Note: I could not figure out why this post would not format correctly, i.e. why it’s single-spaced after I pasted in text. I’m pushing my deadline and I haven’t solved the problem, so I’m going to have to live with it.

Fall break for Allegheny College students starts Saturday and runs through next Tuesday. I’ve been thinking about the intention of the break–and the meaning of the word ‘break.’

I looked up the word on The first definitions refer to the verb form.


1. to smash, split, or divide into parts violently; reduce to pieces or fragments
2. to infringe, ignore, or act contrary to (a law, rule, promise,etc.)
3. to dissolve or annul (often followed by off ) fracture a bone of (some part of the body)
5. to lacerate; wound: to break the skin.
Most of the definitions refer to violence. The noun form continues the trend.
69. an act or instance of breaking; disruption or separation of parts; fracture; rupture:
70. an opening made by breaking; gap
71. a rush away from a place; an attempt to escape
72. a sudden dash or rush, as toward something
73. a suspension of or sudden rupture in friendly relations
There’s no mention of the idea of a pause or a rest, a break from work, stress, routine.
I’ve been considering whether to give the students in my news writing and photojournalism classes an assignment over the break. Several students laughed when I mentioned the idea of enjoying their break. They said that professors pile on the work over the break. That seems to defeat the purpose.
We’re almost halfway through the first semester. The students are carrying heavy course loads; many participate in athletics or have part-time jobs–or both.
I happen to believe in the value of taking a break. Taking time to rest. Spend time with friends and family. Let the mind rest.
Athletes know the value of a break, a pause. You can only stress and push your body–and your mind–so far before the effort becomes counter-productive. Fatigue and overuse invite injuries and illness.
I decided I would not give assignments over the fall break.
I hope it gives the students a bit of breathing room, some time for a walk under the trees and their leaves turning gold, orange and red. Time for a movie. Time to sit under the night stars. Time to set aside their worries about homework, exams and grades.
I decided to give them a break. I hope they’ll take it.