Straight through your skin to your bones where it stays forever.

“Why is she such a sucker?” the professor asked the class. The graduate students looked at their notebooks, cleared their throats, or squinted as if the sun had hit them in the eyes. “To me,” he continued, tapping my paper on the table to even up the pages, “this paper says that she is an idiot. Don’t you think?”

If a spear had shot from his arm and pinned my heart to the wall behind me, I’d have been grateful. I’m still not sure why I didn’t cry, but I sat in my seat, avoided eye contact with everyone, and when the professor asked me if I thought the paper was any good, I managed to say no without squeaking. Sometimes shame can vibrate straight through your skin to your bones. That’s how it felt for me anyway, when I had to read that paper out loud to the class. After I finished reading to a very silent room I considered never speaking again.

Well, the paper was bad. Five minutes after handing it in, I knew I had screwed up, and I had five days to think about how I’d be punished in front of my better educated, older, more experienced classmates. At least I faired better than the woman who he called dippy.

Humiliation, this professor would say, is a great teacher. Hey, a baseball bat with nails might do the trick too. You certainly wouldn’t forget either lesson.

5 thoughts on “Straight through your skin to your bones where it stays forever.

  1. This scene works for me. Since you seem to be aiming for intense humiliation of the narrator, you might have the evil professor be even more cruel. Maybe have him read a sentence from the paper aloud and ridicule it in a way that gets to the core of the narrator’s specific (perceived) failings. I hate the prof but could stand to hate him even more.

  2. I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that this was a true story. That would explain why it was so upsetting for you to reread it. How horrible. I’d like to give that guy a piece of my mind.

  3. I had a professor shoot me down badly, too, although not publicly. He wasn’t mean, he was just selfish, I think. He was my senior project adviser and I was trying to do a book of poetry as my honors project, and he flat out said he didn’t think I could do it. Although I’ve never really stopped writing poetry, I never did follow through with goal of being a “poet”, but I find my time with poetry has improved my poetry and perhaps my visual art tremendously.

    As a teacher, though, I would like to know where he got his educational philosophy.

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