With Thanksgiving break coming up and Christmas break not far behind, the routine of school becomes daunting and tedious, as students begin to count down the days until they get to sleep in. While breaks may seem like a good time to pile on some extra homework or get some much-needed grading done, it is important to recognize how essential rest is to the learning process. These breaks provide much-needed downtime for both students and teachers alike. In fact, breaks are incorporated into the very structure of a typical week and even a typical school year; weekends provide a short break from the academic or work week, while summer break provides a much-needed rest from the vigor of academic study.
Resting is an essential part of the learning process. As stress and exhaustion build up, rest becomes an even more important component in learning and growth. Similar to how getting eight to ten hours of sleep a night refreshes both the body and the brain, a break from school can act as a sort of mental reset button that restores both motivation and attentiveness. Breaks not only provide a rest period, but they also provide a time to connect with family and friends outside of the stress that can sometimes come with school. Inevitably, the occasional project or paper may pop up over the break, but compared with the routine of a seven or eight am class, these assignments usually don’t pose too much of a problem.
Of course, excitement about an upcoming break can often produce lethargy in students. It may be difficult to bolster motivation in the classroom during the couple weeks before a major break. Remind students that you are looking forward to the break just as much as they are and try to keep them on track by reminding them of expectations and procedures. Students oftentimes don’t consider the fact that teachers look forward to breaks too as a time to rest and reset. It will probably be necessary to access a reserve of patience to combat the increasingly fidgety student behavior. It may be helpful to provide students with a list of topics that you will cover as a class before the break, making sure to cross each topic off after it is taught, in order to give students a tangible way to count down the time before the break. Some classrooms throw a party or show a special movie the week before a break. However, if this is out of the question because of strict time constraints, make sure to at least send students off with some encouraging words.
Rest is extremely important in the learning process as a time to refresh and replenish motivation. Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks are an exciting time for both students and teachers alike, and as the much-deserved weeks of rest approach, it may be difficult to dig deep and find the motivation to push through until the end. Remind students to finish strong and really earn the break!