Ah, Spring Break. Others may call it Reading Week or March Break, but for all intensive purposes, it is what it is – a break. Parents everywhere cringe at the mention of it. Kids around the world rejoice when they hear it. No matter what your stake in it is, school breaks are a necessary rite of passage for both students and educators alike which contribute to good mental health.
Its always nice to take a well-deserved break. Kids work hard all year round at learning and having fun while in school. juggling multiple classes, assignments, and social expectations on almost a daily basis. Teachers, often consumed with grading, professional development and collaboration, can also succumb to the daily grind.
Currently, I work in a school board where we have several periods of “long” weekends due to holidays & pedagogical days. Twice during the school year however, we have blocked off weeks where there are no classes. Both instances of “extended” time off are not only (in my opinion) necessary, but are actually beneficial to all stakeholders when it comes to the education of children.
Regular breaks from school also allow for the subconscious digestion and assimilation of new information by students while they participate in non-academic activities. Students continue to learn even while they’re not at school – and don’t even know it!
Each break has its benefits. They arrive at optimal times – usually at the conclusion of a long series of multiple weeks without a ped day or other holiday, or they also coincide with the arrival of a new term or change of season. Winter Break (around Christmas & New Year’s) is great because it allows for students to take a break and decompress from (in our case) end of semester exams, where most students face increased levels of stress and anxiety. in addition, it also marks a festive time of year where many children get the opportunity to gather with family & friends to celebrate for various reasons. For teachers, it marks the unofficial “midway” point of the school year. Most educators are at a point where things have been subtly building in terms of the commitments and time required of them (coaching, committees, grading, etc.), and, if that is compiled with challenging students, the two-week break at this time of year is definitely a welcomed respite.
Spring Break is also needed, but for a whole other set of reasons. Spring Fever is a real thing, and it hits schools hard every year around the 2nd or 3rd week of March. Like bears awakening from their hibernative slumber, most children experience a hormonal shift that leaves most parents (and sometimes their teachers) scratching their heads. Traditionally, the months of January & February are very difficult on people, and children even more so: sunlight is at a premium, external weather conditions may not lend themselves to outdoor activities, and the most important portions of the majority of school curriculums are taught during these months of the year. And, its all by design. Teachers, in order to keep things fresh, fun, and interesting, often insert content heavy, difficult, and thought-provoking topics for this time of year. Its almost a guaranteed way to ensure its retention as building block for subsequent topics.
And let’s face it – by the time students return from Spring Break, it’s difficult to keep them as engaged as they were before the break. Fortunately, our board’s Spring Break is only a week long (other boards in the area have 2 weeks!), which does not allow for as much of a slide academically. With the right planning and timing, a teacher can really make sure that the bulk of material to be covered for most end-of-year assessments has already been covered. That way, it can be built upon in the remaining 10-12 weeks of class en route to exams. Furthermore, breaks also allow for the subconscious digestion and assimilation of new information by students while they participate in non-academic activities. Students continue to learn even while they’re not at school – and don’t even know it!
Being on the other side of the desk for over a decade has allowed me to understand the need for regular breaks from school and students. I enjoy my students (I love & treat them as my own), but sometimes we just need a break from one another. Most parents understand this concept – ever wonder why we have “date nights”? While spending more time with their children than most parents would like to admit, there comes a time in the year (several, in fact) when taking some “time off from each other” allows both parties to regroup, refocus, and re-energize. Teaching is physically and emotionally exhausting, and I’ve grown to relish the chances to take some time for myself and my children during breaks from school. By the time spring hits, most teachers are clamoring for the end of the year, their patience, stamina, and health being stretched to the breaking point. Were it not for Spring Break, most teachers simply would not make it to June. Breaks are great for the body & soul.
So, what do you think? Are mandatory breaks from school really necessary? Are they too short? Are they too long?
‘Til the next post.