How to Take a Teaching Sabbatical to Travel

When Aaron and I announced that we got approved to take a teaching sabbatical from our jobs as American high school (Ashley) and middle school (Aaron) teachers, we were met with two common questions:

 1. How were you able to do this? "I thought sabbaticals were only for professors" or "I didn't even know this was a possibility"

2. How are you able to afford to do this?

We will be answering question number one in this post and question number two in an upcoming post. If you would like to be notified via email when we write new blog posts, you can sign up for our newsletter here:

How to take a teaching sabbatical to travel:

1. Check your school system's policy regarding sabbaticals.
Since teaching sabbaticals are not very prevalent in K-12 education, it's likely that you don't know of anyone who has done this type of thing. The only way to find out the policy is to ask your HR director or find it in the employee handbook. Each school system will have various rules, but here are our school system's guidelines on taking a sabbatical:

In order to qualify for a sabbatical, you must have a minimum of 7 years employment with us (continuous) and 1 year may be granted.  

It must be for one of the following:
  •          Advanced study at an accredited college or university;

  •         Teaching in a college or university or another school system which will result in improvement of the staff member’s professional competency for his regular position; or

  •         Educational travel outside the continental United States which will improve the staff member’s competency for his regular position.

  •         Other requests will be handled on an individual basis.
Requests for leave and a written plan of the professional study or improvement shall be submitted in writing to the director of schools by March 1.
The staff member will return to the same or comparable position.

Site note: As I was looking through my emails to find this, I realized that I sent my initial request for information on 10/21/2015. I'm writing this post on 5/21/2017. This should give you a little idea about what will be in the "How can you afford to do this?" post. ;)

2. Write a sabbatical proposal 
The night we submitted our proposal. February 4, 2017 

Once you have the general guidelines, it's time to write your proposal. Aaron and I both like to write, but we knew that this single piece of writing could be life-changing so we did lots and lots of brainstorming and talking about our direction before we ever began. Aaron is an avid How to Win Friends and Influence People proponent and he revisited this book before we began our proposal. I will let him take over on how you should frame your proposal.

Thank you love, and thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this blog. We truly hope to inspire you and show you how travel can be affordable, inspirational, and above all, possible! As Ashley mentioned in the above paragraph, I am a huge Dale Carnegie fan. His book on How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was published in 1936, has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Carnegie teaches you how to get what you want in life by having a genuine concern for other people. The reality of life is that other people don't really care about your dreams and aspirations, they care about themselves. You just can't help it. You will always be your biggest fan. To prove this, guess what word is always used most frequently by every single person in the world, you guessed it, "I." Now, I will show you how I approached our sabbatical proposal by giving our school system examples of how they will benefit from our travels.

 Start your proposal by immediately showing your school system how your sabbatical will benefit them; how it will make you a better teacher, and in turn, a great asset to them. This quote was the second sentence of our proposal: "Teaching for [our school system] is our passion, and we want to help our excellent school system by learning as much as we can about the rest of the world." This line let my system know that they are very important to me and the community. It also let them know how they will benefit from our sabbatical. We continued with genuine praise for our school system and school board throughout the proposal and concluded with this line: "No matter what conclusion is reached upon this proposal, we both appreciate your time and want to continue the legacy of [our school system name] as a system that has no limit to learning." It is always considerate to show appreciation for everyone's time for reading your proposal. I truly appreciate you, the reader of this blog, and I hope this advice helps you secure your own travel sabbatical. If you have any questions, please email us and I will help you right away.

Ashley back now: To add one last note about the proposal, be sure to incorporate all three pillars of the rhetorical triangle (Ethos, Pathos, and Logos ) into your writing.

Ethos- Why should your school system trust you enough to grant you this opportunity? Will you return as promised? Do they know that you will take it seriously?

Pathos- How can you make your principals and director of schools feel as passionate about your plans as you are?

Logos- Why does granting you this sabbatical make sense logically? Might it save them money for a year? Might it gain your system some positive media attention?

(Look, I just used one of my lessons in real life! If you need a simple and smart way to teach these appeals, check out my rhetorical devices lesson on TpT)

3. Get your principals on board before submitting your proposal to your director of schools.
We got this advice from a friend who has had some experience with sabbaticals (looking at you, Amanda!). Once you do submit the proposal to your director of schools, they will obviously call your principals to set up a meeting to discuss the scenario. You do not want your principals blindsided by this news.

Aaron began talking about our sabbatical with anyone who would listen as soon as the idea was formed, so he had no trouble in this area. I, on the other hand, really struggled with how to address it with my principals.  I'm a naturally shy person and a natural people pleaser. The thought of scheduling a meeting with my principals and telling them that I planned on abandoning them for a year was extremely nerve-racking to me. However, like with most things, the stress leading up to it was by far worse than the actual thing. I'm not sure what reaction I expected, but the reactions I got were of pure joy, support, and excitement.

Aaron and I have been loyal to our school system for 10 years. We have worked hard for our students every day. We constantly strive to be better teachers. While we know our principals will miss our leadership, they all seemed happy to grant us a reward for our dedication. Actually, everyone we worked with from HR to principals to fellow teachers to director of schools, have all been so supportive. Most have said that if they had had the opportunity to do this, they would have taken it as well.

Aaron and I feel very blessed that we do have this opportunity. But even more so, we feel very proud that we have put ourselves in a position to be able to take it.

We would love to keep writing posts like this one to help other teachers place themselves in a position to take an opportunity like this as well.

 You can ask us questions via our Instagram page @TeacherTravelSabbatical , email, or leave a comment on this blog post!

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