Even competitive swimmers take a breath. Powering forward, arms reaching, legs kicking, eyes on finishing strong, their status as humans means that every few yards they need to turn their heads and draw in air. In those breaths, swimming becomes a metaphor for school. Schools are at their best when they inspire passion for learning, curiosity, and a sense of community through the ongoing teaching and learning that takes place on campus. Ideally, students learn to push themselves, practice, and keep their focus on relevant rewards for mastering the material they are taught. And just like those swimmers, learners need time to turn their collective faces to the sky and draw in a deep breath. They need time off. These renewing gulps of air happen every time a student gets to spend time doing something different than her usual school routine, and when she gets extra time to relax, renew, and pursue what she loves most. Wordsworth had it right when he described standing out in nature. In Tintern Abbey he wrote:
…here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years.”
Breaks offer us that renewal. Well, at least some days or weeks back on campus. The value of rest and play, two staples of time spent away from school, are good for students and adults alike. Sometimes folks talk about a “slide” from academics, but I wonder if that’s as true as a step closer to our true, poetic selves. The best breaks give us time to feel connected to those we love most, enjoy some experiences whose memories provide that “life and food for future years,” and end just as we’re looking forward to coming back to school. The best breaks fill our proverbial lungs, and leave us ready to cut through the water of school, propelled into learning.