When the Fall semester started at Longwood University’s Department of Social Work, something – or should I say someone – was missing from the usual hustle and bustle of the starting of classes, meetings with students, and faculty meetings. After 14 consecutive years of teaching a full load of practice classes, advising students, and fulfilling multiple obligations to my university, I am taking my first sabbatical this semester!
As social work educators, we do our best to weave into our curriculum whenever and wherever possible the importance of self-care. Even my syllabi proudly reiterate the importance of self-care and include experiential exercises offered in the courses I teach focusing stress management, play, and even “a life outside social work.” I am committed to teaching undergraduates about the need to recharge their batteries and avoid burnout in order to be more effective social workers.
On a deeper level, the word of God emphasizes the importance of harvesting/recharging/and resting as well. Yet I struggle to live this out fully in my own life. Here I am at the beginning of a semester ready to beat myself up for not carrying a full time teaching load. I fall short of turning over thoughts like the following to the care of my loving God:
- “What will my colleagues think of me since I am not carrying a full teaching load?”
- “What if they like the adjunct instructor filling in for me better than they like me?”
- “Do I really deserve to be on sabbatical?”
- “What do I have to do to show my colleagues how hard I have worked this semester?”
Frankly, I am not sure what my life would be like if I were not able to work on expanding my spiritual life on a daily basis. I find it is essential to find my identity in Christ as opposed to finding my identity simply in what I do for a living. When I surround myself with people who want what is in my highest good (people such as my husband, my son, and my mentor), I am constantly redirected to find my real purpose in God, who wants all of us to be rested and cared for in His divine mercy.
The “flesh” wants to torture me with thoughts of not deserving or being worthy of this sabbatical. However, this practice professor in social work is a child of God who is worthy of much more than just one brief sabbatical, which will come to an end at the end of the semester. My real sabbatical rest is eternal life, which was granted by my main Employer who is the savior of this world. I rejoice and can count my blessings for this amazing gift of a guilt-free sabbatical which will never end.
Kris Nugent is an associate professor in Social Work at Longwood Unversity in Farmville, VA. She teaches undergraduate classes full-time in the area of social work practice. In addition, she teaches online classes in the area of addiction and global social work. Please e-mail her if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.