Mr. Bruen, Better Today Than Yesterday

Interview by Kenni Sparkles

So to start off who are your heroes in life?
Ms. Morales: Ironman, me
Mr. Bruen: A guy named Dr. Hatch, Dr. Robert Hatch, he’s a professor of emeritus which is a fancy way of saying he’s retired, and he was a professor at UF and he was the first guy that really taught me how to think, think carefully and critically. He was also someone who said something really rude to me and got me to change the course of my life. It says heroes so plural, I’m going to put my dad in there. My dad is 78, he still works out for two or three hours a day and he spends the rest of the day working and there is no sign of slowing down so I aspire to be like that.

That’s good. How did the people stated in the last question shape your life into what it is now?
Mr. Bruen: Dr. Hatch told me that i was one of those kids that got out of college without learning anything, and he was right. So I had been using my intelligence to kind of slide past and do the minimum amount of work to get the best grades I could and none of that has anything to do with learning anything, and he pointed that out.
Ms. Morales: He was one of those students.
Mr. Bruen: I was. I absolutely was. He pointed that out and from that point forward I actually started to learn stuff in school. It happened to be in college so it was a little late. My dad, he’s my role model. I wanna be like my dad anyway I can be.

Alright so, third question, what do you consider your greatest achievement? You know, now that you are out of college, a teacher.
Mr. Bruen: I suppose the relationships I forge with my students, they are surprisingly resilient, I mean, let me be clear, you guys are here for three years and I have nice relationships with a lot of kids, a lot of kids trust me. I talk to a lot of kids, but I run into a kid three years from now, four years from now that I have now, they are still going to feel that way, I think that’s special. I had a student from my first group of sixth graders that I taught 6 years ago. She’s a senior in high school now, she came by to visit on schedule pick up day, she just wanted to say “Hi”, and say “Hey look I’m a senior, I’m graduating.” I thought, okay I did good. Make any sense? Yeah Definitely

Okay so, what is your motto?
Mr. Bruen: I wanna be better today than I was yesterday.

Okay, so how does this motto influence your life?
Mr. Bruen: It allows me to accept that I’m not perfect and to be satisfied to be making progress instead of having to reach some perfect ideal, and in a very real way it allows me to function.

What is the meaning of life?
Mr. Bruen: 42
Ms. Morales: That is the right answer, 42 42 Okay, good, good

What characteristics do you most admire in a person? You talk about how your students come to you afterwards and all that stuff so there must be something that stands out from some of those students that helps you develop relationships with them.
Mr. Bruen: Capacity for compassion, especially in teenagers, I’m always very impressed by that. It’s hard to do as a teenager, most teenagers through no fault of their own are entirely wrapped up in themselves, and I admire in the kids that I work with those that have the capacity to have compassion for their fellow teenager or their fellow man or their fellow whatever.

Ok, so, I understand that you are already doing what you want to do as far as job wise, so what’s next? What are you seeking in life?
Mr. Bruen: I don’t know, I’m quite satisfied with what I am and what I’m doing, I’d be happy just to keep doing it for the next 20 years. That would be awesome. So, nothing really

Okay, What place do you consider most important to you?
Mr. Bruen: Place? Oooh
Ms. Morales: Wawa
Mr. Bruen: Only when I’m really hungry

What place would you like to go to, whenever in a stressful situation or somewhere that you would like to go that would grant you peace or satisfaction? You know, what place means something to you?
Mr. Bruen: Explanation is a little bit long so okay. Before I became a teacher I was a photographer and I raced road bikes, I actually spent about 10 years in Gainesville, the first four I was in college and I graduated and I stayed, one of the reasons I stayed is because I was able to train on the roads around Gainesville. Basically Gainesville is like a tiny city, it has all of the characteristics of a city but its really small and it doesn’t have a lot of people in it, I mean it’s not as big as Orlando but it does have all the amenities that Orlando has. In 15 minutes, you are outside of Gainesville and in the country. So I would spend 15-20 hours a week on my bike riding those roads and I actually went back up to Gainesville over Spring Break and I got to ride down one of the roads that I used to train on all the time… and it filled me with the most amazing sense of peace, to be back there, to feel those curves. So I guess that, those roads I used to spend so much time on. Kind of not an answer, I guess, but there it is.

Earlier you talked about how in college you were just passing by without really learning anything, in through one ear out through the other, How does past Baby Boy Bruen compare to modern Bo Bruen?
Mr. Bruen: I kind of flipped my priorities around, I stopped caring about grades, we get evaluated as teachers, but what I care about is the job I do in my classroom. I care about the business end of things, I want my work to be the best that I can be, I want to learn as much as I can. Grades be damned. Why? Cause they are arbitrary and they don’t really matter, they are supposed to be a way to measure what really matters, but if you focus too much on the measurement you forget what really matters, yeah. Dr. Hatch got me to focus on the things that actually matter and I’ve kind of hung on to that.

I think that’s all I got, any last comments that you would like to add?
Mr. Bruen: I don’t know, umm, I could ask, what’s the context for this thing? What are you doing?

This is a project for Journalism class that we are learning how to interview people, so yeah.
Mr. Bruen: What do you have to produce?

Basically, I have to find a teacher and ask them personal questions to find out more about them, then we share it with our class
Mr. Bruen: Those are good questions but to restate your question about the meaning of life, you should change it to What brings life meaning, so the meaning of life is 42. What makes a life meaningful, hard work that you care about, that’s what makes for a meaningful life, that’s what I find here doing this job. It’s hard, it challenges me every day, and I really care about it. There is nothing that has felt better than that, so there you go.

I guess with a job that you don’t really care about that isn’t hard work you get bored of it fast because you aren’t really learning anything.
Mr. Bruen: Yeah, and hard work for hard works sake, there is some value in that, I’m not going to lie I’ve done some really hard jobs that were…that were good… and I mean the job itself was meaningless. But it was hard and there was some value there, but to have both at once…magic!

Alright, Thanks.

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