Classroom Power Relations: Understanding Student-Teacher Interaction

By Mary Phillips Manke | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Sue Anderson's Fifth-Grade Classroom: A Sample Language Arts Period

Sue Anderson's large classroom is full of light on this December afternoon. Twenty-two fifth graders sit at desks arranged in small clusters as they discuss three questions they've answered about a novel they are reading, Maniac Magee. Two of the groups are arguing about the third question: Is color-blind a good word to describe Maniac (the novel's protagonist)? Why? Most of the students agree that the question is about Maniac's vision, his ability to see color. Some say no, he wasn't color- blind. There wasn't anything in the book about his not being able to see colors. Some say color-blind means you can't see any colors, only black and white, like old movies on TV. A few have the idea that the question refers to race. Ms. Anderson, who has been walking around the room, listening in on the groups' discussions, asks Kelly to read aloud the place where Maniac reveals he doesn't know the difference between the West End and the East End. Maniac tells someone that he (a White child) lives in the Black neighborhood. Actually, he is homeless.

Yuri, an Israeli boy, raises his hand and gives an example from Israeli history of sabras (native-born Israelis) mistreating immigrants. Then he states the exact meaning of color-blind in the context of the book. There is a buzz of talk at the clusters of desks as students make connections and share them with others. Ms. Anderson waits for this chatter to subside. "Now," she says, "what would it be like if we were all color-blind here?"

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