Wikipedia tells me "In over thirty languages other than English, the common name for Saturday is a cognate of "Sabbath"," and the same root is that of a sabbatical leave. So what day could be better than a Saturday (usually a slow day in the blogosphere) for writing about my upcoming sabbatical?
Whenever I think of a sabbatical, I think of the chorus in this 1983 song by Culture Club (what can I say? I was an impressionable preteen):
you come and goooooo,
you come and goooo-o-o-oh...
Once I am done grading my final, I will have 15 teaching-free months.
Technically, I am on sabbatical just in the spring (every 7 years, we get 1 semester off at full pay or 2 semesters at 60% pay) but I managed to get the fall off as well through a teaching overload last fall and some course buyout. Next year will be my eighth year as a professor and my first sabbatical. People ask me where I am going; nowhere, as I am about to have a baby. I really cannot leave my poor husband alone with three kids for a significant amount of time, even after the baby is a few months old. Plus, there's the issue of nursing, and the boobs come with me. I suppose I could go somewhere with just the baby, and leave hub with the other two kids, but even that is really pushing it. I think this sabbatical leave is simply going to have to be of a staycation kind.
But this whole sabbatical business got me thinking about how long and how short 7 years actually are. When the time comes for my next sabbatical, my oldest son will start college; my middle son, who's 4 now, will be starting 6th grade; the baby, who hasn't been born yet, will start second grade! Yet, in the grand scheme of one's career, 7 years is really not all that long: we work for 35+ years; 7 years is about two back-to-back 3-year grants, so easily less than the duration of a long-term research project. In some fields, 7 years may be a not-so-uncommon duration of a PhD. It has been 7 years since I received mine.
My sabbatical plans include 3-4 months home with baby while managing research group via email, Skype (loved Namnezia's post "The Portal"), and occasional group meetings before going back to work full time in October or November (depending on when exactly the daycare has an opening for us); writing a gazillion grants and papers; editing a special issue of a journal in my subdiscipline; organizing a fairly major conference in my field in the spring 2012. I may sneak in a few shorer trips with my trusty breast pump in the spring, but otherwise it's business as usual sans teaching.
What I have been looking forward to the most in regards to this leave is trying to reignite the fire between me and my research. As I have written several times before, I am going through a bit of an existential crisis in research, in that I spend a lot of time chasing money to support students and, more often than I'd like, end up doing what's fundable and/or trendy regardless of what I find interesting. The money chasing also leaves me exhausted as I am constantly trying to scratch the surface of ever new problems where the funding is, and seldom have the time to sit down and dive into a difficult, long-term problem with gusto, as I used to be able to as a grad student and an idealistic/naive n00b assistant professor. Somewhere on the tenure track I developed a serious case of research ADD and now it's hard to really focus in depth, which is the type of work that used to give me the greatest pleasure, back in the day when my group was small and I had ample time to work on my own.
So I am looking forward to having some time to learn and grow again, read for real some new technical books, and perhaps even pick up a new technique or two. But maybe I'm just deluded and will end up eating bonbons and watching TV in my PJ's all day.
If you are a faculty and had a stay-at-home sabbatical, what did you do? Did you do all that you planned? Did you end up procrastinating/spending days in your PJ's/watching TV and eating bonbons or was it largely a professionally enriching experience? Was it always better when you went elsewhere for a sabbatical? Do you find it that you are more productive when you come back from a sabbatical, because the structure of teaching and meetings helps you maintain productivity? Even if you aren't a faculty, how would you spend a sabbatical year?