Reading week is key to student mental health, and there’s no denying that. Post-secondary institutions that provide their students with a fall and winter break are showing their students matter – other institutions that offer one reading week all year or nothing at all have some catching up to do.
However, just because there is a week off, it doesn’t necessarily mean its effective. For example, Brock University’s fall reading week is the same week as Canada’s Thanksgiving – which this year is on October 9 – meaning Brock students will receive Oct. 10-13 off from school. Yet, if you took a survey of Brock students, most would agree the week off is too early.
Reading week is meant to be a week off from assignments, midterms and getting caught up on any school students have fallen behind on. It’s a time for students to clear their minds and distress from what at times can become an overload in work. However, Oct. 10-13 is too early to distress because the stress hasn’t begun.
The first semester at this point is only four weeks old — or four weeks young, depending on how you look at it. When Brock’s classes start up again post-reading week, there’ll still be about seven and a half weeks left of classes, as that doesn’t include the two-to-three-week exam period in December.
Placing reading week during the week of Thanksgiving also doesn’t provide students anytime to distress. Having such an early break puts students in the position to use the week to focus on assignments and midterms coming up rather than taking the week to just relax — which reading week is meant to be about.
Most assignment due dates and midterms don’t come until the week following the break. Meaning students would benefit more from a reading week that is placed during the week of Oct. 23-27 — this is about the midpoint of the semester, and a time when some assignments and midterms have passed. Placing reading week during that week would give students the perfect time to take a deep breath after a jam packed early-October, and prepare for what will most likely be a busy November before final exams.
The reason to place reading week on the week of Thanksgiving is because this way there aren’t two Monday’s missed in one month. But would students really care if one of the two missed Monday’s was made up later in the year?
Chances are this would push the start of the exam period back a day and some students may not get home for the holiday break until the day before or the day of Christmas Eve. As unfortunate as that is, it would still be the better thing for students because the fall break should split up the stressful parts of the semester.
An Oct. 10-13 break does no good, because September, in most cases, is a light workload for students compared to October and November.
There are other universities that follow suit with Brock, and give their students the Oct. 10-13 break. But there are universities that provide a later break (Oct. 23-27) for students such as, Carleton University, University of Ottawa and Trent University. Even at the collegiate level – Mohawk College, for one – offer a later week off.
The list is quite short, as mentioned, because most other Ontario universities follow the path of Brock and place reading week early. Some have a shorter week off (Oct. 26-27) or don’t have a break at all. It might be time for the other institutions to follow the likes of Carleton, Ottawa and Trent, and provide a more beneficial break.
Students don’t want, or need, the lone week off to be about assignments and midterms. They need it to be what it was initially meant for, and that’s a week to distress. There’s no doubt that a later break will still include some time to be spent on assignments and studying, however, it’ll allow students to take a couple days off and then use the remainder of the week on school.
An early reading week, like the one at Brock, means students still have about 90 per cent of assignments/midterms left to worry about. Whereas a later off week would leave students with about 40-60 per cent left, which is a significant difference.
Early weeks off don’t give students time to relax and get back on track but later weeks allow for a short break and enough time to take advantage as the semester rapidly comes to close. Let’s pause and remind ourselves what reading week is supposed to be about, and reconsider when it’s scheduled.