A New Outlook

January 17, 2011
By Amanda Zilli BRONZE, Hartland, Wisconsin
Amanda Zilli BRONZE, Hartland, Wisconsin
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Diversity… It’s a simple term that has endless significance. It justifies who we are and has an impact on our outlook on life. Although I’m fortunate to attend a school that possesses every resource and opportunity available, there’s a tremendous lack of diversity. This situation is adverse because we don’t experience the life-long lessons that will be remembered in years to come.
My mom took a fourth grade teaching position at an inner city school in Milwaukee. With this job she waits in chaotic traffic every day, barely gets a lunch break due to students with behavioral issues, and has to find ways to prevent the kids from acting like zoo animals. She works 13 hour days, gets home late, falls asleep in exhaustion, wakes up and relives “the nightmare” all over again. I take note of how much this job wears my mom down day to day, and I find it hard to understand why she does it.
Questions keep repeating in my head: “Why does she do it? Why does she put herself through the stress?” After all, the pay is below average, and it costs a tank of gas every two days to get to and from work in our gas guzzling 1998 Suburban. So I asked her why. Her response to this question is when I realized why I look up to my mom, and why I aspire to be like her.
“It’s not about the money,” she said. “It’s about doing anything I can to help these kids in need. They’ve never had someone in their lives to support and encourage them to be somebody. And to share something so meaningful like that with them…That in itself is the best reward imaginable.”

Every week my mom came home with a new story to tell. “The kids steal anything that isn’t nailed down,” she said one day. “A few of the kids barely speak English. Most of the students are flunking even when I re-teach everything and try to help. Only eight parents showed up for parent-teacher conferences. Today my quietest student announced to the class how their family snuck over the border when he was five. Please don’t call my parents and tell them I didn’t behave today, I’ll be afraid to go home.”

Then, my mom insisted I come visit her kids in Milwaukee. That’s one decision I’ll never regret. Meeting every one of those kids changed me. I saw things I had never seen before. Heard things I didn’t know fourth graders knew about. And learned things I didn’t know fourth graders could teach me. These kids have an unthinkable amount of potential, but no chance to go anywhere with it. Most of those kids won’t go to college, and many won’t make it out of high school. Their desperate need for attention nearly ended with me having a few broken bones. Excited to see me, they all attempt to hug me at once and end up tackling me. They ask everyday when I’m going to visit next, and it comforts me to give them that joy I see in their eyes.

I realized these students don’t only look at my mother as their teacher, but also as mother figure. Or maybe the mother they never had.
For Christmas, we gathered a few families to help donate money so we could give the kids a few presents. One girl said all she got last year was a couple chocolates, but she was grateful for them. This year we wanted to make a difference in their lives.
The day I dropped off their bags filled with goodies on their wish list, their faces sparkled with an indescribable amount of joy. I never knew doing a deed so small would make such a difference. The kids gave us a million hugs, but nothing could describe their appreciation and excitement. The class still talks about their Christmas to this day.

It wasn’t the day I asked why my mom why she did her job that changed my outlook on everything. But it was when I experienced her stories for myself. That’s the day I opened my eyes to the world out there and became who I am today. My mom’s perseverance to help those kids motivates me to do the same in any way I can in my future community. Diversity… It’s a simple term that can change a person.

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