I don't know how many years it's been since I last saw "The Blackboard Jungle", but I know I haven't seen it in the past year. I don't know if it would have made a big difference if I had, but now that I am entering the last week of teaching fourth grade, I found it echoing oddly off my experiences.
If you've never seen it, this is the movie that gave us "Rock Around The Clock" and Sidney Poitier. Not that both of them didn't exist prior, but "Blackboard Jungle" pushed them both to center stage. It is probably not the least bit ironic that twelve years later, Sidney ended up playing a teacher in "To Sir With Love", but here he plays a student in Glenn Ford's inner-city high school class. He learned his lessons well.
What about me? Did I make the same kind of heart-warming difference in my students lives? I know that I have, but not this year. It is interesting that the denouement in the film takes place over Christmas break. Ford's character Mister Dadier, whom the kids all call "Daddy-O", is feeling tired and frustrated. He is ready to leave teaching rather than go back and face the hoodlums in his classroom. When some of the young toughs turn on their leader, played by Vic Morrow, he feels a renewed sense of purpose. He has broken through: "Yeah, I've been beaten up, but I'm not beaten. I'm not beaten, and I'm not quittin'."
I didn't have that breakthrough. Not this year. But I'm not beaten. And I'm not quittin'.