As a site administrator, it can be a challenge to get to know every student. It is my goal every year to learn everyone's name and their story. I share this goal with our incoming 6th graders every year, Sadly, this doesn't always happen. Thus, the invisible kid.
You might be a parent of an invisible kid. You may have been an invisible kid yourself. An invisible student is one who doesn't make poor decisions on a routine basis. They work extremely hard in the classroom, competing with other invisible and not-so-invisible students to get the highest possible grade possible on each assessment. They study. They try hard. They are always respectful to their teachers. They rarely, if ever, get into any kind of trouble. They keep their heads down and do their best. They don't draw attention to themselves.
When a substitute teacher who frequents your school often enters the classroom, they're quietly happy to see these invisible students. They don't cause trouble for any teacher, permanent or substitute. They don't necessarily ingratiate themselves with their teachers but they don't misbehave. Rarely, if ever, are these students recognized by their peers, by their teachers, or by the school. They pale in comparison when the students who demand attention (good or bad) stand up for recognition. These are the invisible students who quietly do school each day with little ripples in our shared waters.
I myself was not an invisible kid. I made some decisions that brought attention to my educational journey. Whether it was a high school social studies teacher who said "I've had enough of this student" or a 6th grade science teacher who encouraged me to teach the class myself for our review sessions (disclaimer: I told him I could lead a better test review), I was rarely the student who tried to hide amongst their peers. Often, I made a bad decision that logically impeded my educational journey, but these were my decisions that allowed me to grow during these formative years. For a student to sit quietly in a classroom and just silently comply with the curriculum and expectations is troublesome.
There is a saying that "well behaved women rarely make history". In education, the invisible student could follow a similar mantra. While these are students who can prove to be the backbone of your school community. I an very troubled by an "invisible kid's" decision to not create a persona that is both lasting and memorable during their educational journey. In looking back at this year's graduating class, I missed out on the opportunity to get to know many of these flat-out-awesome students, if for no other reasons than the few students who took up 95% of my time and a disconnect in figuring out who these invisible students were.
That said, the responsibility of an administrator is to recognize as many invisible students as possible. It's not an easy task. These aren't your athletes, your soloists during band concerts, or the students who may visit your office for disciplinary reasons throughout the year. If anything, these are the students you need to go out of your way to connect with. It's a challenge to discover these often-quiet students who don't speak up or stand out. During busy, challenging years, you may miss out on a few of these students. This was definitely the case for our administrative team during the past 2015-16 school year.
After my recent graduation speech, I had a few parent emails that expressed their concern with how their "invisible student" was left unrecognized. They're right. I failed their student. I didn't get a chance to recognize them, to meet them in their classrooms, to celebrate their successes. Likely, the student, partly due to their invisible behaviors, didn't reach out to their principal. They didn't approach me during brunch or lunch supervision to make a connection. They didn't share something special about themselves that we could connect with. This isn't to say that this opportunity was their duty or their expectation, but with a school of over a thousand kids, we administrators need a bit of help to discover the typically invisible students. I wish I could go back in time and spend extra moments with these students. I can guarantee that my work day would have been a good bit more pleasant and rewarding.
If nothing else, I'd also like to place a call to encourage these students to not remain invisible any longer. You don't have to be a star athlete. You don't need to be a top band student. You don't even need to be on site council or in leadership. You, as a student, just need to take the opportunity to connect and choose the available opportunities to share a bit of your school or life experiences with your administrators. Trust me. We want to get to know you. We don't want you to be invisible. If anything, it is the opposite. You are most likely the student to show us that we're making a difference with our students; we often feel like we're not. You might be the student to open our eyes to best support all students; we need these reminders. During our challenging days, you are the student who shows us that our efforts are not going unwanted or unloved.
So don't be invisible. You've got a lot of greatness that needs to be shared. We will help you discover your voice. But sometimes, we administrators need help figuring out who you are and what we can do to best support you. We are definitely willing to do so. Speak up. We are listening.