As students, we see our teachers for only a few hours each week. We see them in class, we may see them during office hours and we have some understanding that they spend hours grading our homework. The mysterious times we don’t see them, they serve on committees, participate in the teacher development days and spend time keeping on top of new developments in their field of study.
These teachers came to their profession out of a passion for education and a belief that we can create a better world by educating the next generation. Even so, teaching is a job, and like any job the grind of day after day, year after year can kill the fire of passion.
A passion for education must include a passion for learning. While vacations can allow teachers the chance to recharge and relax, they do little to nurture the love of knowledge and the need to discover. Sabbaticals fill that void.
Sabbaticals give our teachers the opportunity to take time away from the classroom, while still devoting themselves to the enrichment of the college. While on sabbatical teachers pursue a course of study and or experience that they can bring back to the classroom.
Whether it’s taking the time to develop a new curriculum or to travel to the birthplace of soul music, teachers on sabbatical increase the sum of knowledge for the school. The opportunity for teachers to explore their passion benefits their students by rekindling those passions for teaching.
The general public has an inaccurate perception that sabbaticals are “paid vacations,” and with that perception comes condescending attitudes (especially in tough economic times) towards teachers. But what some need to realize is that teaching as a career is not a “9 to 5” job. A teacher’s job doesn’t end with him or her leaving the classroom, or with the hours he or she is paid for. A meaningful education also doesn’t just consist of learning through books and lectures. Teaching is an art, and with sabbaticals teachers gain a better understanding of their fields and the opportunity to learn and improve their craft. They get to learn what works better and what doesn’t, and as students we benefit from more knowledgeable educators.
Students have the option to travel to enrich themselves, but only their personal knowledge will increase. When teachers travel on a sabbatical the knowledge they bring back will affect many students, instead of just one.
A teacher who is excited about being in the classroom will be more engaging and students will connect with the teacher and the material more quickly. Considering this connection, students retain knowledge better and receive a better value for their education dollar. With the current state of our economy, it’s what we need.