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How Are Professors Approaching Penn State’s Wellness Days?

With Penn State’s first non-instructional “wellness day” fast approaching, a few professors offered their thoughts and feelings on how they plan on approaching such an unusual opportunity.

Penn State has three wellness days scheduled this semester — February 9, March 11, and April 7. These days are intended to give students time to focus on their mental well-being during the 15-week, spring break-less semester.

Since these days are new, professors need to find ways to approach them and the week they take place. Scheduling homework or an exam the following day or two after a wellness day could take away its purpose and make students even more stressed out.

One way Molly Countermine, professor in the department of Human Development and Family Studies, is approaching the wellness days is by giving no exams and making no assignments due that week.

“In terms of how I teach, it didn’t really change anything other than me knowing that as we approach that day or the week before, if it’s on a Tuesday, I will provide some ideas and probably give 10 minutes to the end of the lecture for students and me to engage in a brainstorm of, ‘Hey, what’s everybody gonna do next Tuesday?'” Countermine said.

Countermine is encouraging students to do anything from go for a walk, meet up with friends safely, read a good book, watch some Netflix, or take their minds off of school work completely. Although there are just three off-days during the semester, Countermine feels that the university did the best it could with the situation.

While some students may use the days to catch up on their favorite show, some might choose to do school work instead, especially if they have a heavy load of homework this semester. Math professor Matthew Katz anticipates students staying busy on wellness days.

“While I think that there’s positives and negatives to that, I think that having a day to catch up on work can be sort of a relief to many students,” Katz said.

Jen Anderson, a professor in Penn State’s Biological Studies department, feels the university is making the best with the hand it’s dealt.

“I think it’s really a gift that the university is recognizing that these are important days and what an opportunity it can be for students and for faculty or staff,” Anderson said. “To really consider sort of a deep consideration about what those wellness days, like what it is that really I need to feel, well, I mean, as much as one single day can provide.”

Shara McCallum, a professor of English, mentioned how students come back for a new semester ready to get going, but suddenly it becomes a lot for students to handle. She feels that this setup might actually be good for students since a break normally doesn’t come until later in the semester.

“Often, I think by the time a break gets here, people could’ve used shorter ones even before that,” McCallum said.

McCallum mentioned how the current pandemic is less than ideal, but we can choose to make the most of it and learn from it.

“My advice is not just to wait for wellness days but actually to start and end each day doing something you love,” McCallum said.

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About the Author

Katie Braun

Katie is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism from "just outside of Philly" like every other Penn Stater. Her only trait is being a huge fan of both the Sixers and Eagles. Unfortunately, lots of frustration comes along with that. Share your tears with her on Twitter @katiebraunn or Instagram @katiebraunn

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