I had my last class of the term on Tuesday and will not be teaching again until January, 2012. I have been approved for a half-sabbatical which officially starts July 1, but I am gearing up for it already. The official term is “study leave”, but most people tend to call it a sabbatical. The first thing to clarify is that “sabbatical” is not a synonym for “vacation”. No matter how many times I try to explain this to family and friends, they still seem to believe that I will spend more time golfing than working. If only! Another sabbatical myth is that many people assume that I must be travelling to some exotic land for an extended stay. That would be nice but the sad reality is that, in the eternal time-money equation, I will gain time but lose part of my pay. So when I tell people I’m going on sabbatical, and they automatically ask “Are you going anywhere?” my answer is “yes, my office”. I’m not complaining though. A sabbatical is an incredibly valuable opportunity to take a step back from the usual routine and review and refresh my thinking.
So, what am I going to do with all this free time? My position as a senior lecturer is in what our university calls the “teaching stream”. This means that I am a full-time, permanent faculty member who specializes in teaching, and I’m not expected to have a research program. Thus, my study-leave will be spent reading up on the scholarship of teaching and learning, evaluating new teaching methods (e.g., blended learning), revising my teaching material (lectures, assignments, tests), and engaging in professional development (e.g., online courses such as ESRI’s online training and webinars such as Adobe’s Captivate series). As much as I will miss being in the classroom, I can’t wait to get started!
I am in the planning stages at the moment. The last time I had a sabbatical I was far too ambitious, even though I had a full year. The irony was that, because I felt as though I had so much time, I got incredibly ambitious, and then spent a lot of that time stressed because I hadn’t accomplished everything I had planned. A colleague of mine said he went through the same thing. This time I’m trying to be more realistic and have been working on prioritizing and scheduling phases and tasks. My goals range from the big and broad (e.g., curriculum planning, new teaching strategies) to the specific and technical (e.g., redesigning my PowerPoint slides; incorporating ModelBuilder into an efficient workflow for content creation for lectures and assignments; trying to master editing in ArcGIS 10). I plan to blog about it all along the way, and look forward to sharing what I’m doing.