Find the Invisible Child
Find the Invisible Child
I am adding an excerpt from the work of Matt Kaufman at the end of this rule. I don’t know Matt but his words ring true. This article was posted on Susan Cain’s website. Susan wrote the book Quiet (2012), the power of introverts. I highly recommend this book by Cain. We mistake quiet reflection for agreement or being aloof.
Matt reminds me of the invisible children in schools. Sometimes kids are invisible in their own home. One thing we can do is find these invisible children, notice them, and honor their contribution. Yes, they are contributing members to our schools. If the students trust you, they will tell you amazing things about the culture of the school. If they trust you, they will provide student leadership for the school and community. If they trust you, you will have a positive influence on their lives. IF THEY TRUST YOU.
In one of the schools where I was principal, at a staff meeting, we put about 120 names up on the screen. These kids were failing more than half their classes. My question was, “who knows these kids?” Each faculty member and support staff chose one or two students that they knew. Our goal was to connect to those kids who did not have a coach, advisor, or an adult who they could go to for advice. We met with the student, called the parent to say we were connecting with their child. We met with these students weekly to check on class progress, attendance, and any other issues they wanted to talk about. Yes, trust takes time (TTT). We had an 80% success rate of helping students get more credit and improve attendance by the end of the year. Yes, I wish it was 100%.
Here is what stopped me cold. At the end of our staff meeting, there were about ten kids who had not been chosen. Nobody knew them or chose them. This was heartbreaking. So, the administrators and counselors chose one or two students. Yes, me included. You can imagine the parent phone call from me as principal. I introduced myself and the first response from the parent was, ‘what did he do now?’
As I reflect I think the parent thought I was crazy. Yes, probably so. The two students I was connecting with were shocked when I showed up outside the door of their classroom to tell them I was going to be working with them. You can imagine the eye rolls, gasping of breath, and total disbelief. What I am most grateful for is I got to know two students who I wouldn’t have ever known and they got to know me as an adult, not a principal. Parent satisfaction went up and more kids got more credits and more graduated. I hasten to say, nothing is perfect and it was an amazing celebration at the end of the year with the students and their adult connectors.
As a result of this, the students came up with a program to honor other students. They called it “Beat the Odds” award. It became one of the most important awards we gave out at our awards program at the end of the year. It was for kids that, under their circumstances, most of us would not make it. Kids are creative, committed, and show great courage when given a chance.
FIND THOSE KIDS – LISTEN TO THEM – LEARN FROM THEM
SPEAK FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE A VOICE
Here is the article that inspired me this morning.
The Invisible Child By Matt Kaufman
AN INVISIBLE CHILD is one who does not initially stand out for any reason. This child is not extremely athletic, overly popular, or very outgoing. This child invariably follows all of the rules. An invisible child is compliant, well-behaved, and rarely does anything to call attention to himself or herself.
In many ways, an invisible child is a dream to have in your camp group or classroom. There isn’t much that you have to do for an invisible child. But if we dig a little deeper, we’ll find that these invisible children actually challenge us to connect with them. We spend so much time addressing campers with behavioral challenges. Campers who are naturally outgoing make themselves impossible for us to ignore. That doesn’t leave much time for those polite, quiet, and compliant children.
To be clear, I do not use this term in a derogatory way. Many, if not most, children are invisible at times. I, for one, was one of the most invisible children at my camp! Luckily for me, I always had counselors who wanted to connect with me. It wasn’t easy for them, I’m sure. They had to put in extra effort to find out what my interests were. They tried their best to put me in situations where I was most likely to shine. When an adult makes a connection with an invisible child, it can change that child’s life.
When I think of invisible children, I’m reminded of a camper named Todd. He was always in the right place and doing the right thing. He got along with everyone and never rocked the boat. Todd was never the best at any activity, nor was he ever the worst. Todd was a great camper, but I wanted to find a way for him to shine. One day, I was talking to Todd and he told me that his older brother had recently taught him how to “moo” like a cow. Naturally, I asked Todd to demonstrate. It turned out that he was really good! He actually sounded exactly like a cow! The next morning, I announced that there would be an animal noise competition after lunch. The campers got very excited, and Todd was the most excited of anyone. For the next few hours, the campers practiced their animal noises, but Todd kept quiet. He knew he didn’t have to practice. At the competition, Todd blew everyone away. He won easily. The other campers swarmed him with congratulatory hugs. At that moment, Todd was the opposite of invisible—he was the star. I’m pretty sure he still remembers that moment.
In certain situations, adults can be invisible too. They go about their work effortlessly and professionally, but without fanfare. They neither complain nor seek accolades. These people are instrumental in the success of so many organizations. But like a counselor making a connection with an invisible child, the best leaders will never overlook these adults.
When you’re leading an invisible child or adult, find a way to make them shine. Bring them into the spotlight, if only for a brief moment. It could change everything for them.
1. Think about your childhood. How did you behave? Were you an invisible child?
2. Do you think invisible children (and adults) become more visible in certain situations? Why do you think this might happen?
3. Think about an invisible child or adult you know. What can you do to help them stand out?