The Day I Was Humiliated

by Jul 31, 2021Theme: The False Self

Continued from yesterday…

When I was a teenager attending school in Sweden, I had a teacher who performed a reading experiment with my class. She claimed that one can test a person’s ability to read by how many times they move their eyes while reading a line in a book.

“A great reader,” she said, “can read an entire line in a book while only moving their eyes once. An average reader can read a line with no more than two movements of their eyes. Anything more than two eye movements is below average.”
I made two eye movements of my own in that moment: one nervous look to the student on my right, and another anxious glance to the student on my left.

She continued on. “Now, open to page 225 in your books. I will go around the room and test each of you individually to observe how many times you shift your eyes to read one line.”

Luckily for me, she started at the opposite end of the classroom, making me one of the last students to be examined. I was both excited and nervous. I thought I was smarter than the other students, yet I also struggled with the insecurity that I was not enough. Holding these two egoic opposites in my mind, I nervously waited for my turn.

By the time the teacher arrived at my desk, all the students had either moved their eyes once or twice. Even the student we ignorantly considered a slow-witted outcast had only moved his eyes twice. I thought to myself, “If he moved his eyes just two times, I’ll read it with one movement, no problem.”

“Okay, David,” she said. “Your turn.”

With the teacher’s eyes locked onto mine, I stared at the line. How could I keep my eyes from moving? I first considered just staring at the page, but I was too scared I’d get caught, so I read the entire line, hoping that my eyes would not make a single unnecessary movement. Then I looked up. The verdict was about to be announced.

I held my breath, still anticipating that she’d say I read the line in one movement like the “smarter” kids (but I was prepared to settle for a worst-case scenario of two eye movements). She told the class that I had moved my eyes not once, or twice, but three times.

I was devastated. I insisted that something must be wrong. But the teacher would not change her mind. I had scored worse than any other student in the class.
I spent the rest of the day in mourning. Maybe I wasn’t a very good reader. Perhaps I wasn’t even intelligent. I was in a class for academically gifted students, yet somehow I no longer felt like I belonged.

To be continued tomorrow…

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