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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?  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Happy Thanksgiving to you! (17+ / 0-)

    I am driving home to my parents' house this afternoon so I won't be able to comment until later.  I hope if you are on the roads you don't even see any deer, but drive safely -- those white tailed monsters are out enthusiastically jumping across the highway these days.  This time of year I worry more about them than drunk drivers.

  •  Oh boy. (7+ / 0-)

    (I'm a 4th year college student, should I be in here? :P )

    We get Wed-Thurs-Fri for Thanksgiving, then two weeks later we have finals and get out until mid-January. This semester was shortened a bit because of Hurricane Isaac, so there was some talk of them taking away one of our breaks, but they decided against it.

    Facebook
    If you say "gullible" real slow, it sounds like "green beans."

    by weatherdude on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:06:07 PM PST

  •  When I was in college (5+ / 0-)

    (back in the Dark Ages), classes were only cancelled Thursday and Friday, though most professors would cancel their Wednesday night classes, and some would even cancel the Wednesday afternoon sessions to give their students more time to get on the road before rush hour.

    I was close enough to go home for the holiday, but I lived on campus in the one dorm that was open during holiday periods; several local groups would help out by preparing meals for the students who could not get home (along with international students, the dorm also housed members of the football and basketball team who usually had games scheduled during the weekend).

    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

    by Cali Scribe on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:12:10 PM PST

  •  Some of my nicest students were pleading (3+ / 0-)

    with me to cancel class on Monday. It is even worse when I had to teach a class on Tuesday.

    So, yeah, I don't see the need for getting them upset or annoyed at it. I think a whole week off would be better.

  •  Our university takes Thursday and Friday, (6+ / 0-)

    as does my daughter's.  They are western public universities, FWIW.
    Our schools (K-12) close on Thursday and Friday, too.  I think a longer closure is too close to the winter break and could affect the rhythm of the learning.  Some districts take a week in February and call it "ski week", which is ridiculous because most of the children cannot afford to go skiing in the mountains due to that persistent problem of poverty.

    Our greatest responsibility is to be a good ancestor. Jonas Salk

    by Catkin on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:13:54 PM PST

    •  ski week? that's a new one (4+ / 0-)

      Personally, I can see shutting down starting Wednesday, just to facilitate travel for those who might have to fly, but not the whole week.

      As for K-12, it seems to me that when you account for all of the days that get cancelled during winter due to a skiff of snow somewhere in town, it's hard to justify a "ski-week" in February.  Those who enjoy the sport can do so during the break between Xmas and New Years.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:22:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My sister lived in Lake Tahoe for a while (3+ / 0-)

      and they got a ski week.

      My impression was that ski week was really the makeup week in case classes were cancelled due to weather. So that extra week off is put in the schedule, but is not really guaranteed. If they have to cancel too many classes during the rougher part of winter than ski week is cancelled to make up for it?

  •  Our holiday started on Thursday (2+ / 0-)

    My school didn't have many Friday class, anyway. The schedule was M W, T TH or M T W TH.  There were a few Friday only classes, but not many. Thanksgiving holiday started Thursday.

    I think a lot of students took the whole week off anyway, which is probably true everywhere. Maybe you school decided since a lot of students were taking the whole week off anyway they may as well just make the whole week a holiday.

  •  The break should last until... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Vatexia

    ...my guts don't hurt and my pants fit.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by DaveinBremerton on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:37:43 PM PST

  •  I Only Work 8 Months a Year. (3+ / 0-)

    I have long advocated for the school year to be longer.  I feel we should add a month to the school calendar.

    I usually receive hisses and boos from my colleagues, but I maintain my stance.

    I also feel that this should include an equivalent increase in pay.

    Seriously though with holiday breaks I only am in the classroom for 8 months and the job just can't be accomplished in that amount of time.  This is especially true for urban or poor youth.

    I'm just here for the Mojo!

    by Gator on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 12:45:00 PM PST

  •  officially 3 days, kids take 10 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    My college officially has 3 days off (Wed-Th-Fri). But they run shuttles to the train, bus, plane, and ferry stations beginning early on Tuesday morning, and close the dorms at 9 am Wednesday, clearly signalling that Tuesday is really the travel day. In other words, the academic calendar and the travel planning/Residential Life/dining hall don't match. And then I always have kids skipping Monday classes ("My ride is leaving. . . ."). A few left yesterday afternoon and won't be back until the 26th.

    When I have Tuesday afternoon classes, I usually surrender and cancel class because it's not worth my while to travel there for one or two kids. This year I have Monday classes, and have announced that it is NOT an excused absence.

    I hate it. The last day of classes is Dec. 11, so it's basically a week off, and then they come back and have to gear up again. I give them assignments to do (a paper to write, this time), knowing they mostly won't do it and will cram the night before it's due once they get back.

  •  Our schedule... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    We homeschool (age 9 and 17) so we're a bit more flexible for the holidays. I usually reduce school work the week of a holiday, simply because they just aren't as focused. Friday my son went out job hunting, so we have Friday's school work to do on Monday and Tuesday. We also do a lot of practical things, life skills things, cooking, cleaning, getting the house ready for any company, etc. We play board games (Scrabble, Rummicube, Monopoly, Story cubes, etc) and have extra family time as well. We have crafts we do. And my kids are science channel/discovery channel addicts anyway, so there's always something educational on.

    I try to keep it more informal during 'breaks' but there's usually some learning and assignments going on, even if the kids don't realize it ;).

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 01:05:45 PM PST

  •  We get a week off now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    Monday and Tuesday are furlough days though.

  •  We only get Thursday and Friday. (2+ / 0-)

    Something like 70% of our students are commuters, or have family living within a regular commute of no more than 5 hours, and the rest often just stay on campus for the weekend. I have had students ask for permission to miss class on Tuesday or Wednesday because they have to fly home. I try to accommodate them but it does annoy me, and they still do have an assignment due (through the online course management system) every Saturday. Thanksgiving weekend is no exception.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." - Hubert Humphrey

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 01:09:40 PM PST

  •  We have three days off (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    plus the weekend. That's not enough time to catch up on grading midterms, prep finals, and prep classes while also making Thanksgiving arrangements. We are contemplating actually not having Thanksgiving dinner here because we are so crammed for time to get our work done. How pathetic is that?

  •  it depends on the nature of the school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    I teach, part-time, at Vanderbilt. Our students get the entire week off. Since this is an expensive, private school,
    a lot of the students have long distances to travel to their homes for the holiday. This is quite different from a state
    university with predominantly local students.

    I support the whole week off, if a lot of students have far to go.

  •  At my university, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Ree Zen

    we used to have a two-day Fall Break (the date of which was determined, annoyingly, according to the football team's home game schedule) and a two-day Thanksgiving break. Many of our students drive home, often hundreds of miles, and many fly home. At another school nearby, a group of students was killed in a car accident driving home for Fall Break.  We then decided to eliminate the Fall Break and make Thanksgiving Break one week long so the students would have only one trip home to make. We did this as a three-year experiment, but we made it permanent because almost everyone loved it so much.

    As to the return with just a couple of weeks left in the semester, I had a couple of classes that wrapped the formal part of the course by the break, and then we used the time before Semester Break for projects, group presentations, individual conferences, more informal and participatory ways of learning.

    The biggest complainers were the language profs, who said their students lost continuity with the week-long break.

    I also like it for personal reasons, as I have to prepare a big Thanksgiving dinner, and Wednesday night and Thursday were always such a hassle under the old calendar.    

    "It doesn't matter what I do....People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live. --Newty

    by Vico on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:28:11 PM PST

  •  I always (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Vatexia

    schedule a major exam for the Monday after thanksgiving, and a large homework set.

    Thanksgiving gives them lots of extra study time.

    We can have change for the better.

    by phillies on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:29:39 PM PST

  •  w-r-f off only (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    My own opinion is that classes should be conducted on Monday and Tuesday only. In that case you'd be able to have a meeting of both m-w-f classes and t-r classes during that week. Travel, for anybody, after about 3 PM on Thanksgiving Wednesday is brutal and unsafe.  There are far too many cars on the road, people on planes/trains/buses, and drunks everywhere due to all of the work happy hours and impromptu HS reunions taking place at local bars.

    Better to send everybody home Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  

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