I Failed

27 out of 28 sounds great…but what about that one and all of “that ones” in the past…?

I sat there, agonizing pit in my stomach, emotions volatile and corrosive, as a tear slowly burned its way down my face. I could not believe that I allowed this to happen. And if this student had the courage to share this so tactfully, how many others have felt this way and never shared it? The tears multiplied as I attempted to navigate this feedback.

The question: “What else do you think Mr. Bronke should know to make next year’s class even better?”

I usually LOVE reading the responses to this question at the end of the year. Like the student who puts everything into his English paper anxiously awaits getting back the glowing feedback from the teacher, I also pride myself in putting my everything into my teaching, and in the past, have been lucky enough to receive glowing feedback from my students.

As I read, it seemed as if this year would be much of the same. Students so graciously shared how much they enjoyed the class, how I should continue to do X or Y because it was their favorite part of the year. And then there it was:

“ I hope that in the future you will think about treating all students equally, including the introverts who are seemingly quiet and boring (like me I guess). But once people get to know me, I’m way more than I seem on the outside.”

I have always tried to be gentle around introverted students; as an extreme extrovert (especially when teaching), I never wanted the introverted student to feel put on the spot or uncomfortable with how much I enjoy socialization. Never once did I consider this opposing viewpoint shared by my student. Blinded by my own bias, my own personality, and flat out stupidity, I failed: failed to make EVERY student feel valued, failed to connect with EVERY student, and failed to model the very empathy that I preach about daily with my students.

The past is static, unchangeable; however, the past can be the best teacher any of us have ever had. And because of this past, I can make sure I get better, that I take this feedback to create meaningful change in my disposition, my understanding, and my engagement in the classroom.

Here is the reality: 96% is great in almost all arenas — an amazing free throw percentage, a fantastic grade on a test, an stunning profit margin; however, when it comes to making sure all students feel valued, 96% = failure.

Being an anonymous survey, I am deeply saddened that I will never know who had the courage to share this with me, never have the chance to apologize, and most tragically, never have the chance to really get to know him/her. So while I know this won’t repair any damage I did, I want to say three things:

I am sorry; I will change; but most importantly, THANK YOU.


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