Oaks Christian Online Learning Academy homeschool academy
Staff & Teacher Sabbaticals

Partner School Reflections: Staff & Teacher Sabbaticals

As Christian schools continue to look for innovative and sustainable ways to nourish, empower, and refuel teachers, we are so excited about the ways we can help.  Teacher burnout (as well as burned out administrators, staff, etc.) is not just a risk to be managed but an opportunity to live out our faith more subversively.  We believe it’s time to be more creative about building schools and educational programs that breathe rhythm into everything we do.  Sometimes working together is the best way to start this process.  

Partnering with OC Online Means 

  • Short- or long-term collaborations 
  • Fixes to relieve your immediate needs 
  • The ability to off-load pain points (summer school, hard to fill teacher positions, etc.) 
  • Free one-on-one strategic and creative conversations with OC Online team members to brainstorm solutions 
  • Being able to take a break 
  • Access to one or several unique or common course offerings  

Here are two ways partners schools have used our program to reach their own Sabbatical goals and objectives.  

SCENARIO #1: Programmatic Rest for a Large School: See how this school provided top-down authorized rest for their entire faculty and staff. 

Staff & Teacher Sabbaticals

The situation: An affluent, busy metropolitan city in New York is where we find our first school.  They were dealing with the exhausting challenges that come from being part of a hustle culture where gross metaphors like “rat race” and “hamster wheel” describe the rampant workaholism that plagues their communities.  With rising costs of living and continued housing crisis in these neighborhoods, all the ‘trendy’ self-care movement has done is give people a longer to do list.  Often, even in education, the response to burnout in teachers is to tell them to “do more” self-care—you know, on top of everything else they’re doing.    

But what if administrations and boards made space for genuine relief and care?  Even if that comes with sacrifices to the bottom line?  We know that the institution of the Sabbath in biblical times meant accepting that we might need to let go of property, work force, and expansion to preserve this commandant to be a human being instead of a human doing.  Christian schools in particular need policy and program shifts that cut out advancement to make room for shalom.  

We are so proud to report that this NY school wanted to do exactly that.  They wanted to give their teachers a real break, so they were determined not to offer summer school.  This wouldn’t be easy, however, because some students really need to take courses during the summer.  What would happen to them?  

The Collaboration 

This administration decided the best way to offer their teachers a much-needed rest was to off-load summer school to us for one summer.  OC Online would run summer classes for this school so that they can give everyone a real and true break.  This means grades, instruction—all of it gets to be off-loaded for this season.  Not only will teachers have a break, but we know this will allow administrators to rest as well—not to mention yard duties, landscapers, cafeteria workers, cleaning crew, etc.  This will also be a gift for families who won’t have to consider transportation to get their children to class, and who may want to travel or even just spend more quality time at home.  

A fun question they got to start asking is: how could they use the school campus during this student-free summer?  Would they give the land a break too and let everything rest?  Or would they use the property for camps, conferences, or other gatherings to generate revenue to help fund future team sabbath opportunities?  Or perhaps they could work on some of the renovation and restoration projects that are nearly impossible to complete when students are on campus. Who knows??  But just imagine: a whole season of time where the campus itself can take on new life!  

The Result 

After seeing how this goes, they may continue to hand over summer school to us or they may not—maybe this is just a one-time thing.  Either way, we’re honored to be part of this school’s efforts to obey God’s commandment to take time away for restoration.  

SCENARIO #2: Financial Rest for a Small School: Take a look at how this school partnered with us to make (financial) lemonade out of lemons.  

One of the schools we support comes from a rural town in New Mexico.  They had a financial struggle that is not unique but is common to many life-giving private schools.  This school wanted to pay their teachers well, but tuition numbers did not generate enough revenue to make this possible.  They were caught in a chicken/egg problem.  They could not get enrollment to a sustainable place without teachers and without sustainable enrollments they couldn’t keep or gain great teachers.      

The Collaboration 

Instead of giving up, their board decided to put everything on pause.  They took the handful of committed students they did have that still loved this wonderful school and sent them to our program to take 2/3 of their courses online.  This allowed them to keep a couple of treasured teachers and offer their committed families a robust list of course options for that year from OC Online.  The small gathering of students still met together on their campus for that last 1/3 of their course load which kept the relationships and face-to-face community spirit alive.  Parents who worked knew they had a portion of the week where kids would be ‘in school’ which served the childcare need that brick-and-mortar school scenarios provide.  Students maintained attachment and loyalty to their local school and the local culture it serves.   

This school knew working with us in this way was not something they wanted to do permanently, but as a temporary relief and opportunity to regroup.  

The Result 

Offloading a year helped the school save a lot of money and most importantly create new time and space for the board and key staff members to meet regularly and strategize.  In that year they were able to apply for more grants, rethink their hiring process, and come into the next year strong and ready to serve a new and larger batch of students.  After just one year, they doubled in size and are able to rehire teachers for meaningful and equitable work.  Using OC Online to take a year ‘off’ from their traditional school model allowed them to come back stronger and more innovative and ultimately more fiscally healthy.  

If you’d like to talk with us about how to find sabbath in your school, we’d love to chat.  You can reach us at online@oakschristian.org.  

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