Reading break is never restful for students, but it should be

There is value to rest and rejuvenation, and the week should reflect that

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

Like most university students, getting a little break from classes the week before midterms isn’t something I’d be quick to complain about. However, the current state of what reading break amounts to leaves me a little confused with the definition. 

On one hand, the absence of scheduled class time for a week does relieve a good amount of pressure, like how cracking a shaken pop can will slowly reduce the inevitable fizz-up. No classes also helps to a degree with the broader stress of a school-work life balance. Not having to attend class alleviates some simple things like waking up early, taking transit to and from campus, or changing out of pajamas. 

While a week-long break is welcomed by students, many instructors seem to have missed the point of it altogether. Students are often assigned a project worth a considerable amount of their grade that’s due the class after reading break. This basically entails students to carry unavoidable anxiety about the project and completing it over their time off. It also seems the break is sometimes used as a catch up week, or time to work on assignments, making it more of a class break than a reading break. 

Reading break is supposed to be a time for students to review and engage with course materials presented up to that point in order to be prepared for what tends to be a series of final exams in multiple different courses. Having to study for three or more courses as a full time student as well as manage professional and personal obligations is truly no small task. In my own experience, I tend to find myself spending at least one class worth of time a day studying and revising course work. 

As with most issues in our world, there seems to be a disconnect between people distributing work and those who complete the work. The common sentiment is to get as much work done as possible out of every waking moment. 

Sometimes people forget there is value to rest and rejuvenation. A good night’s sleep amounts to a hard day’s work and vice versa. Maybe we need to rethink the way we value our working and non-working hours. 

In the same way an employee wouldn’t expect to continue their work on their scheduled breaks or days off, perhaps our professional education environment should reflect the values we might see in the workforce. After all, a place in the economic structure is what our school adventure often leads us to. So, why not approach it in the same way? 

With the quick shifting work culture in recent times, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar approach in reforming the current culture of homework and standardized testing, hot button topics in academia, and the purpose they really serve for a student’s education.