Chicago Public Schools student rejects cheating and develops a work ethic instead

This guest post is by Rafael Ortiz, a student in the Chicago Public Schools

It was just another hot summer day where all my brother and I wanted to do was sit in front of the AC and drink lemonade. My mother had other plans. She called us down to the kitchen, and we both dragged ourselves like sacks of potatoes down to the kitchen where my mom was intimidatingly sitting as if the principal had called me to her office. We sat on the hot chairs that the sun had been roasting for a while since the blinds were open.

Then my mother proceeded to order us to “help her” lay some tiles down in our yard so she can have a nice lounge area for the family. I write help in quotes because what she really meant was that she just wanted to see it done. After my mom finished her sentence, she enlarged her eyes with one-sided excitement she thought was mutual; instead, a huge 1,000-pound weight crushed me in laziness. My brother and I looked at each other’s eyes and we both communicated the exact amount of sadness, anger, and stress my mother’s orders tackled on us.

Before that day and the ones that followed it, I never liked doing certain things, things that required a lot of work. I always tried to find a way to get myself out of hard work and that meant telling myself over and over that the hard work was not necessary and carried on with my denial like an out-of-shape dad that cannot admit he is not fit to wear skinny jeans anymore. It was my eighth-grade year. I was taking pre-algebra which was a good thing to do as we could skip a year of math my freshman year, but, in actuality, I was just premature to the class itself. I was relying on people helping me rather than going out of my way to help myself excel in that class.

I maintained a low B which was good enough for me at the time and did “just enough” to keep it, and the days went by until It was time for the big one, the exams of exams, the exit exam which determined whether we get the algebra credit or not. And, while others were sticking their noses in their books like an ant eater does when it sees a farm of ants, I was cheating the work, and I told myself the classic “even if I know it or not, studying won’t change anything.” The day of the exam was horrible. I thought I would have some idea about what was in the exam; on the contrary, I was completely clueless. I got my score and a month later and I got a “2,” which was a complete fail.

Due to my prior history of cheating work, I went into this project of laying tiles in my yard with the same denial. After getting our materials, we started the work and shortly realized this was going to be super tedious. Getting all the tiles exactly aligned and in order was as hard as trying to split an atom. The sun was burning our skin until it evaporated our sweat making my brother and me into a hot stew from Panera Bread. We kept trying to do it “fast” and my brother and I wasted a lot of time figuring out how we could execute this task without doing “too much” but in reality, we were thinking of ways to deny that we were just lazy and did not want to do the work.

We did and undid the layout of the tiles around three times which took two hours each time; eventually, I sat down and realized that the tiles are not going to align themselves. My brother and I had to do it ourselves, and put in the work, put in the time and effort. And when we did, it actually worked, and it actually took less time than we thought it would. It is best to acknowledge the difficulty without escaping it, as denial is the issue we truly fall victim to instead of facing of our responsibilities and problems.

Hard work is like one a big mountain. It must be climbed to get beyond it. The truth was I feared accepting the fact I was about to go through an elongated time period of hard work and torture like heat from the sun. I learned that day that I must work hard and that it will benefit me by saving time trying to accomplishing a task in a mediocre way. Like me, many other high school students have AP courses, mountains of homework, applications for jobs, and universities. It is self-sabotaging to deny and run away from doing hard work; therefore, it is best to just do it.

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