Sabbatical Update #1: What’s Missing

My sabbatical started on January 1st and it’s nearly over. How can that be? I opted for a half-year sabbatical instead of a full year off at reduced salary. Since I can’t uproot the family, especially autistic youngest, to explore the archives of the world, a longer sabbatical at a lower salary isn’t what I wanted.

What’s my sabbatical experience been this time around? I’ll focus here on what I was able to step back from my normal routine, i.e. “what’s missing.”

Teaching: I’ve had six months of release from teaching, except for ongoing supervision of my senior thesis student and graduate students. The supervisions have been a constant concern, especially the senior thesis student’s work. There was a lot of editing involved on an early deadline (all the work had to be completed by early April) but it was a successful and satisfying project. I’ve got a good grad student prospect for the fall, now!

So I wasn’t disengaged from teaching for the sabbatical but it was a big difference from a normal academic term. If you were to take a sabbatical while supervising more students, especially those who were in the final stages of a research project, essay or thesis? You definitely wouldn’t feel a difference in these responsibilities.

What I really noticed was the relief of six months away from the classroom, except for one special appearance when I gave a workshop on facilitating discussions in large classes. A term without worry about designing courses, updating course preparations, reviewing assigned readings, holding office hours, providing feedback in-class and out, marking, writing midterms and exams, writing special midterms and exams, accommodating students with illness and crises, tracking down late papers, filling out endless paperwork for grade submissions, incompletes and the like? Priceless.

Administration: Six months away from meetings (mostly) and administrative responsibilities (almost entirely): that was pretty wonderful except for the few times I got called back in for meetings I “couldn’t miss”. There were real and compelling reasons for my attendance at those meetings, but one of the benefits of a sabbatical is to be truly disengaged from the stress and management of the regular term. Every time they pulled me back in, I could feel my blood pressure rising.

Being on a short sabbatical means that I’m already knee-deep in book orders for the fall term as well as having to engage with the crisis that is our fall/winter schedule. Even as a selfish sabbaticant, these issues directly concern me and I have to address them. But I’m trying to minimize this as much as possible, especially because the clock is ticking on the last six weeks of my sabbatical release!

Next up? I’ll tell you about the cool things I’ve added into my schedule beyond attempting to raise my high score on Scramble!


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