Sbbtcl 15

Sbbtcl is a 15-day opportunity for teachers to develop a personal project outside of their classroom.

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What if the sabbatical was shorter and offered to every teacher every two years? Sbbtcl is a 15-day respite from classroom practice that a teacher would use to work on a personal project. The teacher's absence would be covered by another full-time teacher hired specifically to teach special three-week intensive courses (like bookmaking, cryptography and comics).

There are two major benefits to this model: First, the teachers would make an investment in personal learning that would either have an immediate benefit (if, for example, the teacher chose to dedicate a sabbatical to learning effective ESL reading strategies) or have long-term implications for pedagogy if a teacher develops a personal project that allows them to reflect on the process of learning as a learner her/himself. Teachers are rarely invited, during professional time, to invest deeply in their own learning. Second, students would have the opportunity to study a theme or project that might fall beyond the scope of traditional curriculum.

The viability of this model is contingent on funding to hire an Intensives teacher to cover the teacher's three-week classroom sabbatical. Over the course of a 40-week school year, this Intensives teacher could accommodate the sabbaticals of up to 13 teachers. The Intensives teacher might be based at a single school, or might be employed by the district as a teacher on special assignment who covers sabbaticals on multiple campuses. In this case, teachers might be eligible for the program after a certain number of years of service. (However, I think the sabbatical should not be seen as a reward for service but as an investment in teacher practice even for early-career educators.) The Intensives teacher could cover more teachers if the length of the sabbatical was shortened, though it's important that the block feels like a substantial investment in learning rather than a vacation. If additional funding is available, teachers could be offered small grants to purchase texts or materials to support their work. If funding is not available, grants could support the program.

This model is more cost efficient than the investment that many districts make in year-long sabbaticals: In those instances, districts will often cover a large percentage of a teacher's salary in addition to hiring a full-time replacement to cover their absence.

The sabbatical projects could be developed in collaboration with a school-based or in-district instructional coach. While it's important that the project be deeply personal and not prescribed by anyone else, the coach may be a useful resource. The project proposal could be modeled off of the Fund for Teachers application that invites teachers to propose a project for their own professional growth.

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The university sabbatical is too long, and occurs too infrequently, to have immediate impact on classroom practice. Summer vacation is often spent focusing on childcare, taking family vacations and teaching summer school. What if the sabbatical was shorter and offered to every teacher every two years?

Sbbtcl is a 15-day respite from classroom practice that a teacher would use to work on a personal project. The project might be something immediately connected to an academic discipline – like participating in a writing workshop – or could involve hiking the John Muir Trail, learning to surf, or taking a Thai cooking class. It's grounded in the belief that cultivating a creative habit strengthens our pedagogy. It's a dedicated time to commit to our own learning.

The teacher's absence would be covered by another full-time teacher hired specifically to teach special three-week intensive courses (like bookmaking, cryptography and comics). Because, just like teachers need a break from the classroom to refresh their practice, young people benefit from new perspectives as well. Over the course of a 40-week school year, 13 teachers could benefit from their "sbbtcl," or 26 over two years – with the added expense of only one additional teacher on staff.

What would you do on your sbbtcl?

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Photo of Erin Earnshaw
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Maybe there could be a conference day of some kind in August at count offices and all or some of the teachers who had done a sabbatical the school year prior could present their experiences, and new learning. Teachers could choose which presenters to see and get inspired for their own upcoming sabbaticals.

Photo of Valerie Lewis
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That would be an awesome way to share out the experience. Ultimately, the teacher doesn't want to do this and not have anyone else hear their learning! The most important part is that it can truly inspire someone else!

Photo of Danny Scuderi
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Christina, this is an intriguing idea. I like that it addresses teachers as lifelong learners and modeling learning for students but in a new context. Building on that and/or communicating that aspect of the program could be crucial in persuading admin to get on board. And, the Intensives teacher aspect is rife with possibilities. I really like Mahmoud ABDELRAHMAN 's idea of a corporate exchange. I've often wanted friends in different fields to know the experience of a teacher. 

I'm wondering if there would be a "results" type of phase to this upon completion of the sbbtcl. Upon the completion of the 15 days, what would the transition back look like? Would there be a share out/presentation of learning acquired? I feel like that could be a great way to close the loop for students (and admin) in terms of modeling lifelong learning, but I'm not sure if that would be contrary to the essence of the project itself. 

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Danny Scuderi Thanks for raising this question! It's so important ... and I have no idea what the answer is. In some ways I think it's true that it's contrary to the nature of the project to 1) pursue personal work, and then 2) explain it in the context of the classroom. But that IS the purpose of the sabbatical, right? To impact pedagogy in some way. Perhaps there's some sort of rubric for how teachers might spend their time – eg, must be connected to the teacher's discipline, must have some sort of demonstrable outcome after three weeks, etc – and then there's a common language to talk about the work afterward. There are certainly ways of spending this time that are less useful in terms of impact on pedagogy (like I'm going to work at an animal rescue sanctuary for three weeks and I teach Mandarin) so I do think there should be some accountability on the front end and some reflection when they return. 

Photo of Mahmoud ABDELRAHMAN
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Great concept Christina. Do you think we can have that sabbatical be an exchange program with a corporate working in a similar field? I believe there's a great value in teachers living in the practical professional world for which they're preparing their students. They get equipped with more up-to-date sophisticated knowledge of those fields and can then get their students more curious with relevant practical topics. While the teacher is in the business side, a professional is taking his role, where they bring all the more practical day-to-day challenges of the field of business they're in to the students. I believe teachers shouldn't be teaching all the time, and professionals' practical experience should be somehow utilized.

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Mahmoud ABDELRAHMAN I love the idea of teachers spending their sabbatical in a professional role. There's so much value in that experience, and I completely believe that they would return to their classrooms with a perspective that would inform (maybe transform) their teaching.

I'm less certain about the "professionals" coming into the classroom alone. In my experience, many folks who have professional expertise struggle to connect with young people about their work. If a science teacher does an exchange with someone working in, say, solar energy, that scientist must have some way of talking about his/her work in a way that anticipates what students know, don't know, and are interested in.

I don't think folks must be certified to teach well. And, I do know that folks who don't work in schools have important experience to share about industry. I'm also wondering if it's hypocritical for me to say that teachers can apprentice in a professional environment but folks with professional expertise can't lead a classroom. Perhaps it's that I don't imagine the teacher would be expected to do the same job as that of the scientist while on the sabbatical (at least not without support), and I feel the same about the exchange in the classroom.

This is making me think a lot about how to make this work. What do you think?

Photo of Ann Hamel
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I've worked in a school that offered an Interim week for the students where the whole school takes a week and does something in small groups that is very different. If it isn't possible to have teachers go and do for 2 weeks, why not have everyone try it? Sure, it's a lot of work for the teachers, but it benefits the teachers and the students - win/win.

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Ann Hamel, I somehow missed your initial comment in November. I love this idea as well; kind of like an intersession period in college where students can take a quick course on molecular gastronomy or something. It's PD for teachers and kids. I think the experience of teaching something brand new, even for a brief period of time, would be totally inspiring (and yes, exhausting, but worth it!)

Photo of Ann Hamel
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Thanks, Christina. Some of my best and certainly most memorable learning experiences were from interims. I think that while this is valuable, to really do a "deep dive" in professional development and have teachers truly focus doing the 3 week sabbatical would work wonderfully. 

Photo of Ann Hamel
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Thanks, Christina Jenkins  . Some of my best and certainly most memorable learning experiences were from interims. I think that while this is valuable, to really do a "deep dive" in professional development and have teachers truly focus doing the 3 week sabbatical would work wonderfully. 

Photo of Jessica Hadid
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This is an inspiring and well thought out idea. Three weeks is a sizable amount of time to accomplish the many facets of this post's goal. How would the candidates be selected? 

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Thank you, Jessica Hadid! I think everyone would participate - no application necessary. I think it could be built into a teacher's program over, say, two years. If a school is able to hire an Intensives teacher to cover those three-week absences, the entire faculty of a small school (say, 24 teachers or so) could take a three-week absence every two years. The length of the sabbatical could be shortened to accommodate more teachers per year, though I think anything less than 2 weeks would feel like a vacation more like a dedicated time to focus on learning. What do you think?

Photo of Dan Blake
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This was one of my favorite posts from the Ideate phase. I've already begun talking with some colleagues about how to combine the model you're describing with an existing teacher externship program that currently can only take place during the summer. There are many things I love about your idea, not the least of which is the fact that the teacher on mini-sabbatical can actually leave their class without having to prepare lessons for a substitute and without coming back to a mountain of grading. They can truly go and immerse themselves in their 3-week experience. It also provides a great opportunity for the revolving teacher to introduce a topic during those three weeks that would be relevant to all students, but might not otherwise be taught (e.g., financial literacy).

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Thank you so much, Dan Blake! I'm so excited to hear about how you might adapt this in a way that makes sense for you and your colleagues. Love the financial literacy idea.

Photo of Emma Scripps
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Love this idea! Christina Jenkins 

Photo of Heather Tyler
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I love this idea.  It would be a way for teachers to have a strong work focus for the sabbatical and to be able to apply the work immediately.  I've been sitting on a "Google forms" class from Dominican for about 6 months because I just haven't had time to start it yet. Winter break will be my "mini-sabbatical" time to start it, but there's tons of other things planned for that time.  
My prinicpal is very supportive of teachers taking a day to do work, but one day just isn't enough for a deeper dive and to plan for real change. 

I love that it would support more teachers in having a sabbatical time, which would help with feeling like time is shared justly and equitably. 

My question is how would it work in smaller schools/districts? Maybe the specialty teacher could be shared across schools?
 Thanks for sharing a great idea!

Photo of Christina Jenkins
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Thanks, Heather! I really like the idea of sharing the specialty teacher across schools. That idea of "taking a day to do work" is so upsetting to me, though I completely understand. My girlfriend, who teaches 8th grade English, does this as well. I feel like teaching is the only profession where folks take a day off from work to do more work! I hope the 3-week time would be long enough to really jump into Google Forms or another project in depth.

Photo of Heather Tyler
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Christina Jenkins I think that three week time frame would require a manageable, do-able topic.  I think in some instances more or less time might be needed, but the option to be back in the classroom pretty immediately would be great because if the work centered on instructional strategies or something else to impact the classroom directly, s/he could begin to implement changes immediately.
 
 I wonder if as a part of the time away from the classroom, the teacher could coordinate with the "sub" to try out things (such as Google forms).  This wouldn't be necessary with all topics of research, but might be helpful for some.  The time for reflection and revision when trying something new is so scarce! It would be nice to have that as part of the learning process if applicable.

Photo of Trever Reeh
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I would love to have something like this in the public school system.  

I really like the three week intensive course that would give students a chance to learn something real and concrete with someone new!!

Photo of Chris Good
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I love how this captures the one thing I have not been able to figure out on my other posts about shorter more frequent sabatticals - A real deep dive. Love idea of 15 days of uninterrupted immersion into a topic. 

Photo of Lynae Rathman
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I agree with Sarah. The option of mini sabbaticals might be more appealing, do-able, effective, and cost efficient to both teachers and administrators compared to the traditional yearlong option.  Combining this conversation with the discussion mentioned by Margaret could be very powerful. 

Photo of Sarah Lundy
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Christina, the model you're describing feels especially powerful in the "do-able" length of time for a teacher to be out of the classroom gaining new inspiration or a deeper learning experience than traditional PD allows while still remaining quite engaged in their students learning and growth.

Photo of Margaret Powers
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This is a really concrete and exciting idea Christina! The Working Sabbatical: One Year of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose & A Leave of "Presence" seem to be teasing out similar ideas. Would you be interested in teaming up?