I often ask my students to suspend reality in the classroom. For example, putting our desks into a circle is impossible because my fall classroom doesn't have desks: we have chairs and awkward rectangular tables. But I tell them to pretend that the weird rectangle arrangement is a circle, and they oblige.
In September, I was handing out index cards for a collaborative writing exercise, and through some kind of slip of the tongue, I referred to them as the invisible cards.
"The index cards are invisible?" said Curly Red Hair. "Cool."
For the rest of the semester, we acted as the index cards were invisible. When I'd hand a card to a student, I'd put it down very carefully and say, "I'm putting a card here in the left corner of the table," and the student would run her fingers over the top of the table until they met the edge of the card, "Okay, I've got it." If I accidentally set the pile of cards down, I'd make students help me search until we found them.
But once the cards were written on, we decided, they became visible. That was the rule.
One day before class, we were talking about setting things up for final projects. Skinny Kid said he wanted to use PowerPoint. I remembered that I needed to bring the cord so that my students could use the projector so I wrote a note to myself on my hand. I often use my palm as a memo pad, since I tend to lose little slips of paper. And it gives me a good deadline: I have to complete the item on my to-do list before it washes off.
I was talking to Skinny Kid about his title when Red Curly Hair said to me, "Are you feeling invisible today?"
I looked at her in surprise. I'd gotten an email earlier that day that did in fact make me feel invisible. How could she possibly know? Was I that easy to read?
Before I even answered, she laughed at my look of astonishment. "You're writing on yourself, " she said.
Skinny Kid looked up from his paper and nodded seriously. "I can see you now."
We moved quickly to another topic, but the more I thought it about, I decided that my students are right. When I feel invisible, writing is what I do to make myself appear again.