I’m fortunate to be looking forward to a spring sabbatical. After 5.5 years as a writing program administer for a first-year writing program and even more years coordinating an undergraduate professional writing and rhetoric concentration, I’m ready to recharge, to re-invigorate my research projects, and to establish some healthier habits.
I recently searched for published strategies and asked friends and family who have taken sabbaticals for tips on making the most of the brief time. A Google search reveals a growing number of calls for employees in the corporate world to consider sabbaticals but surprisingly few posts on strategies for academic sabbaticals. A library database search returns some useful hits, but far fewer on the act of taking a sabbatical than on rationales for funding them.
Two sources offer motivation: Max Page, for instance, calls for readers to retool – not to do more work, but to try new things, “explore new areas, pursue projects that might fail, expand your mind with art or music or great literature, and generally upset your routine.” Eugenia Gerdes connects this rejuvenation to the goal of academy, noting that sabbaticals offer faculty “time to think” in ways that facilitate faculty members’ roles in helping students develop a life of the mind.
My fellow academics likewise reiterated the need to recharge not only my research but also myself, encouraging me to take time for exercise – and even fun and travel. Many suggested practicing a firm “no” to campus commitments. Lynn Huber blogged about her sabbatical experience, and I highly recommend reading her posts. Lynn reminds readers that change can be hard, and I anticipate that the change in routine (i.e., the lack of classes and most meetings) will be hard for me to adjust to. She also reflects on her own preference to work on multiple projects so that she can move between them when she’s tired or frustrated with one. I share this trait and have earmarked some smaller projects to pursue alongside my primary project.
Friends responses about where they worked during their sabbaticals were, not surprisingly, as varied as their writing processes. Some worked on campus, while others advocated avoiding campus as much as possible. I initially thought I would work on campus most days, but I’ve started prepping a work space at home so that I have a change of scenery when I need it.
So what are my goals for my sabbatical? My primary goal is to complete a book project on the field of second language writing, a task that also necessitates updating my database of the field’s publications and conducting interviews to understand why and how the field has developed/is developing around the globe.
Yet I also hope to establish some new habits and re-establish some old ones, including:
- writing every day – something that has too often given way to writing for my administrative positions (but not always for scholarship projects),
- re-establishing reading habits – both for academic reading and personal reading,
- taking my dog for daily walks,
- exercising every day – beyond the dog walks and despite my asthma, and
- finding additional ways to manage stress and to seek work-life balance.
Gerdes, E.P. (1998). Remembering the contemplative life. Liberal Education, 84.2, 58-62.
Page, M. (2010). Who took the Sabbath out of sabbatical? Academe, 96.5, 32-35.