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Mar  2014 26
When is a Break not a Break?

For two weeks, we 'break' for concentrated courses. Most students and faculty actually do get a break for at least one of those weeks. It's an opportunity to catch up on reading, writing, non-school-related responsibilities, and some much-needed sleep. That's one week. The other week, for those taking or teaching Christology, Vocation Matters, or The Church and Evangelism, is exactly the opposite of a break.

Concentrated courses are an entity unto themselves. They involve plenty of advance reading and sometimes an initial assignment. Then everybody comes together for hours and hours of immersion in the topic at hand with fascinating lectures, engaging discussions, thought-provoking videos, creative group activities, special projects or presentations, and an occasional field trip to get the blood flowing.  Energy levels ebb and flow. Decibel levels rise and fall, with laughter and impassioned speech. Quiet times are just long enough to invite careful reflection, but not so long as to allow dozing off. The amount of learning is amazing. By the end of the week, people are often physically and mentally spent—but in a good way. And then, there's the big paper that comes afterward.

And that, I imagine, is why we offer two consecutive weeks for concentrated courses. Folks need time to rest up either the week before or the week after. I've known at least one student who took two concentrated courses in a row. (Does the word 'insanity' come to mind?) The good news is the student survived and actually learned a thing or two. I don't recall a repeat experiment, however.

What's wonderful about concentrated courses is that students (and adjunct faculty) who live at a distance can come to campus for a week of face-to-face interaction around issues that matter with people who matter. Mealtimes and evening opportunities for debriefing or blowing off steam include all kinds of silliness and informal interactions. The bonding that occurs throughout the week is essential to fostering a community of vital conversations, as well as establishing enduring friendships.

Concentrated course weeks do provide a break from the regular semester routine, even for employees who work directly or indirectly with students. However, it's not the sort of break one often associates with schools in the spring. For that, we must wait until Holy Week. And, even then…

Thanks be to the God in whom we can find rest!


Susanna Southard is an Instructor in Ministry Studies and the Pastor to the Community. This post first appeared in Connecting Community.
Browse more posts by: Susanna Weslie Southard, Phillips Faculty
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