DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Violence gives birth to violence. This is how Mihai’s life story began.
A few years ago, I took over a new generation as headmaster. As usual, we introduced ourselves – the students talked about themselves, about their likes and dislikes, the reason they come to school, the way they commute from great distances. Then my eye caught glimpse of this small boy, Mihai, small for his age. It was his turn to introduce himself. He said, with budding tears in his eyes “I was not wanted by my parents, by anyone.” Silence fell over the classroom. I said he cannot know whether that was true or not. He began to cry and, from under that curtain of tears, he asked “Why, then, did they give me to a drunkard?” silence again. I let him tell his story and calm down on his own. I didn’t know enough about his situation to try and talk to him, to try and give him comfort words. At this stage in our relationship, it was best to just let him unburden himself onto us, me, his head teacher, and his new colleagues.
The bell rang and the class was over but the treacherous journey was only beginning. I was now going to sit back and do nothing when it is my responsibility as his teacher not only to teach but also help my students with whatever other problems they may have. Thus, I began researching his case.
I went to his house and met his guardian, a woman named Marioara. All seemed well when she received me, though if the fact that she took out o bottle of wine and cigarettes to give to her guest, and helped herself plentifully, was any reference, I was in for a long ride with Mihai’s case. The house was clean, well-ordered, but appearances can be very deceiving. Then she spoke. I understood, then, her attitude towards the child she was supposed to raise and love as her own. With meanness in her voice, she said she doesn’t know what to do with “the punk” (mind, she didn’t even use his name, not once). He is not her child, she never had or wanted children. She showed me the adoption papers and explained that Mihai’s parents are in jail for murder and, at the time, she was the closest relative and the only one who would take the orphan in. She regrets her decision since because Mihai has been nothing but a burden. I understood why Mihai said he was not wanted. I understood and it hurt, because I am a mother and cannot imagine how a parent cannot love a child, biological or not.
After only one week of school, his story circulated all over the school and Mihai became target for bullies, the target for various and hurtful name-calling. His response was simple – the fist.
After one month of school, he took to drinking and smoking, coming to class drunk, dirty, violent, smoking in the toilet, even in open hallways. I intervened, talking with him about his problems, giving him responsibilities to make him feel needed, stimulating his self-confidence.
His grades improved, his attendance too. Even so, one bad word from fellow students was enough to make him snap. One day, a bully in his class told him he is still a punk, a nobody, even if he has god grades and is class president. Mihai waited for the boy after school and fractured his ribs, broke his arm, in a fight that would get him expelled.
I did not abandon Mihai. During the summer holiday, I talked him into re-enlisting in 10th grade, and told him he must leave the path he has taken in life before it is too late for redemption. He agreed.
Today, even if I am not his head teacher anymore, I continue to help him. We keep talking and today he is 40 days away from graduating high school.
As teacher and headmaster, one is supposed to educate from all directions. A teacher transmits not only scientific knowledge but also knowledge about life. We become, without intent, parents to some of our students.
Ever since he was 4, Mihai witnessed a world of violence in his home. The father beat the mother in drunken rages; the mother beat him in turn. When he was 6, Mihai was placed in the care of a relative when his parents were sent to prison for murder. His life did not change for the better. His new guardian proved to be of the same stock as his parents – fond of alcohol, violent, both physical and psychological. It is no wonder he grew us a broken spirit, begging for help.
The authorities played an important role in his recovery in the fact that they decided to be lenient with his misdemeanors. Whenever he did something illegal, or on the brink of illegal, they would come to me to talk some sense into Mihai.
Nowadays, Mihai is a quiet boy with big dreams. He considers finding a workplace soon. The last time we spoke he said something that drove me to tears. He said if he will ever have the money, he will build a house for children like him, not wanted, abandoned in this wretched, cold world. He said that if I had not intervened, he would have probably ended up in prison of even be dead now. But he is fine now, because someone saw the pain in his eyes and heard his cry for help when no one else would.