Three years ago our university calendar was changed to give us (the teachers and students, along with some food service workers, etc.) a week off at Thanksgiving. University offices are open on Monday and Tuesday. The residence halls are closed as is the coffee shop in the library (but the library is open, limited hours). Prior to three years ago we had classes on Mondays and Tuesdays as well. When I was an undergrad I am pretty sure we had classes up until Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.
I have mixed feelings about the break being so long (effectively ten days including the weekends before and after the week). And I don't really know how to manage things. I would love to hear your input about this. And what is the break where you are?
For starters, I do think that I lose any momentum built up over the semester with this huge break just before the end of classes. This year, with Thanksgiving falling so early in November (literally the earliest day it can) we have a full week of classes in November and our expected on in December -- so two weeks of classes before the final exams begin. That is okay, I guess. Although if you have a week break then you are probably better off having it in the middle of the semester like you have in the spring.
What do I mean by momentum? The regular review of class notes (that I know will not be done until the end of the break) and the preparation of the papers that are due that week after the holiday. The first few days students will catch up on sleep, then they will hang out with friends, cook with family, maybe work some holiday hours. I know because that is what I would do. I was never the academic geek I should have been, even in grad school when I did do academic stuff over the holidays.
Would it be better if students only had two or three days away from classes? I think the issue was not what is best but a realistic estimate of what we all get out of the holiday break. If we have classes on Monday and Tuesday then how many students will show up? I already had students announcing to me that their rides were leaving on Thursday or even Wednesday evening so they would have to miss classes. (and the question -- will I miss anything? -- which drives me bonkers). Sometimes I have given pop quizzes in class on the last day before break, which rewards students who show up. This year I just gave those who showed up a few points of extra credit (and I had things to hand back to them so there was incentive for showing up). I thought it was being nice, but I know that there are people who will accuse me of being unfair to those who had to leave. That is the way the cookie crumbles.
The other question I have is what can I reasonably expect them to do over break? It is not one of the weeks of the semester in terms of the number of hours in class for accreditation purposes. So I can't have them do something that is assigned on Friday and due the subsequent Monday after break, can I? I sometimes have short assignments that go over the weekend -- is that reasonable to do over Thanksgiving break? I have papers due on the Friday after break as it is. Some students have been asking me questions about those, but I fully expect to get questions in triplicate on the Monday after break. I think those students who work on it this weekend, let it sit aside over the week to come and re-examine it after break will do much better than those who put it off until Monday the 26th to start. Is it reasonable to expect the highest quality of paper (I guess that is a teaching question more than just a Thanksgiving holiday one), even if people have to work on it over break to reach that quality of work?
Would you kill me if I had a pop quiz the Monday after break to see how much you retained and make sure you were rewarded if you didn't leave all your class notes behind when you went to wherever you went?
And does it matter from where your students come? Ours come mostly from the local tristate area, and their maximum drive is 5-6 hours and most are 3-4 hours from home. However if you are one of the few students who has to go further those connections are not easy. I went east to school, and I didn't come home until Xmas (I had to find a place to go for Thanksgiving with friends' families). My Mom went from the west to Michigan and she didn't go home until the following summer -- no Christmas trip back to Nevada for her.
So where do your students go when the Thanksgiving break comes? How long do they get off for the holiday? What sorts of assignments do you give them? And for primary and secondary school, what is your feeling about the Thanksgiving break?