Today is Thursday, August 18, the third Thursday in August. I’m sitting here at my desk at home, feeling strange, because for the past ten third Thursdays in August, I have been at MCC’s Fall Faculty Development Day, which is the first official day of the semester for faculty members. And for six of those ten years, I didn’t just attend the day, but, as the chair of MCC’s Faculty Development Team, I planned the day with my FD teammates.
So, while a couple hundred of my faculty colleagues are sitting in workshops three miles away, why on earth aren’t I there with them? Because this semester, I’m on sabbatical. And I’m so excited about this that I can barely handle it.
At my college, tenured faculty can apply to take an academic sabbatical after they’ve taught at the college for four years, and I thought that this year was finally my time.
I hadn’t applied before now for a couple of reasons. Because I was chair of faculty development, I always felt like I couldn’t take off for a semester and leave the team in the lurch. Yes, I could have left someone else in charge while I was gone, but I was never super comfortable with that kind of arrangement (I might have a problem with delegation…maybe).
The other reason, though, is the true reason: I’d never before had any idea what I would focus on for a sabbatical. At MCC, sabbatical must be proposed “for graduate study, research, or other professional development activity,” and I just hadn’t yet found a reason for an entire semester’s worth of leave for any of those things. For the past five years, after deciding that I wasn’t yet sold on getting a Ph.D., I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of second master’s degree to pursue. I looked at a lot of programs, some fully online, some face-to-face, some full time, some part time. And after five years of asking questions, doing research, and attending graduate school open houses (yes, I really am a Power), I finally decided to get a Master of Education in Instructional Leadership at University of Illinois Chicago.
After I made my decision, I talked it over with my dean and then set to work on my sabbatical proposal, which was due last Fall, the year before I planned my leave of absence. Clearly, the focus of my sabbatical would be on graduate school classes, but I didn’t want to take more than two in one semester, even while on leave. And while two grad courses will surely be enough to keep me busy, I thought I could squeeze in a bit more to do, so I added some activities and turned in a three-part proposal:
- Enroll in MEd at UIC and pursue graduate courses toward that degree;
- Work on Creative Writing “2” course proposal; and
- Continue to work on my own analytical and creative writing and submit work for publication.
For years I’ve wanted to work on new curriculum to add to MCC’s creative writing offerings. Each time I’ve taught a section of creative writing, I’ve had students ask about a second class. In fact, the creative writing club I advise was born out of my students’ desire to keep working on their writing in a workshop environment. And because I knew that it will be reasonable for me to write a new course proposal this semester in addition to completing my grad work, I put it on my list.
And that third bit I just threw in for fun. Last year I contributed to the feminist film websites Bitch Flicks and Cinefilles, and I want to keep doing that this year (as well as submitting some of my new short fiction to lit magazines). So why not add it on? In fact, I recently started working on a new Bitch Flicks article for their August theme week about sisters. I’m going to write about sisters in horror films, so this is the “research” I get to delve into this week:
While I am so very excited (I AM SO EXCITED!) to be taking this semester to focus on my own professional development, it feels weird (weirdsoweird) that I won’t be teaching until January. Yes, I’ll be in a classroom, and yes, as usual, I stocked up on necessary supplies before this new semester begins:
But there are some big changes, and the one in particular that is both upsetting as well as exhilarating is the fact that I won’t be wearing my First Day of Fall Semester Dress:
I found this dress five years ago at Dovetail in our old West Town neighborhood. This dress — handmade, cotton — hung on the rack next to another dress — sleeveless, blue, handmade, cotton — and both fit as though they’d been sewn just for me. They’d been brought in together and were clearly home-sewn. I got them both, and since then I’ve worn the red-and-white number every first day of class Fall semester. It’s the perfect First Day dress: light enough for the hot weather, very teacherly, and it covers up all of my upper body tattoos (which I hold back until the second day of class; it’s like a little surprise if students stick around after we’ve gone over the super exciting syllabus).
But I don’t know if I want to wear my First Day Dress to my first class next Tuesday. I mean, obviously I want to wear it, but I feel like I need to make a change in wardrobe for this huge change in my life. Last week I had dinner with a former student who’s now finishing up her bachelor’s degree with a final semester of student teaching (yes, clearly she is my favorite student because she’s going to be an English teacher and wants to eventually get her master’s degree and come teach at MCC). She and I talked about our first day of school outfits, and she recommended that I wear something different than my go-to dress. And I think she’s right. I’ll be in a different role next week than I usually am, and that means a different wardrobe. Thanks, Shaz, for being the best.
So, I still need to figure out what to wear for my first day as a student (OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO BE A STUDENT AGAIN!) and it will likely include a t-shirt and jeans. Because that’s what I wear when I’m not teaching (because that’s really what I love to wear), but that also means that all of my wonderful dresses and skirts will be lonely in my closet all semester. Maybe I’ll take them out when I go to the grocery store.
I made another change to my appearance in preparation for sabbatical: I got a hair-cut. Now, that’s not really any big news, but it’s kind of a drastic hair-cut, so I thought I’d mention it. I’ve had short hair for some time now (the longest it’s been since freshman year of college has been shoulder-length, and that’s never lasted for more than a few months), but this week when I went to visit the Amazing Audrey, she took almost all of it off.
If I were teaching next week, I don’t think I would have gone this short. But there’s something wonderful about knowing that while I’m in class, I won’t have all eyes in the room trained on me; I won’t have to look professional or teacherly; I won’t even have to wear make-up! (j.k. I will totally be wearing make-up since I can’t go out to walk the dog without mascara.) This idea is so liberating that I just needed to liberate almost all of the hairs from my head.
And now, I think I’m ready. My first class is Tuesday at 2 p.m., and I will probably not sleep very much on Monday night. But that sleeplessness will also be an effect of me binging sister-focused horror movies for a week and a half. Whatevs.
Wish me luck — I’ll let you know how it goes!