“We must be invisible!” my sister and I said to each other when a truck pulled out right in front of us as we were traveling. We did feel invisible – didn’t the driver see us? I wonder if students sometimes feel invisible.Didn’t she see me? Did she forget about me? I just want someone to notice me.
Some children demand attention by acting out, being dramatic, getting in my space, or talking, but others don’t make demands. I want to make sure I notice these quieter unassuming children and draw them into the class and relationship, too. Another teacher and I were talking about some of my students and commented on one child who is very sweet but just talks nearly all the time and seems to need so much attention. And he gets attention! I said I feel bad sometimes because this one is talking so much, and that one is pushy, and this one struggles academically and gets extra help, and I’m afraid some children are left out. I want to intentionally notice EACH child in the class. This child is quietly doing her work, coloring and writing beautifully, and very cooperative – I want to affirm her. This child is paying attention in the virtual instruction group of three, while the other two children are slouching and disengaged. I want to recognize the one who is on task.
I think of Rick who commented, “To Greg I’m just a bug.” Rick was disappointed because Greg didn’t ask him to go along to get the milk. I want each child to feel valued.
One of my students shared with me, “I just feel like no one really cares about me” and the other children don’t want to be her friend, etc. She has a lot of concerns, so I was not alarmed with this, but I did feel for her and understand what she’s feeling. “Having a voice” and “feeling valued” are topics that keep coming up in my professional reading. This is very important to people: feeling that they have value and have a voice. I’m thinking of it as the V’s – Value and Voice. I want each of my students to feel Valued and know that they are valued by God and by us at school. I also want them to feel like they have a Voice (to an extent – I don’t think children should always make the decisions as they are still learning and being trained).
This can apply to staff, as well. Do some teachers feel invisible? Some people are naturally more outgoing; some may have positions that are more visible. Some staff are often recognized for their work and others rarely hear that commendation. Let’s look for those who don’t push themselves forward and make them feel valued, too. Sometimes I feel like “the V’s” don’t apply to me, then I was struck with thoughts from Philippians 2. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” who “made himself nothing” and humbled himself.
How can we help students and co-workers to feel valued and visible, rather than invisible?
I can show them they are valued – I talk to them, “visit” with them, ask questions about their lives, and then listen, and remember what they share. I check in later. “How’s your new puppy doing?” “What did you get for your birthday?” I can notice them. “Looks like you have new shoes.” “I like that coloring.” To a colleague I might comment, “Your students made nice projects!” or, “That is a good idea for _____________.” I can ask, “How was your weekend?” “What was a positive thing in your day?”
I should tell them they are valued and important. I remind them God loves them, and they are special to God and to us at school. I gave a little speech before I gave my students their Christmas gift, and said I enjoy being their teacher and I am glad each one is in my class, and they are each special. One of the children responded, “I love you” and then I told the class I love them.
I need to be intentional about this. I could keep a checklist – who have I talked with today? Whom have I asked a question? Whom have I called on? I can send emails or notes home to share good news from school and recognize achievements, and let parents know of positive behavior or growth. If I have corrected someone, I need to acknowledge their improvement. If I have notified parents of concerns, I try to follow up on that and send some good news.
I can be intentional in relating to staff, as well. I can visit with teachers and ask, “How was your day?” I should follow through on things. If a teacher shared that this was a challenging day, I might write a note of encouragement, send an email, or give a piece of chocolate. The next day I can ask if this day was better. I can acknowledge the value and voice of my colleagues. I might give someone a card, remember birthdays, or ask if I can help with something. I need to “come out of my shell” and think of others.
Think of the value of all people. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:29, “not a sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father” and verse 31, “Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.”