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Invisible Workers 

How it works:
New York is known as "the city that never sleeps."
  There are people at work at any hour of the day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Many are "invisible,"  working behind the scenes in unusual places and situations. Their efforts are often not readily recognized or appreciated. Invisible Workers gives students insight into the under-appreciated people whose jobs affect our everyday lives. The students interview people who work in a variety of fields and learn about the requirements, opportunities, and unique characteristics of their jobs. As preparation, they brainstorm what they think the expression "invisible worker" might mean. Then they go to one of the following suggested sites to learn more about invisible workers:  
Justice for Janitors, a national campaign of the Service Employees International (http://hr.monster.com/articles/workers/), and Invisible Workers, Hidden Abuses: A Call to Fast for New York's Working Poor (http://nysut.org/media/releases/

While looking at the sites, they list at least four types of jobs that might be "invisible" and consider some of the disadvantages about working in an "invisible job." The class discusses jobs that are under-appreciated (clerk, housewife, teacher, anonymous authors) and students write pre-planned questions (beginning with the words "Who," "What," "When," "Where," and "How") for oral interviews with an "invisible worker" of their choice. After school, the students conduct their interviews and write the answers in their notebook. For homework, they write a first draft of their invisible worker story, based on the interview. The first drafts are shared in class; each student takes a turn reading a classmate's story. In teams, students check each other's work for spelling and grammar, and give positive critical feedback. The first drafts are revised for homework and the teacher edits the second draft. Final drafts are word processed for use as a web project. The students plan their visuals with pencil and paper. The drawings include an icon to represent their work, a portrait of the worker, a title page, and an illustration of the person at their job, and use a drawing software program (such as PhotoShop or AppleWorks). The students use html or a web-authoring program such Dreamweaver to create their web pages.

Standards addressed:  
Students interpret and analyze information from oral interviews; relate new information to prior knowledge and experience; distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information and between fact and opinion; and understand and use the text features that make information accessible and usable, such as format, sequence, level of diction, and relevance of details. They develop information with appropriate supporting material such as facts or anecdotes and exclude extraneous material; use the process of pre-writing, drafting, revising, and proofreading  to produce well-constructed informational texts; recognize different levels of meaning; and write stories that observe the conventions of the genre and contain interesting and effective language and voice.

Materials used:
Required materials include a computer with Internet access, word processing software (SimpleText, Microsoft Word or AppleWorks), drawing software (AppleWorks, CorelDraw, or PhotoShop), and raw html or html editing software (Dreamweaver, GoLive, or PageMill). A scanner is optional.

The students:
Invisible Workers
was created by seventh grade digital art students at the Institute for Collaborative Education. The students are grouped heterogeneously and have a varying skill and ability levels. The program was begun in the last cycle of the school year; the students were already familiar working with word processing, drawing, and html editing software. This was their year-end final project that encompassed all the skills they had learned in the year.

Overall value:
This program gives students insight into the working world. They learn through Internet research, and by conducting oral and written interviews, the similarities/differences, advantages/disadvantages, requirements, challenges, and rewards of different jobs. The students gain some understanding of the importance of worker benefits such as healthcare, job security, and opportunities for advancement. Using traditional and new media, they create web pages based on their research.
Encourage students to learn more about the work of people who are a part of their everyday lives, such as their family and friends or people at local businesses. You might create an introductory letter for students who wants to interview a person they are reluctant to approach. If a student doesn't want to interview a "real" person, then give him/her the option of interviewing an imaginary one, as long as it is based on actual research about that specific job. You can link this project with any Career Day, Job Fair, or other activities your school community might be involved with.


About the teacher:
Meryl Meisler has taught in New York City since 1979. She works by day as
a digital art teacher, and by night and weekend as a professional artist who does not want to be invisible.


Subject Areas:       

Grade Levels: 


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