Break it up: the importance of brain breaks

Mr. Michael Kakalow, health teacher, discusses his brain breaks, and the importance of rest time for students


Lita Cleary

CHARADES Playing a vocabulary game with his students, Mr. Michael Kakalow, health teacher, stands in front of the class. Two teams attempt to describe the vocab word on his forehead first.

When class has gone on too long, and work has become too much of a strain, it’s important to take a moment to refresh and rest the mind, and break the tension of work. It is time for a brain break.

Mr. Michael Kakalow, health teacher, routinely implements a break in the extended class periods.

“I’ve been exposed to brain breaks prior to being in Munster,” said Mr. Kakalow. “And I see the importance of them, especially with a 90 minute class.”

Students tend to agree with the sentiment, often feeling fatigued by the long classes spent lecturing and working.

 “School is very stressful, especially when you have to sit in a classroom or sit at home for 90 straight minutes.” Olivia Evilsizor, sophomore said

The feeling of being overwhelmed can build up throughout different subjects as well, especially ones requiring more attention or that have more emotional weight with them.

“I know we’re talking about some heavy stuff, we’re talking about the human body,” Mr. Kakalow said. “We’re talking about the brain and it’s a lot to digest.”

With his students best interest in mind, Mr. Kakalow decided that nothing was better to ease up on his students than a proper break to clear their heads. Each break takes place towards the middle of a period, the time set aside by Mr. Kakalow himself was to not derail the class, and to make a smooth transition into the next topic. 

“He has a time block where he gives it all to the brain break and after it’s over, we go into the homework,” Olivia said. 

The activities taking place are generally simple and lighthearted for the students. Some say, occasionally exercises like these can be somewhat awkward at first.  Yet  as they continue to be implemented in class, students have gradually begun to enjoy them.

“They are easy to get used to since we do them in almost every class and it makes them more entertaining,” Ryan Tully, sophomore, said.  “I participate in all of them, but I’m only into them if they seem fun to me.”

The game most commonly mentioned was rock-paper-scissors, a seeming favorite.

“Normally we do something competitive, simple things with other students and sometimes with Mr. Kakalow,” Ryan said. “The most fun was probably rock, paper, scissors—because who doesn’t (like) that game?”

Students have even begun to look forward to their mid-class break. 

“Sometimes you just need to get up and stretch or do something fun,” Casey Mcnulty, sophomore, said.

There have been some new work arounds with the games played during class, however.

“A lot of my brain breaks, believe it or not, are challenging, because the brain breaks are designed to be in close proximity,” Mr. Kakalow said. “So what I do is take a brain break that I have done in the past, and then I just adapted to our classroom environment for social distancing.”

To some, it might seem that the games and topics used during brain breaks might be cheesy, embarrassing, or not worth the effort of changing them to keep. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the content, nor relaxing, or being cool and fun. It is about health and learning.

“I think  in every course there should be a brain break” Mr. Kakalow said. “Just take a little break and say, okay, academics are important, but making sure our brain is in good shape to receive all the information that the teachers are giving are just as important.”