The following is cross-posted at Equality 101.
As I enter the end of my thirteenth year of teaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about sabbaticals and how they should be a much more widespread practice in schools. To me, sabbaticals are a form of not only self-care but also school-care and student-care.
Teachers need sabbaticals in order to embark on a variety of professional development endeavors: research, coursework, teaching-related travel, writing and reflection. At the end of a sabbatical, we are able to give back to our school communities with rejuvenated energy and intellectual re-invention as thinkers, writers, and scholars. Students benefit from sabbaticals as well, as teachers return to their classroom with new ideas, different texts, and fresh perspectives. They also allow students to see teachers as professionals who have taken time off to learn more about their field.
I am a firm believer that teachers should receive paid sabbaticals. Sustaining teachers financially through a period of renewal promises manifold returns not only for the teacher but also for students and the larger school community. Teachers who have to finance their own sabbaticals wind up having to add to their already busy lives by getting second jobs and securing other sources of income in order to do the very thing they need to do: rest.
I feel concerned about teachers in their mid-careers who are beginning to feel the fatigue of a role that is ultimately about giving of oneself and one’s heart. For those of us who take our roles as educators seriously, teaching is a vocation that while rewarding is also draining, emotionally, physically, and even intellectually. Sabbaticals are needed then for the sustained professional health of teachers and ultimately, of schools.
As part of a series of posts on self-care in the teaching profession, I’d like to ask readers of Feminist Teacher what your thoughts are on and experience regarding sabbaticals:
- How are sabbaticals implemented at your school? Are they paid or unpaid?
- How many years must a teacher serve at your school in order for a sabbatical to be taken?
- What have teachers done at your school during their sabbatical and how has that contributed to their classroom practice, curriculum, and or larger school program?
As I receive your comments, we can engage in a longer meditation and conversation about the importance of sabbaticals. I will also use your comments as a springboard for a larger discussion on how sabbaticals are currently taking place in our schools and in our professional lives as practitioners. I hope it will be a space for sharing ideas on what makes a successful sabbatical, how to finance a sabbatical, and how to transition back to the classroom. I welcome your thoughts and comments!