Two Weeks of Classes Between Fall and Winter Vacation Raises Spirits and Stress

Following Thanksgiving break, students will find themselves preparing to leave for winter break after just two and a half weeks of classes. While this is common for schools following a trimester system, some students and faculty found it challenging to plan around this schedule, though others had more positive outlooks.

Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, commented that the two-week period of school between two breaks is favorable. However, Esty acknowledged how the more relaxed two weeks of classes may negatively affect students. 

“We really are a high school, not a college. In fact, some colleges, depending on their scheduling, made the breaks shorter than ours. We actually make it a bit longer acknowledging that people travel long distances to be here. We’ve had this [schedule] for as long as I’ve known. I’m not familiar with us doing it a different way. I actually am a fan of the rhythm of the school year, so that you’re really busy and then you get a break and then you’re really busy and then get a break and so on. I think it’s good for us to take the break and dive in again and then take another break,” said Esty. 

Esty continued, “The downside of this chunk of time is it’s the first two weeks of winter term. So in some ways, it’s a positive because it feels low-stakes, like [a] honeymoon phase of Winter Term. The negative is that sometimes students can get caught off guard that it’s actually a fifth of Winter Term. I’ve been the advisor to some students who have had suddenly been like, ‘I didn’t think I had much work then, but now I’m digging myself out of a hole in January because I didn’t really grind for those two weeks.’”

Leon Calleja, Department Chair of English, described some difficulties of planning around the short period of classes, especially for more test-reliant courses, but noted that it can be manageable to work around the starts and stops with thorough planning and choosing topics that can be condensed into the time period. 

“If teachers plan it out well, I think it can be okay, but I know for some instructors and for some courses too, it’s a challenge trying to get an assessment in before [students] leave in December. The trickiest part is when you return in January, midterm comes really quickly. I know in English classes, for example, you can sort of plan out units that are short in duration and concentrated and get a good start in December so when you return in January it’s not necessarily as abrupt, sort of a continuation in that sense,” said Calleja. 

Some students still feel the discrepancy in learning due to the approaching winter break. Cristopher Ramnath ’23 feels that finding a schedule of consistency after returning from break poses the greatest challenge. He described how it can be particularly difficult to have the break of momentum in regard to learning. 

“I actually really enjoy the two weeks in between in my opinion, just the fact that it’s the beginning of a new term and [it’s] relatively chill. [But] for the most part, you want this consistency of learning as it relates to the amount of time you’re able to spend on it but then [there’s] a break. In reality, it’s not going to be spent remembering and learning the things you learned in class over the two weeks. So then you’re coming back from an almost-three-week break expected to remember everything you’ve covered within the last two weeks. In regard [to that], there’s a discrepancy in learning,” said Ramnath. 

Eleanor DeHoog ’24 shared similar sentiments regarding the winter break, commenting on how most teachers try to cram major assignments into the curriculum before the break. DeHoog also mentioned that it can be difficult for students who live far away to be traveling extensively in such a short period of time. 

“It’s kind of frustrating to go all the way home and then come all the way back, mainly because I live pretty far away, but I imagine for international students that’s even more of an ask. I will say that these two weeks are kind of fun because it’s not super stressful, because what can really happen in two weeks? I just think it’s really difficult to, especially from a teaching standpoint, start a term with only two-and-a-half weeks and having to stop it, then expect students to remember what you were teaching,” said DeHoog.