Doug Lillydahl

Doug Lillydahl is director of communication arts at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois. He guides literacy interventions and ELA staff development, oversees assessment, and supports curricular and instructional evolution.

Even Now, It's About Culture and Vision

We have been through the wringer. Wait—certainly, we are still mid-wringer. With so much disruption and uncertainty over the past few months, it feels like we are trying to navigate a course through a tsunami.  

And in many ways, we are. Decisions for providing the most basic services to our children and their families are hampered by distance and intermittent communication. While some are blessed with helpful student technology and community resources, so many of our students on the margins risk losing touch with an essential part of their reality: caring teachers and classmates.

Look no further than the teacher parades that dotted social media in the spring, when even a passing glimpse of their teachers driving past and waving was a savored moment in a child’s day.  

So, looking from a wide lens, it might seem our focus is entirely lost, and we are simply grabbing for any type of life raft. However, I urge you to recognize and honor the cultural ideas that guide your steps now and will guide you into the future:  

“All of our kids are ALL of OUR kids.”  

“Every child can learn.”  

When you communicate these ideas through your actions or words, know that despite the standstill in the work you might have planned, we still paddle forward as a Professional Learning Community.  

In the movies, the hero has the perfect reaction to the threatening seas of disruption, but our Professional Learning Community doesn’t guarantee perfect, immediate responses, it simply means that we start facing them together, paying attention to what demonstrably works, and showing cycles of improvement. And when this challenge (thankfully) falls away, we will continue that method into future challenges of all types.  

In my own school, we have a refrain about facing our challenges these days with flexibility and grace—for our students, but also for ourselves. We are heroes not because we are perfect, but because we doggedly continue to be present and engaged together.

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