A Question of Community

Coaching Articles - Essays for coaches

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This week, instructional coach Kerstin Pierce Long reflects on her recent experience as part of a professional learning community. She explores big questions and considers the ways that individuals in a professional learning setting, who bring with them widely varying experiences, can still discover points of strong connection.

A Question of Community

A Question of Community

by Kerstin Pierce Long


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Last week, while many of my teacher friends were leaving for summer vacations, I drove in the opposite direction to meet with 50 educators who are part of a powerful learning community. In my journey, I sought a nugget of wisdom, an idea to help me work through a coaching challenge, or an affirmation that I am on the right path in my work.

Calling the room to attention, our facilitator, Susan, introduced a question to get us thinking about our work over the next two days. "What did you leave behind to be here today?" she asked.

I thought for a moment and wrote in my notebook to clarify my swirling feelings. Candie told us she had left behind a daughter who was leaving for a whitewater rafting trip in Virginia. She would not be there to say good-bye. Connie left behind a long list of tasks she needed to complete as part of her assistant principal duties, and two small children with whom she wanted to spend quality time. I shared that I had decided leave my assumptions behind. As we talked together, we agreed all these things are tough choices. Embraced by our acceptance of the tugs we felt as we embarked into the world, we moved forward in a spirit that made our work together powerful and energizing.

As we work with teachers and others, this simple question of leaving behind frames us as people behind the professionals we are at school. It helps us see each other in a light that can affect our space and our work together, through connecting us in a bond of humanity and shared experience. It's a time to pause, ask, reflect, and be in that space with others for a golden moment, where what we leave behind can empower the work ahead.