Monday, March 16, 2009

The long and short of it on breaks

Breaks are an essential part of the learning process. One that is frequently overlooked by law students and law professors alike. We need both long breaks and short breaks to function at our best.

I just came back from a one week break; limited email, limited phone, and limited contact with my office.  I started with conflicted feelings; what if something goes wrong in my absence? What if a student is in crisis?  The what-if's could have overwhelmed me. However, I knew this break was essential.  It has been an incredibly busy and challenging semester, and I am about to embark on a major job change in just over a week.  I recognized the break was necessary to recover and prepare myself. 

Breaks are not something that comes naturally to overachievers who go to or work at a law school.  We got where we are because we fast-track our entire lives. Many of our students have been programmed since birth to work hard and rewards will come.  We feel that if we rest, we will fall behind. But the science is increasingly coming to the opposite conclusion; our brains do not work on high at all times. We have a limited supply of what is called directed attention. Directed attention is what we need to work, to study, and to focus. We recharge our directed attention with breaks, both long and short.  A recent study found that girls with ADHD did significantly better in school when they were allowed recess nature walks.  Nature has been found to be a particularly effective way to recharge our directed attention. 

We also need emotional breathing space; long breaks are essential for us to appreciate what we have and what we need to accomplish.  It is very difficult to fix a large life problem while we are in the middle of it. We need the breathing space to remove ourselves from the situation and recharge, to find a new way of looking at our life.  For students, they need a break from the grind of school work. If they are questioning their choice to be a law student, they need a break--removed from outside pressures--to evaluate whether this is really the right life choice for them.

We all need breaks.  Now is the time to find a space in your life for both short and long breaks. (RCF)
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I will be joining the University of Connecticut on March 27, 2009. While I will be competing the semester with VLS, I will be spending two days a week at my new position. I believe my new email address will be rebecca.flanagan@uconn.edu (UCONN IT is still working on this).  I will be working with both undergraduates at the main campus and law students in my new job. This is an exciting, but busy, time for me. If I don't post as regularly, or respond to emails as quickly, please know that I will be doing my best to split myself until May 1.  Thank you for those who wrote me earlier in the semester to ask  where I am going; we just announced the change to VLS students last Wednesday, and I wanted them to hear the news before I announced my departure to colleagues. Rebecca

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