This book is written for teachers, future teachers, and teacher educators, in the hope that it will be useful to them as they consider how students and teachers together construct their lives in classrooms.
Based on an ethnographic study of three elementary classrooms, the book reflects my understanding and interpretation of power relations as I observed them. It is centered on a constructivist view of power relations, not as brought into classrooms from the outside world, by the teacher or anyone else, but as created inside classrooms through the actions of teachers and students that take place every day.
As I worked with the data I had collected and as I applied the concepts I was developing to thinking about my own teaching, I understood more clearly the potential usefulness of the view of power relations I was forming. In every classroom, whether or not the teacher is trying to share power, control, or authority with the students, students participate with teachers in developing the classroom's power relations--the set of local rules that determines what teachers and students can actually do in that classroom. In a political world in which teachers are constantly held responsible for every outcome of classroom life, this concept has promise for helping teachers perceive their classrooms as places in which they and the students are working together, and are jointly responsible for outcomes. This realistic basis for understanding classroom life can be helpful to teachers, and perhaps reduce some of the stress that comes from taking sole responsibility for what happens in their classrooms.