It’s the week after Thanksgiving and all throughout campus, Gusties are talking about what they did, the food they ate, the people they saw and all the homework they had to do (or forgot to do).
It’s certainly nice to get away from campus for a few days over Thanksgiving break, but lately, these “breaks” are beginning to feel less like time off and more like extended at-home study sessions. Students spend the better part of November looking forward to a relaxing Thanksgiving spent with loved ones, and yet, by the time break finally comes along, they are so laden with assignments that they hardly have time for anything else.
Students are gradually being deprived of the break that they are promised on the semester calendar, and this is problematic because true time off from schoolwork is proven to be beneficial to students in terms of both academics and health. As such, I argue that students should not be assigned any homework over Thanksgiving break so that they may reap the benefits of spending more time with loved ones, catching up on sleep and relieving some stress.
For starters, the primary purpose of Thanksgiving break is to allow students to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones. Assigning them homework intrudes on that family time which is already too rare. As Gustavus students, we invest the majority of our time in on-campus activities, so we need this break in order to reinforce relationship bonds with people at home and to remind ourselves that, despite our crazy stressful college lives, we still have that support.
In addition, not having homework over break allows students to catch up on much-needed sleep. It’s no secret that college students are sleep-deprived. According to the University of Georgia Health Center, they get an average of 6 to 6.9 hours per night when they really need 8 hours. Giving out assignments over break only perpetuates this pattern because, according to writer for the West Ottawan Journal, Cory Ives, students will just repeat their school habits of procrastination and end up staying up late to finish homework anyway, even though they may have more time on their hands.
As a result of getting more sleep, Gusties will return to campus and perform better academically in their upcoming finals. According to the University of Georgia Health Center, “Research has shown that students who get 6 or fewer hours of sleep have a lower GPA than those who get 8 or more.”
This is true because sleep is a restorative process that enhances multiple bodily functions that are essential to the processes of learning and test-taking.
For example, sleep strengthens the immune system, enabling students to attend and focus on learning without the hindrance of a cold or the flu. Sleep also heightens brain function and memory by sorting through and storing what you have learned that day so that it may be easily recalled later on, as well as allowing you to make connections between new and past information that you wouldn’t have made while awake. Sleep even improves mood, alertness, and concentration throughout the day, elements that are crucial to test-taking.
In addition, no homework over Thanksgiving break gives students the opportunity for stress relief. As Gusties well know, chronic stress is a deep-seated problem in the college environment. While being involved on campus certainly has its rewards, it can often be overwhelming and a break offers students a necessary safe haven. Assigning homework is to overloads a student’s already busy Thanksgiving schedule, which often includes spending time with family and friends, preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, and working an at-home job.
Stress relief, even over a short Thanksgiving break, is essential for physical and mental health. Stress is the body’s natural alarm system, designed for short-term activation in response to threats of danger. According to WebMD, small doses of stress may be natural, but “we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.” Long term stress is associated with depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, memory and concentration impairment, obesity, sleep problems, and digestive problems. In order to stay healthy, Gusties need to be allowed breaks from the stress of school over the semester and that means no homework over Thanksgiving.
One might argue that a break offers both professors and students the opportunity to make up for lost time. Afterall, wouldn’t a student’s stress decrease if they had less class work to do when they get back? Well, yes and no. It’s true that the student would not have those particular tasks to worry about when they return, but the fact is, there will always be the next assignment to fret over. At least in my experience, the stress never really disappears, and break is a chance to freeze your on-campus responsibilities for a few days in order to take a moment to breathe so that you can come back refreshed. This way, Gusties will be able to pick up where they left off and prepare for finals with greater energy and motivation.
Everyone wants to do well in school, but that doesn’t always mean sitting at your desk twenty-four hours a day. What it really means is time management and the ability to prioritize your personal health when need be, a necessary skill that is sadly lacking in today’s society. Homework schedules should be designed to support student health, and no homework over Thanksgiving break is a major step toward this.