How do you plan on spending your 'Reading Days?'
'Reading Days,' aka the new Spring Break, will dictate many spring class schedules
When I plan my spring semester courses, I start by looking at where holidays fall, and most importantly, when Spring Break occurs. Of course, the course schedule is created by topics that need to be covered, scaffolding assignments for semester long projects, and timing due dates to give ample time for grading before the next assignment. But it really is those days off and Spring Break that dictate the final plan. For example, new topics shouldn’t be started only to be interrupted by days of no class. Or I can strategically time due dates or in-class assignment work to land before a break—giving students time for material to sink in before they let their brains rest. It gives me time to slow down and regroup before I use those “days off” for needed catching up and planning ahead. In short, those “days off” are essential to planning my semester work.
As the semester wears on, seeing those “days off” approaching on the schedule are a welcome beacon, signaling there is just a bit further to go before things will slow and I can take some deep breaths. But without a Spring Break this coming semester, when will I have those needed days that help me be my best? Like many other campuses, we have adjusted spring semester due to COVID-19, and have replaced Spring Break with Reading Days (also called wellness days at other institutions). Rather than one long week to plan my schedule around, we’ll have different days dotting the calendar; still signaling when the next break and respite from commuting, Zoom, or early wake-ups will occur.
Can a day here and there really replace Spring Break? As with everything in the past year, it won’t exactly be the same. But then I think about how that class time will still be blocked on my calendar, giving me an hour or two of focus. I think about how others will also be using their Reading Day to catch up—not on focusing on new tasks with the accompanying emails that interrupt quiet focus. They are days we can give ourselves guilt-free permission to eat lunch at a leisurely pace, take a walk, dust off the yoga mat in the corner, or literally read, sipping coffee in the sunshine. For others, these days will be the relief of one less task on the to-do list for the day, which has no shortage in our “new normal” of working from home, remote learning, and endless screen time. It will be one less lecture to prep; one less day that I have to be 100% “on my game.”
For students, Reading Days mean one less day to cram in “new” information in already stressed minds. It means more time for the information already learned to marinate; it means one more nap to allow information to absorb and organize in their brains. Hopefully, with this extra time, students will return to class with a new sense of confidence in what they know—ready to engage with new information.
The Reading Days, the “new” Spring Break, will still dictate my spring class schedules. Topics will be carefully planned as to not be interrupted by a “day off.” Due dates will still align to when I’ll have more time to focus and grade on those Reading Days. Wherever the days land, it might mean rethinking what topics or activities are absolutely essential. It might mean pushing myself to try out something different with the course or how students are assessed. As many of us have learned from our online/Hyflex realities, sometimes rethinking a course actually benefits both you and the students. In short, I’m looking forward to the surprises that emerge from where Reading Days will lead my scheduling.
So as you plan for Spring, look at the scheduled Reading Days on the calendar as their own little beacons—motivating you along what will still be a challenging semester. What will those breaks allow you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to? What moment of joy can you treat yourself to with that block in your calendar. What will you do on your Reading Days?
Amy Pason is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and current Faculty Senate Chair. She teaches courses on persuasion, facilitation, public speaking, and other courses related to public advocacy.