Self-Induced Sabbatical Begins….
Day in the Life Post: 12-26-2016
I cannot timeline this post because today I seem to have no concept of time. Not only is it winter break, but it is the first day after Christmas; we were in school until December 22nd. The 23rd was spent decorating and shopping, and then holiday festivities with the family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over the weekend. This is truly the first day of winter break for my district, but it is more than just a break for me. I will not be returning next semester to teach, so it is the first day of what I am going to call my self-induced teaching/classroom sabbatical. I will still be working from home tutoring students, but I have chosen this time to step away from the classroom to physically get well (chronic illness) and refresh and rejuvenate my teaching soul.
I think I got up somewhere around 9am, and I have not done much of anything this day, nor did I plan to. It allowed me to spend some time with my son early afternoon, which was nice just the two of us visiting. He asked me if I was excited to be out of the classroom, and I told him it was a complete mixture of emotions. Furthermore, I still have had zero time to even decompress from a long and challenging semester. I know I am not going back to school in a couple of weeks, but that idea is a statement to me right now rather that a fact that has resonated with me enough to feel the excitement of a new challenge.
I have been in the classroom 12 years, so it is very strange to think of myself without a classroom of students to teach for an indefinite amount of time. I know I will miss my daily interactions with kids and will face a new challenge in finding a schedule/routine to stick to outside of one that is provided for me. I will still tutor students in mathematics, but it is much different providing follow-up instruction versus original delivery of content. Given this, I know myself well enough to realize that I will find a way to still make the mathematics more authentic to them even if it is not the first time they have exposed to the topic.
I do not really know what my long term plans are, or rather I am trying my best not push myself into decisions about that when I am so worn out. I am most certain I will teach again, but I do know that I must be very thorough in picking a school that is a good fit for me. I do not know if public education is a good fit for me anymore, but I could feel differently about that months from now. What I do know is that I need to take some of this time to learn and explore the world of teaching again just as I did when I was in pre-service teacher training. There are so many things I have felt behind on in the past couple of years in the classroom that I would definitely like to learn about and gain knowledge in before I ever go back. Some of that is technology based, some of that is looking deeper at current pedagogical methods, and also taking the opportunity to visit the classrooms of practicing teachers again just as I did during teacher training.
My decision to leave the classroom was prompted by my body telling me physically to pull back and rest, but the desire to re-train myself is a goal I am pursuing to help me get back in touch with my passions for teaching. I believe that re-connecting with my career passions will help re-store my physical health by replacing ongoing stress with the excitement of learning; endorphins and such. Becoming more current on new ideas and best practices can also help when I go back to teaching. A sizeable portion of my teaching stress was from feeling like I was never able to get a good grip on the change I wanted to make. I am lucky that I have the resources to take this break and fulfill my goal to re-train, but I wish that all public school teachers had this opportunity. College professors are afforded the opportunity to apply for sabbatical, spend a year researching and focusing on new ideas for their careers while still maintaining their seniority, tenure, and benefits. I believe it is critical for K-12 teachers to be given the same opportunity. Our world is fast-paced, challenging and constantly changing. Educating children to function and thrive in our world is so much more complex than it was even 5 years ago let alone when I went through pre-service teacher training. Given the in-flux of constant evolution of new ideas in best instruction and learning practices, I think it makes sense that every K-12 teacher have the chance to take a step back and focus on learning more and enhancing the experience they have already gained. I know this would pose a tremendous financial undertaking for school systems, but there are districts that have found funding for this through private charitable donations. I hope it is something that more school districts explore through stipends, continuation of benefits, or at the very least the retention of seniority and job placement upon completing a year of sabbatical leave.
Educating our future means educating those who teach and nurturing the passions and talents they possess. It is an investment worth making to preserve the presence of solid teaching and learning in classrooms as well as potential to counteract the problems with teacher retention. I talked to Tina Cardone a month ago inquiring about still being able to write “A Day in the Life” blogs if I was going out of the classroom. She was very supportive and said that she was totally open to it if I could find a way to make it work. I think now I realize the direction I want to take in my “Day in the Life” posts is to share my “self-induced sabbatical” journey. As I propose that more school districts consider this for their teachers, I would like to demonstrate an example of what this may look like by writing about what I learn, observe, and resulting reflections as I step away from role of teacher to teacher learner again for a period of time.