Our most popular education articles of 2021 explore how to navigate some of this year’s challenges—including grief, boredom, and isolation—while uplifting our capacity for connection, belonging, and healing. Several articles also highlight how character, conscience, and kindness can guide us toward greater meaning in our lives.

If you are looking for specific activities to support your students’ and colleagues’ social and emotional well-being in 2022, visit our Greater Good in Education website, featuring free research-based practices, lessons, and strategies for cultivating kinder, happier, and more equitable classrooms and schools. And for a deeper dive into the science behind social-emotional learning, mindfulness, and ethical development, consider our suite of self-paced online courses for educational professionals, including our capstone course, Teaching and Learning for the Greater Good.

Here are the 12 best education articles of 2021, based on a composite ranking of pageviews and editors’ picks.

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How to Help Students Feel a Sense of Belonging During the Pandemic, by Mary C. Murphy, Kathryn Boucher, and Christine Logel: Belonging and connection in the classroom contribute to success and well-being, particularly for marginalized students.

Four Ways Teachers Can Help Students Develop a Conscience, by Vicki Zakrzewski: How do kids develop a sense of right and wrong—and what can educators do to help them act on their conscience?

How to Help Students of Color Find Their Power, by Brandy Arnold: Project Wayfinder is helping Black and Latino students explore their identities and goals.

What a Children’s Book Taught Me (and My Students) About Grief, by Lauren McGovern: Teaching sixth graders about grief helped teacher Lauren McGovern after the loss of her son.

36 Questions That Can Help Kids Make Friends, by Jill Suttie: A question-and-answer exercise may help middle schoolers build friendships, including with kids of different ethnicities.

How to Make This Hard Transition Back to School With Your Students, by Amy L. Eva: Here are three ways educators can support their students (and each other) this fall.

A Different Way to Respond When Kids Do Something Wrong, by Joanne Chen: Restorative practices—taking responsibility, making amends, and seeking forgiveness—are an alternative to strict punishments and blame.

What Do Kids Mean When They Say They’re Bored at School?, by Rebecca Branstetter: Boredom can be a temporary emotion or a sign of a deeper issue, says a school psychologist.

How to Help Students Be the Best Version of Themselves, by Karen E. Bohlin and Deborah Farmer Kris: When students are facing challenges, educators can help them reflect on—and act on—what matters to them.

Four Character Strengths That Can Help Kids Learn, by Carol Lloyd: Research suggests that fostering character strengths can help children be better students.

How Educators Can Help Make a Kinder World, by Vicki Zakrzewski: By integrating character education, SEL, and mindfulness, schools can cultivate the inherent goodness in students.

Three Strategies for Helping Students Discuss Controversial Issues, by Lauren Fullmer and Laura Bond: Here are research-based ways to facilitate civil discourse in the classroom.

Bonus: Science of Happiness Podcast Episodes

Episode 94: How to Craft Your Life: When the world around you changes, so can your goals. Our guest, Patty Brown, tries a practice to tap into a new sense of purpose.

Episode 96: Don’t Be Afraid of Your Anger: What happens when we suppress our anger? And what if we tried to work with it instead? Our guest, Soraya Chemaly, tries a practice to harness her inner fierceness to care for herself.

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