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ImageA Roomful of Teachers
David Goldstein
Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell
If there’s one thing David Goldstein wants his students to know, it’s that he’s not the expert in his classes—at least, he’s not the only one.

“I think college students are smart. They have their own life experiences they can bring to the classroom,” says the lecturer. “I’m one of an entire learning community.”

Influenced by Brazilian education reformer Paolo Freire, who Goldstein says puts forth the idea that “students can be teachers and teachers can be students,” Goldstein makes all of his classes discussion-based, where the discussion includes everyone. “I feel like they haven’t gotten this far knowing nothing; they’re smart people with rich, rich life experiences. I draw on that.”

Goldstein’s respectfulness towards his students has earned him a number of enthusiastic thank-you notes over the years: “I really enjoyed your teaching style and learned so much in your classes. All that you do for students is noticed and appreciated,” writes one student.

“Goldstein is the sharpest, brightest professor I know, and always enters the classroom with lighthearted enthusiasm and a sincere interest in each and every one of his students,” says another.

It wasn’t until he went to college at UC-Riverside that the teacher realized a part of his own life experience had been missing: ethnic diversity. “ I grew up in Orange County in the 1970s; a wonderful place to grow up, but not particularly diverse,” he says. Once in college, “I learned how much I had been missing in terms of life in America. When I was an English major, we were studying mostly white British authors. When I discovered American studies, I discovered a place where I can study this. The subject area of ethnic studies was [also] completing a part that was missing.”

The problem-based, rather than subject-based, approach of his department, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, dovetails nicely with Goldstein’s flexible teaching style.

Frequently the problems addressed are controversial, such as the ways that the media can promote violence. Goldstein found this out when he showed a class a science fiction film that caused one student to walk out. In the end, he and the student reached a compromise, but finding a balance between the classroom as an intellectual place and a place filled with emotional people has been a learning process. “I have been taught that a classroom is a place where we are dispassionate and intellectual,” he says. “But the older I get the more I see that we can’t separate the two [emotion and intellect].”

That sense of constant work, if nothing else, is one thing Goldstein hopes his students can take away from his classes. “I’ve been showing them how to [learn] themselves. They have a limited time with me, but a lifetime with friends, family and the world. I hope that I set them up for a lifetime of learning.”—Niki Stojnic