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Basic Rights of Our Students

        For some reason the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" have been rolling around in my head for the last few weeks. Although immensely grateful for my country and the freedom that I so enjoy, I've never considered myself an overly patriotic kind of girl. So I'm still unsure why I've had the beginning of the Declaration of Independence is stuck in my head like the lyrics of some song that just won't go away.
        That being said, they've got me thinking about the basic rights that our forefathers felt every individual was entitled to in that phrase. While these words are often thought of in relation to our basic rights as citizen, aren't these the very basic rights we want our students to experience in our classroom?
        It is my desire to foster an environment this year that truly enables my students to thrive; to live life to the fullest while in my care. I realize this may be is a lofty goal (and occasionally feel like I'll be doing good just to make it to the end of the day), but in the context of my Reading/Language Arts classroom, I can start with making it a point to introduce my students to meaningful texts that sparks a love of literature and authentic opportunities to write. For this to be a reality, it means giving my students some liberty to explore topics they find fascinating and have an interest to learn more about; it means providing an array of choices when designing lessons, which can be contradictory in this one-size-fits-all day and age of education. And yes- that means more effort on my part to ensure more of a variety for students to choose from. I feel that by fostering these basic needs of ensuring my students thrive and providing choice in their learning, we- as a learning community- will pursue happiness. When you're plugged in through meaningful connections with others, intrigued by what your learning and have opportunities to express yourself through numerous avenues, the excitement can be palpable! Will this happen every day? I hope so. Will we have setbacks and failures? Probably; but these are just learning opportunities in the disguise of obstacles. Will my students feel like they have made a meaningful contribution to a learning community that has made an impact on their life? Absolutely because by making it my goal as their teacher, I am declaring my hope in their ability to be independent learners; to be real world problem solvers through meaningful connections and authentic opportunities to collaborate with others over the texts they're reading and pieces of writing they are publishing.
        While this may seem like optimistic wishful thinking, if these are our basic rights as citizens, then it isn't too far reaching to think these need to be the same basic rights we provide our students in the context of our classroom.

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