Early one morning, a student named invisible awakened to an empty home. Dad left the family years ago and mom is so consumed with her boyfriend that she’s frequently in and out of the home. For the sake of equality, lets say that this kid could also be in a two-parent home with mom and dad, but both work 18-hour shifts, so the invisible student has to get up and moving on their own in the morning. Invisible does not get the traditional “kiss on the cheek” or the “breakfast is ready” morning proclamation from mom, because no one has ever been there to see them off. Once dressed in the same clothes they have worn for years, the invisible student eats breakfast, packs a meager lunch and heads to the bus stop.
While on the corner, several kids tease the invisible student for they are not part of the in crowd. No friends to talk to so the invisible student curls up in the corner on the bus, feeling alone once again. In school, the teacher says nothing to the invisible child for they don’t see them. They give amazing shout outs to the students who are doing well in school and are highly visible, but not one peep about the invisible student because to them, this student does not exist. The invisible child is picked on and teased by their peers all day long because they are not popular and do not wear the latest clothes. The invisible child gets to the point that they begin to wonder if their life really matters and contemplates suicide. They have come to the conclusion that “nobody cares about me, so why care about myself!”
One day the invisible student walks into the school and a new teacher says to them “You have a pretty smile.” The student ignores the statement for since they are invisible, this teacher can’t be talking about them! The next day, the same teacher tells the student, “I notice that your grades have improved slightly and I am glad to see that you are moving in the right direction.” The invisible student stares at the teacher but begins to doubt the their sincerity. The teacher later in the week tells the student, “I have been noticing you for a while and I want to let you know that I think you are talented and gifted. I would like to sit down with you and discuss programs in the school I think your talents would be beneficial to. You are very special to me and I want you to know that your life counts. Together, we are going to show the world how great you really are!” Suddenly, the invisible child now wakes up in the morning with sense of enthusiasm. They pack their lunch, iron their clothes and sprint to the bus stop. The negative words of their classmates begin to diminish for they realize that this invisible student has become visible, and is now displaying confidence. Many peers admire the new-found strength of the newly “visible” student and begin to befriend them. The school begins to rally around the visible child and connects them to organizations that can help their home situation improve. The invisible student, now visible, becomes one of the highest rated students academically, and eventually graduates with honors. The amazing realization of the story is that the invisible student became visible, because one teacher, by taking the time to notice this child, freed them from their mental bondage.
I am sure by now you can see that this story is fiction. But in some ways it is truthful for many schools have countless invisible students. In my staff programs nationally, I share with teachers and school stakeholders, I believe invisible students are one of the biggest hidden problems in schools worldwide–kids walking into and leaving schools, totally unnoticed. As mentioned in my writings in the past, many kids, after my motivational assemblies walk up to me and share their stories. Most recently in a program in Kansas where a young lady in high school told me she was planning on dropping out and moving to another city. I shared this information with the organization that contracted me to speak to the students and they followed-up with intervention. I often ask the kids why they felt comfortable sharing this with me and not someone in their school? Many tell me that they feel like nobody around them cares!
If we are ever going to close the gap, race to the top, or establish common core standards, we better first realize that the kids we are working with are human beings who without self-esteem and self-worth, will never reach their full academic or life potential. The one motivational push I have in my work/mission is to see schools nationwide, develop fortitude in the majority of the school stakeholders to pick up the mantra held by the aforementioned caring teacher. Then and only then will we level the playing field in our education systems. History is the best data to prove this!
What are your thoughts on this topic. Have you witnessed this before?