How are professors spending their holidays?
Jessica Yang/Production Assistant
Time off work doesn’t always mean a perfect break for professors
For many people, the holidays have always been something to look forward to. For students, this means time away from school and for others, it can mean time away from work.
This year, at McMaster University, student examinations end officially on Dec. 22, 2021, with winter classes beginning on Jan. 10, 2022. While professors technically have the same time limits when it comes to class dismissals, they spend a large majority of break bringing their courses to fruition.
Courses often require a lot of planning leading up to the first class, but the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in professors planning for online classes since March of 2020.
Now, for the upcoming winter semester in 2022, there is going to be a transition to an almost entirely in-person learning format, which can mean a shift in planning for professors yet again. What this planning looks like will differ depending on the course.
Joe Kim, an associate professor at McMaster under the department of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour, spoke about how the IntroPsych team at McMaster had already had a relatively hybrid learning style prior to the pandemic as they were using virtual modules. Kim explained that planning for the upcoming semester was close to completion.
Krista Howarth, an assistant professor at McMaster under the department of kinesiology, explained that, although a large majority of her course planning had been completed, there were still things like the Avenue course shell that needed to be activated and then formatted.
To Howarth, the way her course appears on Avenue is important, as it is an essential means of communication to her students. She talked about how it would have been nicer to have a longer winter break so she can better prepare for the winter semester.
“I do wish there was more time between term one and term two and even last year, there was a survey that went around and [asked], ‘Would you guys mind if we sort of started the term later this year?’ to give everyone more time. Not just the students, but also [so that] the faculty have more time to get ready for term two,” said Howarth.
Though professors spend time planning, many also try to balance spending time with family and friends over the holidays.
For Kim, the holidays are a chance to be closer with his family. He talked about the variety of games they play, whether that be Sorry!, Dominoes, Clues or Jenga. He also talked about the importance of good food, exercising and binge watching television shows to help create a relaxing break.
“The holidays means the end of semester, so it is a chance to rest, regenerate and spend a lot of time with family. For my daughter, I think she just loves the holidays because everyone is together in the same house so we have time for lots of games,” said Kim.
Howarth also spoke about how excited she is for the upcoming holidays.
It’s a hard earned break that she always looks forward to because she gets time to spend with her family. Her family loves to do puzzles together as she said it was their own form of relaxation.
Howarth also discussed how few days she actually takes off during the winter, spending the rest of the days working towards the first day of winter semester.
“I don’t often get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked over the holidays with my family, [but] at least I do get to take a little bit of time off to do some things with my kids and my other family members . . . Most years I take off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day and I’ll spend that at my parents’ house. I go with my kids and we just hang out there and do our typical Christmas celebrations,” said Howarth.
Both Kim and Howarth shared advice for students on how to have a balanced winter break. They stressed the importance of how taking a break is essential to wellbeing.
Kim shared how it is good to be productive, but that there are realistic ways to achieve this. He suggested making a list of things one hopes to finish during the break and to ensure that they are realistic goals.
The upcoming break is a much needed holiday for not only students but also professors. Many use this time to spend quality time with their families. Though rest is their main goal, many professors still find themselves spending a large majority of their break planning for the next teaching semester.