Although I never read the book by H. G. Wells, I loved watching old movies and newer remakes of The Invisible Man. I remember growing up one of the local TV stations ran an afternoon matinee on Sundays of science fiction and horror movies, and I remember “watching” Claude Rains in that role in the 1933 classic with the same title as well as some of the follow ups like The Invisible Man Returns with Vincent Price and Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man. I was even a fan of Kevin Bacon’s revamped version in Hollow Man. Of course, the Invisibility Cloak in Harry Potter would be a great gift idea for me this Christmas if anyone needs any ideas.
I’m not sure what it says about me, but I liked the idea of being invisible. Maybe it was the opportunity to try to understand what things are like when I’m not around. Maybe it was so I could thump one of my older brothers on the back of the head without getting caught. Whatever it might have been or continues to be, I’ve been fascinated by what is seen and what can’t be seen. If I try to observe wind, do I really see it or am I seeing the effects of it? How do I examine love, compassion, or justice? Would I know excellence if I saw it?
These ideas have been floating around in my head since a fall conference I attended sponsored by the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals. Our keynote presenter was 2012 Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year and 2013 finalist for National Principal of the Year, Jimmy Casas. I didn’t write down the exact quote as I was trying to soak it all in, but one of the major takeaways for me from Jimmy’s discussion was that every classroom has a culture. It may be positive or it may be negative, but there is a classroom culture that exists and our students can describe it even if it isn’t evident to adults. It may be supported with vibrant posters, bold quotations or catchy mottos or it may be contradicted by those same artifacts. It’s there whether adults see it or not. I would extend that idea to our schools where our culture exists whether we see it or not. That culture isn’t built by attending a workshop, developing a new program, going on a ropes course, bringing donuts to the meeting, or lining the hallways with colorful posters. Those can be indicators that support the culture or they can be brash reminders of the hollowness of words and phrases. Our culture is built, nurtured, developed and refined each day.
So where do we find the culture? How do observe the winds blowing through our students, staff, classrooms and learning environments? It’s obviously not a simple answer, but for me, asking the right questions will help get us there. What adults in our schools do students turn to for assistance, either academic or otherwise? What strategies do students use to solve problems, either academic or otherwise? How do parents and students characterize their interactions with staff members? How do staff members characterize their interactions with each other? These questions might begin to make the invisible more visible. It might be hard to watch. It might be tough to take in the beginning as we delve into an examination of our culture, but are our kids worth it?
I think they are and I think we should do it for “them.”
Here’s a link if you are interested in finding more about Jimmy’s writings and presentations.
Here’s a link to information on the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals