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?