting. Here’s one for dads and one for grads. Enjoy!

Get Help When You Need It

Full disclosure, this post is difficult for me to write.

This week, the internet lost one of the earliest voices in the “blogosphere.’ Heather Armstrong, who created and published for many years on Dooce.com, passed away.

I didn’t know Heather but knew who she was and what her work meant to the early days of blogging. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding her passing but know that mental health has to become a priority for everyone in the US.

We’ve lived long enough with the stigma of mental health and have lost far too many people who were struggling and felt like they couldn’t get out or find help.

Or they were so ashamed of their issues because they’d been told all their lives that they just needed to “cheer up” or “get over it” or “you need to pray about that” or whatever other nonsense some well-meaning soul spat in their face.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, folks. They never have been. And the problems have been there all along, we just chose to ignore them for most of human history.

We all struggle. I struggle. Some days we win the battle against our inner demons. Some days we lose. Some days we reach a peace settlement.

Everyone’s battle is different. Mine revolves around soul-crushing anxiety and emotional/verbal abuse from childhood. I fight every day to get better and have added many tools to my tool chest in the past few years.

But some days, all that is not enough. And I need help.

If you need help, please reach out to someone. There are people who need you to stick around. There are people who want to help.

If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis and you live in the United States, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. For resources outside the United States, please click here.

On the Uvalde Tragedy

27 school shootings have taken place so far in 2022.


What we know about the terrorist attack in Uvalde, TX on May 24, 2022:

  • At least 21 dead; 19 students and 2 adults
  • Uvalde is “the kind of place where ‘interconnections are thick’ and no one would have expected a mass shooting at the local school”
  • The suspect also allegedly shot his grandmother before going to Robb Elementary
  • The suspect (terrorist) purchased two assault-style rifles on his 18th birthday, though authorities have not confirmed whether these were the weapons used in the shooting
  • All victims were in the same fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School



On the Terrorist

  • Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could be coming, state Sen Roland Gutierrez, who was briefed by police, told reporters. “He suggested the kids should watch out,” the lawmaker said.
  • He shot his grandmother before driving to Robb Elementary just before midday on Tuesday
  • He “suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years…”
  • The Texas Department of Public Safety said he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle.




My Response:

I’m tired of reading these headlines. I’m tired of thinking about my own daughter not being safe in her school. I’m tired of thinking about the teachers and students I work with every day and them not being safe.

I’m tired of having to think about getting shot while in school when there are so many other things we should be focused on during our days but we can’t because we continue to allow guns like this to be sold.

I’m tired of bullying. I’m tired of not taking mental health seriously.

I’m tired. And I’m mad.

Hopefully, you are, too. And you’re ready to do something about it.