“If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lila Watson

Jennifer Hemmingsen recently wrote a piece on her impressions of my views for “education reform.” While I’d first say that I appreciate Hemmingsen’s putting a discussion on education in her publication, I’d like to use this space to reflect on Hemmingsen’s article and offer my own conclusions.

The title of Hemmingsen’s piece is “Reform doesn’t end with teachers.” To this I would say, “of course it doesn’t!” The fact that there are a number of other critically important people involved in our nation’s education system is certainly not lost on me. For the record, I have never said that education reform starts, or ends, with teachers. Editorialized headlines have said both of these things in association with my name, but I have never said either.

The truth is that it will take us all to truly transform public education toward the system we believe it can be. But let’s not underestimate the importance of the classroom teacher. I will stand with the evidence telling us that the classroom teacher is the single most important person in changing a student’s academic trajectory. On this blog, I’ve clearly stated that the entire system must be configured to improve and support the classroom teacher. They cannot do it alone and it will take all of us, working in concert, to lift and improve our system of public education to be what we believe it can be.

While as much as I appreciate Hemmingsen’s kind words toward me in the piece (I believe the term was “rock-star” – thanks for that!!!), I must respectfully disagree with some of her conclusions. She states that teachers are “exhausted” and “ground down” by reforms. In the course of my career I have interacted with thousands of educators. Never once have I heard one say that they are too exhausted or ground down to improve what they do for kids.

Are educators wary of the latest fads and are tired of being a political punching bag? Absolutely. Further, I would say that they have cause to be skeptical and to be defensive. But never, never have I sensed that educators don’t want to improve.

I did not come to Iowa to defend the status quo and to “manage” the current model. Nor did I come here to deconstruct and destroy educators and our system of public education. Simply, I know this system has to evolve and change. I would go on to argue that we all know this is true, we are just afraid or don’t know the way.

“Habits, values, and attitudes, even dysfunctional ones, are part of one’s identity. To change the way people see and do things is to challenge how they define themselves.” Heifetz and Linsky

I am part of a growing movement of “tempered radicals” who fundamentally believe in the importance and moral purpose of public education and who know it must transform in order survive and to best serve children. Our movement is fueled, at its core, by respect, honesty, and love: may we never become exhausted in service of these.

Jason Glass
Des Moines, IA