In law school, we take pride in all-nighters, study-hard or grind culture, and the Socratic learning method. We hate these things but we subtly glorify them. It is as if they have become our badges of honor and that putting up with their toll on our overall health is a norm. This then draws the question of whether time off from this mind-taxing pursuit is really necessary. However, with the student workload, the pace of learning delivery, the pandemic going on, and the examination approaching, a wellness break is more essential than ever.
One good reason to push through with academic break is, it jump-starts compassionate pedagogy. A much-needed rest, when afforded to students, will create a learning environment supportive and responsive to non-academic needs which generally betters and strengthens student-university relationship. Since it will give the students time to address their unattended personal concerns, it will make them feel that they are heard and seen by the student board and that their limitations and need for a purposeful pause from hyper-productivity and the rigors of online classes and recitations are being recognized.
Moreover, institutionalizing academic breaks is an expression of the university’s support for holistic exam preparation. A week off will provide students the opportunity to make themselves more physically, emotionally, and mentally ready before they sit for a dreadful series of tests. Having a downtime will allow students to keep up with the pace of lessons while doing physical, recreational, and social activities that help them recover from fatigue, stress-induced sickness, and mental exhaustion. This will also teach and encourage students to make conscious decisions to rest, a healthy practice that they can observe not only while in law school but most importantly when they prepare for the bar examination.
Another compelling reason is the threat of the so-called ‘twindemic’ of COVID and flu. According to the World Health Organization, influenza is common during rainy days. The Department of Health Spokesman Eric Domingo also mentioned in a 2019 interview that “flu season starts in October, peaking from January to February when the temperature drops”. Four of my law friends who have not met physically have simultaneously experienced fever, cough, and colds three weeks ago. Nonetheless, they still chose to attend classes; otherwise, it will be hard for them to keep up with the lessons. This just shows that with the nature of studying law, health takes only a back seat— which all the more implies the need for an academic break.
Lastly, academic break reinvigorates students’ future participation and commitment to studying law. Passion, no matter how strong, will be affected by energy depletion, chronic mental tiredness, and the added stressors brought about by the pandemic. It is obvious that the shift to online setup and the technical difficulties associated with it have decreased the learning appetite of students; sadly, the extent has even affected their interest in law practice in the future. However, this may be somehow avoided if adequate breaks are given. Taking on vacation from law school may significantly lead to a regain of motivation and emotional strength, which are indispensable for students’ resilience and survival.
All in all, the journey to becoming a lawyer will, in some way or another, be at the expense of health and sanity. However, it should not mean that we take no measures to address it. It is just timely and relevant that we normalize compassionate pedagogy and holistic exam preparation, and take into account the ‘twindemic’ and the decreasing motivation of students while in this new learning setup. True, an academic break can only do so much, but at least it can do something.