Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Because things that are not seen are often more useful and compelling than those that are, I’ve been working lately on developing – and understanding -- “invisibility” in my classroom. For instance, one of my criteria for choosing literature for the scholars to read is the presence of invisibility in the pages – the presence of truths that cannot be seen, at least on a first reading. I purposely choose poems and stories that have an aura of obscurity and murkiness, so that the students have to wander in the dark for a while as they sharpen their inner eyesight. I don’t mean that the literature is gloomy – just that the gems and gold in the pages lie hidden from the eyesight of hasty, lackadaisical readers. I’m also trying to appreciate the true invisibility of each of my students. I occasionally fall back into the bad habit of thinking that I “know” the scholars quite well, but the reality is that their true selves are as invisible to me as stars in the daytime. I actually have no working or helpful idea about the nature of the students’ inner lives, which, of course, are their real lives. In that sense, the scholars are invisible to me, a fact that I need to constantly recognize and accept. A final fact that I’m working on welcoming and accepting is the importance of invisibility in the teacher. I would like to be almost as invisible as the wind. Like the wind, I want to stir up the students, blow some new thoughts their way, perhaps utterly destroy some slapdash ideas – but like the wind, I want to do it in a secret and concealed way, imperceptibly. I want the voluble, front-and-center, all-controlling teacher to disappear. After a productive class, I want the students to look around (while I’m standing quietly in a corner) and wonder where all those good ideas came from.

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