As a veteran teacher in New York City, Arthur Goldstein has seen many versions of the one right way to teach come down from on high.
One year, a woman came and explained to us that portfolios were going to revolutionize schools. The kids would do work, it would all be placed in portfolios, and the portfolios would be available, right there in the classroom, for anyone who needed to see them. Anytime you wanted to check the progress of any kids, you could simply look in their portfolios, and there it would be. What more could anyone ask?
The following year, the same woman came around and raved about cooperative learning. The students would work in groups and help one another. Every day would be a marathon of learning. A teacher asked whether this involved portfolios. “Portfolios are out,” the woman responded curtly.
Several months later, some Very Important People came to my classroom and noticed my kids were sharing books. They complimented me profusely on my use of cooperative learning, and I decided it was best to thank them without explaining why I’d embraced this particular methodology. Actually, I only had 15 books for my 34 kids and was doing the best I could under the circumstances.
Goldstein thinks “teachers have different voices, just as writers have different voices.” What works for one teacher may not work for another with a different personality or different talents. “Why can’t we take a little bit from here, a little bit from there, find out what works for us, and then use it?”