DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
At the time this story took place, Thanos was attending the 1st grade of the Primary School, was an average boy with no ‘fitting’ issues (had always managed to have close friends and came from a stable family environment). In the classroom he was concentrated enough, he never caused me any problems and seemed to be quite happy in the school environment. He usually brought to school small toys that he liked to show to his friends and kept in his pocket (but that is not unusual for kids of his age). One month after Christmas I had a visit from his mother who told me that she had noticed a change in her son’s mood, he was rather frown and a bit distant and was reluctant to talk. She had no idea what was the cause of it and wanted to know if I had noticed the change and whether something was going on during school hours. I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed anything particular, towards me Thanos had not changed but I promised to look more closely.
In the next few days I started to notice that his mother was right. There were many signs that this boy had troubles in his little head. And then I decided to watch him during the breaks. After 2-3 days it was obvious that Thanos was avoiding Andrew, a boy 2 years older that would approach him once or twice a day and talk to him at close distance. I asked the other boy’s teacher about him and found out that he was an immigrants’ child whose father and mother were separated. Andrew had a rather difficult upbringing, the family faced financial problems and his older brothers were already working and had dropped out of school.
To me it was obvious that something was going on between them and contacted Thanos’s mother to ask about money he probably lost, or any missing objects he had been complaining about but I was convinced that Thanos would not be willing to talk. After a lot of effort on his mother’s part we realized that Thanos had been convinced to voluntarily exchange his brand new game boy with 5 plastic cards Andrew offered him. The next day that Thanos asked Andrew to give him back the game boy Andrew threatened him, refused to return it told Thanos that he could buy the game boy back if he wanted, for 150 Euros. Thanos came at a dead end and was afraid to tell his parents because he had realized that he shouldn’t have agreed to this deal in the first place and also had no money to buy the game boy back. He kept asking Adrew to return the game boy but Andrew started mocking him with his friends and the situation became worse and worse by the day. Andrew gradually started taking money out of Thanos’ s bag or asked him for money during the breaks. When one day Thanos’s mother noticed that it had been a while since she saw Thanos play the game boy she asked why and then the truth came out… a liberating process no matter how hard it is. Fear of disclosure has always been a great place to hide the truth and keep wounds open.….
The next day Andrew was called to the headmaster’s office along with Thanos and both their mothers and an end was put to the situation. Andrew’s mother was quite concerned, as she had no idea of her son’s behavior. Andrew returned the game boy to Thanos, apologized to him and was also made to apologize in public as the headmaster informed all student about the situation in an effort to make other potential similar problem come to the surface.
My greatest fear is that if the mother hadn’t alarmed me I probably wouldn’t have noticed the problem, perhaps for (too?) long. Bulling has a way of remaining secret while victims suffer but prefer that to letting others know about it. Students (and people) should overcome this fear and realize that keeping quite is a tragic mistake. Thanos was partly afraid of letting his parents know that he initially agreed on this ridiculous exchange and this made him feel ashamed and not willing to speak about the problem. Somehow he felt guilty, as if he really deserved losing the game boy. Andrew on the other hand thought that pressuring Thanos more and more he will keep making a ‘profit’ and started experimented with additional ways of making money. When the ghosts came out of the closet a heavy cloud was lifted from over our heads. We all knew that this wouldn’t be the last we heard of students threatening students, of violence or delinquent behavior in the school but awareness is an effective way to revealing the problem and the consequences for those causing it.