To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Another school year comes to a close. As an elementary school teacher, I felt inspired to share some parting reflections.

At this time of the year, a multitude of thoughts and emotions occupy my head and heart. The students, or more specifically, my class of students. Will the tools with which I hoped to have empowered them be productively applied throughout their lives? Like any teacher and parent, I want so much for them to thrive, to be independent and motivated thinkers, to be creative, to respectfully question and challenge, to persevere and to succeed.

At the end of this school year, I’m mindful how bittersweet (for lack of a better word and the risk of sounding cliché) the final days of school feel. After roughly 20 years in this profession, I still have difficulty "letting go" during these last days, and, consequently, struggle to transition seamlessly into summer mode.

For approximately 180 days, I am more than just an academic classroom teacher to my elementary students. As an educator, I assume many roles. I believe, at various times, I can also be a counselor, a protector, an advocate, a representative, a mediator, a disciplinarian, a presence of stability, consistency, and continuity, a father figure and a role model. This truly awesome responsibility that is entrusted upon me, and all that it entails, is not something I can simply cast aside when the calendar tells me the academic school year is complete and my contractual duties have been fulfilled.

This particular year resonates with me as it was consumed with new demands and a level of intensity never before asked of my students, specifically, full implementation of the state’s mandated Common Core curriculum and data driven tests, with their rigorous, challenging, lengthy, frustrating, and exhausting daily lessons and homework. Admirably, the children accepted and complied with what was asked of them. Their trust in my leadership never seemed to waver. In return, my respect for them continued to grow with the completion of each of the many, and seemingly endless, assessment hurdles they conquered. I repeatedly told them we were in this together ... learning together. In my honesty, I never hesitated to praise the accomplishments of my students, while sharing how, at their age, I would have struggled under the same demands they faced. That is the truth.

So, my hope this year is that I was able to effectively find that "perfect" balance of satisfying my professional obligations as a state-employed public school teacher, while remaining true to my core values/beliefs and the reasons why I became an educator in the first place -- wishful thinking, perhaps. I suppose, only time will truly tell. Until then, there’s always next year to try again.

MICHAEL ROBBINS

Great Barrington