Fact or Fiction: A Cipher in the Snow

The short story “Cipher in the Snow” is a nonfiction story about a student who dies and how a teacher copes with it. I first heard it in one of my education classes. The moral of the story is how this child slipped through the cracks of the education system. The boy died and all he had to show for it was his straight D’s and his lack of involvement in any clubs or sports. He was never a part of anything, he did not have any friends and he was always quiet. The teacher who wrote this was listed as his favorite teacher and he hadn’t even spoken to the student in two years. The teacher was heartbroken and after this event he taught for this student. He told every one of his new students that they will not come out of that classroom feeling like a zero. His main goal was to make every student feel like they mattered.

This story is said to be completely nonfiction. However, there were a few things that made it seem unbelievable. For instance, everything happens to line up perfectly. The student

’s favorite teacher just so happens to be behind the bus when the boy stumbles out of it and collapses to the ground. The teacher happens to be there for his moment of death. The same teacher is also asked to deliver the news because the student’s family doesn’t have a phone. I did not find this believable either. When the teacher got to the house, the family did not care that their son had died. The mother was upset but not the normal reaction of a mother. She stopped cooking and the stepfather insensitively told her to keep cooking because he needs to get to work. He went on to call her late son dumb for failing to say he wasn’t feeling well. He made fun of him for being so quiet. The stepfather continued to talk horribly about this child who just died to his mother. I read the piece as fiction because of these parts that made it seem fake.

However, the elements of nonfiction in this piece are what make it stand out. This piece would not have as much value if it were fiction. It holds a moral lesson.The lesson was basically to make sure each child knows they are special and each student feels valued in your classroom. If this were known as a fiction, the morality of the piece would be less believable and taken less seriously. The reader takes the lesson seriously because they think this event actually took place. This subject revolving the death of a young child is serious and that fact that it actually happened bring out the sympathy in readers.

Another element to take into consideration is when this piece is set. This was said to happen in the 1970s. Today’s day in age, the school system values the individual more. In the 1970s, it is likely that a student may fall through the cracks due to parents that did not care.

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