SHRIYA NAGPAL ’16
From the sleep-deprived eyes of my perturbed professors to the still-drunk slurs of my clamoring classmates, one question seemed to prevail among all: Why are we here? And no Trinity, I do not pose this question to provoke existential thought, but rather I ask this question to shed light on a violation of one of our alienable rights as Trinity College students: Our Right To A Real Spring Break.
When we look at the formal definition of spring break, (created by my very professional opinion), we see that it is defined as an interruption of continuity or uniformity from standard Trinity-related endeavors. That is, an interruption of continuity from dreaded sociology readings, an interruption of continuity from online math homework, an interruption of continuity from liberal arts influenced physics essays, and last, but certainly not least, and interruption of continuity from having to endure Mather chicken.
These interruptions of Trinity life serve a vital purpose that seems to have been sidelined by faculty members. These interruptions foster a time for relaxation and release so that students can feel rejuvenated, mentally and physically, upon return. Yet this rejuvenation can never be achieved if said faculty members continually inundate their students with work over spring “break.”
I totally understand that college is time for academic exploration and in order to truly explore every facet of academic life, it is important to emerge yourself in dense readings and so on, but is intellect and a notable academic life only attained through means of perpetual school provided work? A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity. In fact, John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management says that mental concentration is almost analogous with a muscle.
That is, much like a muscle, mental concentration becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover (like a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym). Not only are these breaks necessary to provide mental concentration and foster active learning, but the timing of these breaks are essential as well.
It is important to take these breaks before reaching the absolute bottom of your mental concentration barrel. Professor Trougakos cautions that if these breaks are not taken, symptoms of over exertion of your mental concentration capacity include drifting and daydreaming. And unsurprisingly, drifting and daydreaming are extremely counterproductive in terms of absorbing information and increasing our intellect.
But how can students keep from sinking to the bottom of their “mental concentration barrel” if students are overwhelmed with their perpetual sociology readings, online math homework, or physics essays? If college is truly an environment for learning, shouldn’t we be granted our right to a work-free spring break to provide for greater absorption of material?
Even so, work provided over spring break does not only hinder learning absorption but it also has the capability to induce guilt. Many of us feel guilty for neglecting our work because of an unexplained deep-rooted devotion we have towards our beloved grades. However, Professor Tougakos argues that students generally need to detach from their work and their workspace to recharge their internal resources, so that a later higher productivity may occur.
Professor Trougakos says that long hours don’t mean good work and that highly efficient, productive work is more valuable. And conveniently, highly efficient work is fostered through frequent guilt-free breaks. Moreover, through history, these breaks have been known to give way to flashes of genius.
For example, Perry Spencer came up with the idea of a microwave when a candy bar in his pocket began to melt. Fireworks were accidently invented by a cook who in his leisure time mistakenly mixed charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter. And last, but certainly not least, Albert Einstein is thought of have conceived the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle, not while doing online math homework.
Trinity College, I think it is important that we recognize that school provided work is not the only source of knowledge that has the potential to foster intellect. Personal experience, through breaks, can help to form an environment conducive to that of learning as well. But in order to promote this school-free environment, we need to ensure that spring break is truly a spring break. That is, we need to ensure that spring break is actually an interruption of continuity or uniformity from standard Trinity-related endeavors.