For the first time since 1997 or 1998, I forget which, I find myself without a class to teach. My university was gracious enough to grant me a sabbatical. But the truth is I think they needed the break from me much more than I needed the break from them. In any case, I am suddenly filled with a certain anxiety at not having to prepare for classes. I do, however, love the fact that I am not required to do any grading, attend meetings, meet with students or their parents, and can stay relatively underground.
So, what does one do when one finds oneself on sabbatical? Rest. Sabbatical should be a time to slow down and catch up on what has gone on in the world outside the classroom. I’m working on a book and spending some time traveling, which to some may not sound all that relaxing, but the fact is sabbatical grants us the necessary time to work on research projects that get pushed aside. Writing is a lonely business, and the time spent within the confines of the mind is just as exhausting as hard labor. I know since I’ve done both.
What a sabbatical also gives is solitude. For me, the most demanding and exhausting part of the job is teaching. It’s a lot like performing and the students can suck the energy from you. You always have to be “on.” Teaching is also my passion, and I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world. Nevertheless, the break from the needs of students and colleagues is essential. Because higher education is such a funny business, it can lead to all sorts of problems, not the least of which is a nervous breakdown, especially today, where higher education has become so much more corporate.
So for now, I think I’ll take the next few months and catch up on what I’ve been missing, or maybe I’ll just head for the open road and not come back.