March Break, or Reading Week, has been a staple of the teaching calender for as long as I can remember. It was originally planned, as far as I can tell, as an opportunity for teachers to do some marking of student work and some reflection on the direction their courses were taking while giving students an opportunity to do the reading that is fundamental to intellectual success.

Of course, people being who they are, much of this week – including my own plans, I might add – has been focussed on getting away for a week’s holiday. Teachers in Canada are fond of heading somewhere south, the Caribbean or Florida, to get a break from the long Canadian winters. Considering that teachers already get some of the longest holidays in the professional world, this has been a matter of some resentment among the non-teaching population.

This past week instead of going away I spent the week executing the original intention of this break: I marked student work and did some planning. I have to say that I found the whole exercise refreshing and rewarding. I got to sleep at a reasonable hour each night in my own comfortable bed and got up to work early as I normally do. I did a reasonable amount of marking each day, 10 eassys (five hours) and 10 journals (two hours), and have just finshed early this morning. I am not tired and I am not frustrated. I had plenty of time to read and watch the news, and time to visit and chat with my wife and plan our little holiday to England this summer.

Normally I try to do this while I am teaching, marking until late in the evening or spending every waking moment in a marking marathon on weekends. By taking advantage of this week to mark I have greatly increased my enjoyment of this necessary task, and greatly reduced my stress. I have almost certainly done a better and fairer job of marking, as I have had the time to reflect and recheck my comments and my marks.

I have also had the leisure to truly appreciate the fine work that some of my students are doing. I spend a lot of time preparing my classes for writing. This essay has probably taken close to an hour in counselling for each student, prior to their submission, going over each detail of their outlines and drafts and providing individual as well as class instruction on MLA format, thesis selection and argument structure.

The results of this effort have been extremely rewarding. I have students with a two page bibliography for a 2000 word essay, all fully in-text cited and fully relevant to their arguments. I have marked essays that could be submitted for proof of competence in an application for a Master’s program in English. I have read some junk too, it is to be said, but the majority of these students have written essays that have been a joy and delight to read; it certainly was not a wasted week!

I have also had the time to share some laughter and some fun with Pam with whom I have just celebrated thirty three years of marriage. I find her company to be all the rest I need these days, and rejoice that a loving God has brought us together to be partners and encouragers on this voyage of discovery called life. God has richly blessed us this week with so many answers to prayer. I trust that your March Break has been as rewarding and as fruitful.