Lowell Ernst’s expertise is in education; the curriculum, its content, and how learning is evaluated. The curriculum in Iowa’s public schools is increasingly under the control of the Federal Government, with local teachers and school boards having less influence. Regardless of who dictates the curriculum, Ernst thinks that the district is teaching what students need to know to lead to a successful life and career. Here are some points he makes during the interview.
Teachers work hard to make sure that students know what they need to know, and they also work hard to make sure that evaluation takes place so they know the students have command of the material.
If kids get behind, it is very hard to catch up, and that teachers try to identify students early who are having problems, because the consequences of not succeeding scholastically may be dire. As such, more effort tends to be given to those students who are behind, than students who are excelling. He says this is unfortunate, because having excellent students bored in school is not a desirable situation either.
One of the most important qualities that a student can have is persistence. Some students encounter a problem, can’t solve it, and then give up. Persistent students enjoy this problem solving. Teaching students not to give up is important.
Critical thinking can be learned. Most of us are born as innovators, problem solvers, but somehow we lose it. Students need to solve problems, think creatively, and use critical thinking. Discussion, debate, and resolution are important components of critical thinking. Importantly, these characteristics are what employers want.
It is important to teach students to work hard, and that knowledge and success come from hard work. Encouragement is very important, but don’t just say “you are good at that,” say “you must have worked hard at that because you are good at it.” And never, ever say, “I wasn’t good at that either,” or “our family isn’t good at that,” as you are providing excuses for failure before they even really start something.
Communication is key. Keep in touch with your child’s teachers, the administration, and your child. Many problems can be avoided by keeping in regular contact with your child’s teacher.
Enjoy the interview.