December 19, 2007

Invisible

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.

18 comments:

Linda said...

Well, this is just weird. I've been feeling invisible all day...IM messages that have gone unacknowledged, phone calls that aren't answered, e-mail that have been ignored. Maybe I need to write! :)

julieunplugged said...

Writing is how I "show up" in life and it's the way I feel most connected to me. Love the way you play with your students. That's how I am at my best... this last semester, I didn't quite get there.

liz said...

I do so wish I could take your class.

kathy a. said...

what a wonderful story! i love that your class became a clan, with its own conventions and history. they will all remember you for decades. and i'm sure they will all be devoted to the craft of writing, because that is how to become visible.

susan said...

Your classes sound like tons of fun.

And I think I will stop worrying-in-advance about when Curious Girl is going to lose her ability to pretend at a moment's notice and have that pretending be so real. Maybe never.

Preacher Mom said...

Cool.

I was on a 65 day posting roll on my blog until a couple of weeks ago. During that time, I felt more aware of myself - my body and my emotions - than usual. Maybe writing really does make us visible

Yankee T said...

You know what I'm going to say about either one of my college kids and you...how I wish they were in your class.

argon(one) said...

It's funny. Writing can make me feel visible or invisible. When I post to my blog and no one comments, I feel invisible, but when someone comments, I know I am visible. When I'm feeling invisible I click on the site meter on my page so I can see who's been reading. Then I feel better.

Love your blog. You make me think.

my15minutes said...

You are so creative and imaginative. I love reading about how your class operates, and how your brain makes those kinds of connections.

Songbird said...

I'm smiling and tearing up at the same time.

YourFireAnt said...

Good piece, Jo(e). Really good.

FA

p.s. There are no slips of the tongue. --[approximately]C.G. Jung

EA said...

Me too.

jennifer said...

Lovely.
We can always see you, you know.

jo(e) said...

Thanks, Jennifer.

Tall Girl said...

I just love the invisible cards - the playfulness of your class...and you

lizardek said...

I wish I could take your writing class. And I agree with argon(one)'s comment...I feel that way, too.

purpleteardropsofhappilymarriedness said...

yea joe, i know. i agree with argon(one)'s comment to, its why I don't post as often, i don't have readers and I feel completely invisible and like its not worth it if I post something and no one responds. But joe, even when you feel invisible, know that I always see you. You're to important to me not to see dear, love your friend, merry xmas.

Anonymous said...

Feeling invisible today (2/5/08) I typed in to yahoo's search engine "I feel invisible", secretly hoping I'd find a psych answer/cure. The last hit on the page linked to your blog.
I loved the Invisible entry and the comments related to it. I'm a writer also (struggling to meet a deadline this Saturday) and it really helped to read the bit about writing making us visible.
See, you're visible when you least suspect it. And you helped a stranger today.