At Lehigh, the second week of March marked the beginning of spring break for students. Many students chose to either go back home to their family and friends or go on some sort of trip to another side of the United States, or maybe even an entirely different country. The one thing that most students have in common during spring break is that, although they don’t have classes, their school work will not evade them.
The idea of spring break is to, obviously, give students a break from their classes in the middle of the spring semester, allowing them to blow off some steam and do other things they enjoy. Unfortunately, it seems that although there aren’t any classes, homework is still a big part of the break.
I chose to travel just over an hour to go back to my home for spring break and have a nice and relaxing week with my family, hoping that I could forget about all my school responsibilities for a bit and just enjoy myself. I have trouble enjoying myself, though, if I know I have work that still has to be done, taking away from the whole point of spring break. Instead, I spent most days either working on things for school, thinking about how I should be doing school work, or knowing that I’d have work due soon after break was over, cleverly assigned as “long-term projects.” But come on, what college kid wants to work on a project during spring break?
This is something that has happened my whole life and has likely occurred to most people at some point or another. In high school, it happened all the time where teachers would assign projects the day before students would go on a break, somehow assuming that that’s what they’d be spending their break doing. In my 10th grade English class, we got assigned a group video project the day before winter break was supposed to start. The project would be due shortly after break ended. I remember spending multiple nights worrying about what I was going to do with the project instead of enjoying the holidays. That’s not right.
A college spring break is sometimes sensationalized (or sometimes realized) as a time for massive parties all week on a tropical beach with all your friends. For those that decide to do this, the trip likely takes up the entire week of spring break. While you’re out there tanning on the beach or going out with friends, is it wrong to not think about an English essay that’s due a couple of days after the break ends?
Then, if the students come back from break not having done any work, the stress of college comes immediately back to them upon returning to campus. Managing stress is something that all college students have to deal with, but ironically, it’s spring break, the supposed time for “de-stressing,” that multiplies this feeling of stress. Instead of coming back refreshed and ready to go back to class, I feel worried that I’m behind. I came back even more stressed than before. This seems like a problem, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.
I do realize that assigning work for classes over breaks cannot always be completely avoided. Especially last year, snow days destroyed any professor’s attempt at holding to their syllabus from the beginning of the semester. Sometimes, there’s just too much material to cover, and it overflows into that extra week where there aren’t any classes. Other times, plans just change and things get moved around in a syllabus, forcing things to be assigned over a break. I know it happens. But I feel like, many times, it can be avoided.
Some work is fair to assign over break, such as simple things that don’t require too much thinking or lots time. Reading a couple articles about a topic is harmless work, something that can be done in a short period of time. But assigning a project where the majority of the time given to work on it is over the break — that is where things get tricky. If you’re on a trip to a faraway country or state, odds are you’re not going to want to break out your calculus textbook and start taking derivatives or preparing a long presentation on a paper you were supposed to write. It’s just unrealistic.
Professors are people, just like students, and want to have a break themselves. Just as professors don’t want to spend the whole spring break grading assignments, students don’t want to spend the whole break doing assignments. Spring break is supposed to be fun, and a work-free week is a good start to having fun.