Holiday Break: How Does It Affect Academics?

Holiday break may put a damper on the curriculum, but for students and teachers everywhere, it's a beautiful time full of holiday spirit.

This school year, the holiday break will take place from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, and while Staples students are typically anxious for the break after weeks of intense academics, it can ultimately take a toll on students’ retention of knowledge.

Although teachers typically do not stop teaching until the last bell rings before the holiday break, it appears that students have difficulty remembering the information they learned before the break when they return.

“I think that some kids definitely have a tough time linking the two ends of vacation together,” Charlie Greenwald ’11 said.

Siri Andrews ’13 also sees the difficulty in remembering the information taught in class after holiday break.

“I forget a little bit of the information, especially in my math and science classes,” Andrews said. “But the teachers are good about ending units before break starts.”

Some teachers at Staples also find that students typically do not return from the holiday break in the same mindset that they do during a typical school week.

“Both teachers and students often need a couple of days to get back in gear,” English teacher Jesse Bauks said.

Rebecca Stern, a mathematics teacher, also finds that there is a slight delay in the return from holiday break.

“Sometimes students come back a little dazed, which is why I usually don’t start something new right before break,” Stern said.

Some teachers realize that the holiday break clears the minds of most students, so they decide to assign projects, papers, and other assorted assignments over the break to retain the academic content.

However, Parker Stakoff ’14 believes that this concept “ruins the point of break.”

“Students are supposed to relax and be relieved from the stress of school over the holiday break. Just knowing that we will have to do the assignments is always in our mind, making it hard to have fun. It’s almost as if we were still in school,” Stakoff said.

Although some students, like Matt George ’12, think that assignments over break are beneficial, “they would definitely suck,” George said.

Greenwald thinks that the holiday break should be spent “obligation-free,” and that if students should wish to do schoolwork over the break, “that should be their choice.”

Enia Noonan, an Italian teacher, used to give review sheets to her students to complete over the holiday break, but has changed her thinking over the years she has been teaching.

“I know that [the students] are busy, and the homework is usually done hastily on the last night of vacation. The vacation is a precious time to spend with family. My allowing them time to foster these relationships over the break shows them that I appreciate the value of these friendships,” said Noonan.

Many students like Cara McNiff ’14 find it “stressful” that midterm exams take place two or so weeks after the return from break. However, some find that review during that short timeframe would be most beneficial in preparation for the midterm exams.

“Review in class would be helpful to get students back into the groove of things,” Kelsey Hussey ’11 said.

George has a viewpoint similar to Hussey, finding that it is “important for the teachers to review where we left off in class when we get back from the holiday break to make sure everyone remembers the information.”

Noonan has found that this approach works.

“My students are very involved in the [review] process, creating study guides and review lessons for their classmates. This is also a great time to take stock of where we’ve been and to foreshadow where we’re going,” Noonan said.

Bauks, who teaches three semester classes in addition to his year-long English 3A class, thinks that review time is very helpful, “especially for semester courses, as exams are finals.”