We all have them in our classes, the students who have learned to sit back, blend in, and not call attention to themselves. They do their work without complaints, and even more often, without asking the kinds of questions that would help them better understand and deepen their learning. Many of the Invisibles feel this way because they are not the hair-trigger question-askers or answerers, so they let their more extroverted peers and the “smart kids” do all the talking. They are also not the attention seekers, the talkative, or disruptive. Their work is generally good, if sometimes shallow or superficial, and often they have learned to work this way because compliance and obedience have “worked” for them. It’s not that they don’t want to stand in the spotlight or take more risks, but the cost of moving out of their comfortable, familiar role can seem too high.
These students need us to see them, to let them know that we see their potential and that we believe in them, to challenge their fixed mindsets and perceptions of themselves. I remember the first time I knew one of my teachers saw ME: the person, quiet–but capable, and at the same time, unsure. I was in seventh grade and my science teacher asked me to join the varsity academic bowl team–as the only girl and only seventh grader on the eighth grade team. It opened a whole world of possibilities to me, just knowing that my teacher saw potential in me. If she believed in me, maybe I could take the risk. I think about this now as a seventh grade teacher myself. I realize she knew exactly what she was doing and she was helping me become Visible, to trust myself.
To borrow an idea from the Velveteen Rabbit, once someone SEES you, you become Visible; you can never go back to being Invisible.
Who in your classroom needs you to SEE them, maybe for the first time in their school career? I challenge you to reach out and offer that student an opportunity to see themselves as something other than Invisible.