Staff Editorial: Breaks help students learn and relax

For many students, these next few days of classes before Thanksgiving are markedly different than the rest of the semester. Even though the University has made classes today and tomorrow mandatory for professors and students, chances are many seats will be empty. Professors will probably end up re-teaching the material once students return next week. This speaks to the idea that GW needs to re-evaluate its current academic calendar in a way that would prove beneficial for students.

The University canceled classes Wednesday for the first time in years, showing that GW recognized students, faculty and administrators needed the day before the holiday to travel or spend time at home. But given the attitudes of many students on campus, this extra day off is not enough. There is a pervasive atmosphere of exhaustion and fatigue throughout the student body, which is not uncommon. However, this could be mitigated by more days off during the week of Thanksgiving or at some other time in the fall semester.

If one follows the current academic calendar, students are in classes for the majority of the fall semester. In addition to this long stretch, the last day of finals falls on Dec. 22. At this point in the semester, students have difficulty managing their workload and may tend to shirk their responsibilities – including assignments or going to class – but this burnout occurs dangerously close to finals and final papers, a time when peak performance is critical. GW should provide students with a break that could offer stress relief for students to recharge. This would help with productivity, so by this point in the semester, students would be able to focus and get the most out of their classes.

To counteract this idea of diminishing returns that occurs from a lack of time off, GW could add more days to the beginning of the school year, and take away days during the fall semester. This model would not take away classes, it would just distribute the total number of classes differently over the semester. Students could return to campus earlier at the end of the summer – hardly an inconvenience given the length of the summer break – but would have some much-needed time in either October or November for relaxing or catching up on work.

Whether the break falls in October or November, students could benefit. If Colonials have an opportunity to recharge in between or after midterms, this could be a popular option. On the other hand, if students are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and don’t have the convenience of being able to drive or hop on a train, a few extra days to travel or spend time at home would be equally valuable. Regardless of where GW places this break on the academic calendar, this would greatly help students with their overall productivity and well-being.

A change to the academic calendar would benefit faculty as well as students – professors play a large role in the effectiveness of breaks, too. For example, if a professor looks at a break as an opportunity to assign more work, this isn’t necessarily the best use of time and may affect student productivity later in the semester. Simply put, students sometimes require time to recharge and refocus so that they can maintain their stamina throughout the remaining months. GW has an opportunity to make a substantial improvement to student life, but not at the expense of a shorter semester, and that’s something everyone can be thankful for.

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