For most students, 90 minutes of constant, intense focus on one subject can be overwhelming. Although Paly’s block periods have proven effective in allowing students to better comprehend material by granting more time in their respective class, a five-minute break in the middle of the period should be required to help students remain focused throughout the lesson.
Paly’s fast-paced academic climate requires students to contribute their absolute focus throughout each lesson in order to avoid falling behind. This demanding environment can cause students inordinate amounts of stress, driving some students to grapple with mental health issues. According to Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Spector, such stress could be minimized by having classes take regular breaks.
According to Spector, many students utilize the Wellness Center as a resource for taking breaks. The center is a technology-free zone, which both promotes self-care and prompts students to use their break time to engage in reinvigorating activities, such as deep breathing exercises and coloring.
The Wellness Center encourages engagement in physical activity, as according to them, sitting for long periods of time can increase risk for health concerns. Such physical activity should not only be reinforced at the Wellness Center, but in all classes for students who are uncomfortable with leaving their class but who would still like access to this opportunity.
Multiple administrators and teachers agree that taking breaks is crucial to restoring motivation. Government and Contemporary World History teacher Mary Sano uses breaks to help students stay focused. She said taking breaks is beneficial to student efficiency.
Several students have discovered the power of breaks both in and out of the classroom. Students’ challenging classes and time-consuming extracurriculars often compel them to curtail their personal break time, which can lead to them feeling drained and frustrated by the end of each school week.
Sophomore Neel Fulton said he employs breaks in his everyday life, as they are essential to managing his strenuous course load and extracurricular activities.Understandably, different classes require different amounts of focus or attention. However, for many students it is in their most challenging courses that they are not permitted to take breaks. This might be because some teachers harbor concerns of wasting valuable class time by taking breaks.
English teacher Hunter Reardon, speaking only about his own classroom, said administering breaks during class is dependent on a number of factors, the most considerable one being the amount of content reviewed during that class period. But some quick calculations show the total time that would be “lost” from five-minute breaks is insignificant, amounting to only 6.7 percent of all class time in the school year.
If students are permitted a five minute break each period, 30 seconds will be used both before and after to transition to and from it, totaling to six minutes. Six divided by 90 amounts to 0.067,showing that if this were to be implemented into each class, it would only take up 6.7 percent of the comprehensive time.
Focusing on any one task for an extended period of time is not only harmful mentally and physically, it is also inefficient.
According to Spector, a deficit of down-time can make people apprehensive, causing students to perform poorly in school.
By having Paly administrators enforce breaks in each class, students will be better able to combat the aggressive academic competition that predominates at Paly. Administrators must make this a requirement for the 2019-2020 school year, and urge teachers to make adjustments to their lesson plans as soon as possible.