When we’re young, we have a certain tendency to see ourselves as immortal or infallible. When we’re young and in school this translates to a tendency to believe that we are immune from a teacher’s gaze.
I’m no exception. From my earliest elementary school days and up through my years in the hallowed halls of higher academia I often thought myself capable of being unseen.
In third grade a friend and I snuck roly polies into the classroom after recess and (unsuccessfully) attempted to keep them in our desks as pets. In high school, I did my best to appear as inconspicuous as possible to avoid having to give mock speechs in front of my advanced Model UN class. Last year, I dozed off during a post-lunch history lecture; there were only 15 other people in the class. And I can’t even count how many times I’ve doodled in the margins or cleaned dirt out from under my fingernails, somehow thinking that I was, for a brief moment, under some sort of invisibility cloak.
As a teacher I see everything. Just maybe not all at once. I only have two eyes—and neither is located on the back of my head—but je ne suis pas aveugle.
I see your ink-stained hands moving in a blur even though I haven’t given you the slightest indication that now is the time to color every last square millimeter of your name tag, making it illisible.
I see who you can and can’t sit next to, or that maybe you need to sit tout seul to better concentrate.
I see you shrinking into your seat, avoiding making eye contact, and I hear the muffled réponse escape the mouth you’ve obstructed with a pen or hand once I’ve put you on the spot.
I see that you’re good at numbers and stop choosing you to nous dire la date, hoping that one of your classmates will rise to the occasion but wishing all the while that I could let you do it anyway.
I see you squirming—almost dancing—in your seat, wanting to shout what you think is the answer before I’ve even finished asking the question.
And I see that you won’t listen the first four times I have to shout the instructions over the din of whispers and turning pages. But I see your hand shoot into the air as you whine “maîtresse…” in my direction once everyone else has started “…je ne comprends pas ce qu’on doit faire.”