Sunday, 2 November 2014

A year of adventure, travel, new challenges and conquering fears - how a sabbatical changed one teacher’s life

Lucia Aguilar-Gomez thought long and hard about whether she dared take a year’s sabbatical from work. Find out essay writing services uk for essay assistance.
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez
Now, the 38-year-old English teacher from Ipswich says it was the best decision of her life..
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
It was with trepidation that I entered the Principal’s office one cold, wet October school day: “Can I take a sabbatical please?”

It was the first request of its kind at the newly formed post 16 education provider, One, a sixth form center based in Ipswich.

I had thought long and hard about requesting time away from my paid job. How would I survive without my regular wage coming in?
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
Could I cope being parted from the life I had known for 14 years? And what exactly would I do with my time?

Because I had set the precedent, it took nearly the whole academic year to get the answer: yes. In many ways, it was far more daunting than no.

I needed to sort my finances out and plan how to make the most of my year.

I soon realised that living without earning might be problematic; I had limited savings, a mortgage and bills. My mortgage provider allowed me to put my payments on hold for a year and I advertised for a housemate.I was also lucky enough to secure a six week pre-sessional post at the University of Southampton lecturing English for Academic Purposes. What a fabulous opportunity, working with 100 teachers of all ages from all over the world and living in halls. It was like going back to university, albeit for six weeks. The work was hard but extremely rewarding and teaching my 14 post-graduate overseas business students, mostly from China, was a joy.

Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
Lucia Aguilar-Gomez on her travels
Following that, I travelled to Spain and spent three weeks caring for my aged Abuela (Grandma) to give my Tita (Aunty) a break. This was very hard work as any carer will appreciate but I was so grateful for the opportunity.

Travelling out of the school holiday period was considerably cheaper than I had experienced before and as my previous globe-trotting had been limited to family visits to Spain, I knew my year of adventure had to involve experiencing more of the world.

I received a random and somewhat prophetic junk email advertising a Caribbean cruise. It seemed like a good deal.

I had never been on a cruise liner.

What if I didn’t like it? I could be stuck on board a ship crossing the Atlantic, chucking my guts up for a month. I wasn’t going to know unless I went for it.

Oh, and what a magnificent way to spend 33 nights! I was the youngest paying passenger by at least 20 years but that made absolutely no difference to the fun I had. It was fabulous to open my cabin curtains each day and see a beautiful new scene. I made some fabulous friends, learned to play the ukulele and ballroom dance and was wined and dined every day, all while my colleagues were drudging through a winter term.
I thought about them often which added to my appreciation of what I was doing: experiencing being retired well before my time. People of my age may not even have a retirement so I made the most of my taster session.

I left the boat and went back into the classroom as a supply teacher covering lessons in schools in Suffolk and Essex.
Elements of supply teaching were tough but again, a great experience. I got to see how different schools operate and it also gave me a greater appreciation of the job I had. And I had the flexibility to do what I love, teaching, along with the freedom to travel as I chose. In this period there were trips to Ireland and Wales to see friends as well as a cheap few days skiing in Austria.

What would or could I do next?

I put together a comprehensive plan to take me to the other side of the world with a rucksack for three months. My grand tour included six countries: Dubai, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
There are so many highlights. A desert trek; staying in hostels from Sydney to Cairns; scuba diving The Great Barrier Reef; skydiving over Cairns; riding an elephant into the Mekong and possibly, the most dangerous, riding a water buffalo.
I met friends not seen for years, conquered my fear of spiders by holding two tarantulas and experienced different countries, people and their cultures.
I was also lucky enough to visit some schools in South East Asia and see what education was like elsewhere. It opened my eyes to how lucky our students are to have a good education available locally for all.
To keep my brain engaged in my teaching subject area, I undertook some exam marking for an exam board. It equipped me with a working knowledge of the exam paper my future students would be sitting. I marvel at colleagues who take on this task whilst still teaching at the same time.
My year came to a close with another short-term post, this time residing and working at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, teaching Business English to overseas adult students who were all very experienced business practitioners.
I learned about the world of business and had an awe inspiring class of students, one of whom was due to conduct a meeting in English with Ban Ki-moon.
And now I have returned to my job, my year is just memories, prompted by the photos I took and messages from the friends I made.
Family, friends and colleagues all ask me what it was like and I can honestly say it was the best year of my life (so far!) Did I come back changed? I think I did.
I have learned to appreciate the beauty of my own country and have enjoyed returning to my job and my subjects that I know so well. I am so grateful to my employers and have gained the best professional development imaginable, now being able to instruct my students on the best practices for their exams based on my marking experiences and improving my teaching style after teaching students who have English as their second language.
Teaching can take its toll on the human soul and taking a break has revived me to inspire my students with inspiration I gained from the people I met and my experiences.
I have also gained a real sense of freedom that I don’t think I ever felt before. I survived and thrived away from the life I knew and dared to try something new. So can you!
Post Credit: EDAT24

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