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Andrada Mazilu - The "be good" culture | People of Justice 2022 Timișoara

Autor: Andrada Mazilu

I can't really play the flute, but I learnt how to play this piece by repetition, over 18 years ago. This one and also... Sol, sol, la, la, sol, mi and a few others. I would've learnt as many pieces as it takes to fulfil my dream. Besides music, I exercised by drawing tens of drawings, with apples, pears, grapes, vases, and I learnt entire poems by heart and ran countless times around Unirii Square, hoping I wouldn't die. That's how I got ready for the admission exam for the pedagogical high school in Sibiu, the only one that offered this programme in German.

It was hard to convince my parents to allow me to leave, to live alone in another city at 14, in order to study and become a teacher. They told me they'd let me, if I got admitted to that high school. To this day, I don't really know if they had a lot of confidence in me and that's why they proposed this pact or if they didn't have any confidence and weren't expecting me to succeed. I got ambitious and, as an average student, I ranked first in the entrance exam to my dream high school. I promised that I would continue to learn, that I would behave in the dormitory, that I wouldn't start smoking, and that I'd listen to my teachers.

To put it simply: I promised them that I'd be a good child. And I was. I learnt quite quickly that, if you're a good child, the teachers like you. That it's better if you don't ask uncomfortable questions. Actually, that it's better if you don't ask any questions. That a good child is never outraged, never responds rudely, that a good child accepts anything that happens to him. Moreover, if something bad happens to him, it's his fault, because he wasn't well-behaved enough and he must have done something wrong along the way.

This culture of „Behave yourself!” taught me to hang my head low, to shut up, and accept a lot of unfair situations.

In ninth grade, during a gym class, I told the teacher that the doctor said that I'm not allowed to do certain movements because of some spine issues. She took me in front of the class and said that I should apologize, because, actually, I don't know how to do the exercise, because, if I did, I'd do it. I told her that she isn't right, but, the moment I contradicted her, she got angry. She told my classmates to make fun of me and laugh at me. I stood there, petrified, getting my ration of mockery. I didn't tell my parents what had happened. I was a good girl. I didn't know that I was the victim of bullying. The years passed. I finished high school and I decided to pursue my path in education.

I had to negotiate with my parents once again for university. What scared them the most was that I was wasting my time, that I would prepare myself for ten years in a field that I will later discover that I don't like working in or that wouldn't allow me to support myself. They told me that I could study Pedagogy for primary school and preschool education in Sibiu, only if I got employed in the system, in order to see if I really liked it, if I become completely independent financially by 18, in order to see what it means to be a teacher, and if I enrol myself in another programme, in order to have a back-up plan, in case the whole education thing doesn't work out, and if my mother can choose the second programme. I was a good girl once again and I accepted all their conditions.

I was only 18 years old, I was a student at two faculties, I was working full-time as a kindergarten teacher, I was managing alone and living by myself in Sibiu. And it was a tough year. With my salary, which was around 700 lei, I had to pay the rent, which was 800. After the first month working in education, I understood that working in education is like a luxury hobby: you pay for it, not the other way around. I got myself another job, I worked in a call-centre, too, and I kept going to both faculties, even though I didn't even really like the second one, which was Applied Language Studies.

I was a good girl, I didn't know that this rhythm was actually called exhaustion. I studied hard and got a scholarship to study pedagogy in Germany. This experience was profoundly transformative. I enrolled for all the courses I had access to and, instead of 30 credits per semester, I got 56.

When my report card was sent to Romania, those who analysed my file didn't turn the second page. They saw that I got 56 credits and failed me, probably thinking: Poor girl, she couldn't even get 60!, which was how much I needed to finish the year. I ended up paying for that year, retaking failed exams, but I was a good girl. I didn't want to make anyone angry.

Back then, I didn't know that I was the victim of negligence. I got back to Romania with the mission of contributing to the improvement and, dare I say, the transformation of the education system. I got employed once again as a teacher at a private kindergarten. I was registered as working a part-time job, even though I worked full-time.

Then, when I wanted to obtain my teaching tenure, I was told that I didn't have the required seniority. That in all the years, during which I wanted to be a good employee and avoid angering my employer, I was, in fact, a victim of and an accomplice to tax evasion. It took me a long time to get rid of being good, to accept and to understand the situations in which, through passivity, I accepted to be a victim. It took time to talk about them in therapy, to get rid of the guilt and judgment of others, to learn to defend myself, and this process isn't over yet. Our society confuses being good with common decency. It associates it with obedience.

Now, in my role as a teacher, I don't wish to have well-behaved kids and I don't want to raise them this way. I don't want them to listen to me, just because they're afraid, but because they know me and they know that my mission is to guide them through life and through their learning process. I want to have brave pupils, who ask questions, who express their opinions and who signal problems. That's the only way we can have young people with initiative, with civic spirit and moral values, true leaders of justice.



The People of Justice 2022 shows were produced alongside Decât o Revistă, a team of journalists who believe in the transformational power of stories.

Together with over 1,000 viewers, we imagined what a more just Romania could look like through vulnerability, empathy and the power of example. In each city we brought on stage lawyers, journalists, civic activists and artists whose true stories about justice: how we achieve it, what it means for justice, education, the healthcare system or our cities.



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