Many people decide to become a teacher due to the influence of a person. That wasn't the case with me. I remember the moment I decided what kind of a teacher I wanted to be. I watched the film Cipher In The Snow when I went to a seminar at my university sponsored by the education department. The film is based on a true story written by Jean Mizer entitled Cipher in the Snow. This is the story that inspired me to be the best teacher I could be.
The story is about an ostracized teenager named Cliff. Following his parents' divorce, Cliff becomes withdrawn and has no friends. He literally becomes a "cipher".
The film begins with a tragedy on a snowy February morning. A teacher was driving behind a school bus when the bus suddenly veered off the road at a hotel. A boy stumbles out of the bus and falls over in the snow. The teacher jumps out of his car to help but the boy is dead. The bus driver tells the teacher that the boy never complained about feeling bad. Instead, he apologized to the driver and asked to be let out of the bus at the hotel. The driver and teacher are shocked that the boy is dead.
Back at the school, the teacher informs the Principal of the boy's death. The Principal asks him to notify the boy's parents and write his obituary for the school paper. The teacher learns that he was the boy's favorite teacher which shocks him because he hardly knew him.
At the boy's home, his mother tells the teacher that the boy never said a word about feeling bad. The stepfather tells the teacher that the boy had never spoken to him since he moved in. The teacher learns that the stepfather had made the boy's life miserable.
The teacher goes back to school to try to learn more about the boy. from his records In the boy's records, the teacher reads "slow learner, won't talk, uncooperative.." written by his third grade teacher but his IQ score reads 106. The score dropped below 100 after seventh grade. He tries to find ten teachers or students to attend the funeral that knew the boy, but no one even knew him well enough to go.
The teacher sits and ponders how many times the boy had been chosen last? Even timid children are resilient. It takes time to break them. How many times had the boy been told "You are a nothing!" It dawns on the teacher that when there was finally nothing left at all for the boy, he collapsed on a snow bank and went away. The teacher resolves never to let this happen to any student of his.
I had already made the decision to become an elementary school teacher when I watched the movie. What changed for me after watching the film was what Kind of teacher I wanted to be. Seeing the boy literally die of loneliness, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher that took an interest in ALL children, especially those that few people cared about. I have never forgotten Cliff in my thirty-four years of education. Each year, I have welcomed every new class with the silent promise that I would do everything I could to make a positive difference in each child's life. These little folks spend more time with me than they do with their own parents during the week. I owe it to them to make learning fun and show them that I genuinely care about them.
On Thursday, another school year will end. My students will move on but each will still have a special place in my heart. For some reason, the ceiling leaks in my classroom on the last day of school EVERY year. Well, that's my explanation for my wet cheeks....and I am sticking to it!