Campus Issues- Is Winter Break Really a Break

Students are too stressed over the holidays

By Frank Jiang ’21

Midterms have always been a tricky matter for the school. Striking a balance between giving students tests and not stressing them over the break is an issue the school’s teachers have been trying to solve for a long time.

For the past few years, the school has decided to remove midterms after winter break, because the majority of the student body was using their winter break to study for those assessments.

Because the midterms post-break were removed, most classes will schedule a unit test, or cumulative assessment section test, right before break. For special cases like 2017, many teachers, though confined to certain testing days and set back by the recent fires in California, stacked the week high with material and review sessions. A typical student would have tests every day during the school week, starting on Tuesday or Wednesday, and finishing on Friday. On top of this usually teachers will assign homework on the week they get back from school.

Regardless of testing changes, many students receive their tests back the same week they took them right before winter break. Bad grades on these typically lead to unhappy winter breaks, or stressful and sometimes even unnecessary studying in these classes to compensate, negating the whole purpose of having midterms before winter break. Looking at it from the other perspective though, there’s no perfect solution to this issue. Many students anxiously wait for their test grades during winter break, so regardless of when teachers release grades, it all comes down to personal preference. To effectively combat this issue, teachers could ask their classes whether they would prefer to see their grades before or after break reducing students’ stress over winter break.

With all this in mind, is winter break still really a break? On the plus side, two weeks without any school is a long time. Is a longer break really useful if midterm test results are on students’ minds that entire time? If anything, the longer the break, the more torturous it could be. Bringing into account “finals” week, and the weekend before that, most students will not get enough sleep, even on the weekend, due to the impending doom of the week ahead. Both overworking and overstressing students, before winter break even starts, really cuts away from the break winter break is supposed to provide in the first place. It is almost as if in order to achieve a two week break, we must trade in two weeks of diligent work in order to maintain our grades and sail smoothly through the curriculum.

Of course, there are always a couple of survivors who make it through our “doom week,” but even so, these people are among those who fill their days with studying. A lot of time is dedicated to reviewing notes and previous tests, and sometimes, it doesn’t even help.

To actually target the problem – that most students spend a lot of their time “studying” which for the most part is relearning the material that was originally covered and forgotten over winter break – should be what teachers focus on. Implementing a smarter curriculum that would cover less material, and adding extra classes or even just small sessions to help students to develop good study habits, as well as manage their time efficiently would help. This ensures that students really retain the material, reducing the time it requires for them to study, but also at the same time, reinforcing key concepts.

So why does it feel like we’re being stampeded by midterms? We got unlucky. The only factor the school did not account for were the wildfires. Since this system is rather new, no contingency plan is put in place for emergency situations like this, forcing teachers to improvise. Improvisation typically ends in disaster, and someone with a backup plan is typically more likely to succeed at something than someone who does not. Because of this, most teachers were forced to delay their testing schedules resulting in the “stampeding” of the tests. If a contingency plan were put in place beforehand, it could benefit both teachers and students, reducing collective stress between both parties. Having specific go-to’s when things go wrong makes the success rate of the system higher and decreases the chances that people will get frustrated.

Perhaps the only change we should make is that students should receive the results of midterms after break or should need to specifically email teachers during break to receive their grades. This alleviates the stress that students feel as a result of bad grades. So, is winter break really a break? Yes, as long as students minimize their worrying about anything school related until after winter break or, at the very minimum, one week before school starts.

Just some last thoughts and a word for parents: please do not make your child study during winter break. They already study and stress enough during the school year and are more burdened than most middle school students are. Students should not have to stress over break, and should rather be able to take a breather to absorb everything they’ve learned. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the two weeks you have, while you have them.

 

 

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