A funny thing happened when I stopped telling kids what they had to do.

Back when I was in the classroom I was approached by someone in our district who wanted me to submit some of my students’ artwork in a public showing. Normally I would be all over an opportunity like this. But this time the timing was all wrong. Much of the students’ best work was already on display at a local museum and so would not be available. Our open house was the same day as the deadline to submit work and I need to be sure the open house was strong. And to top it off, many students were in the final stages of preparing for the SkillsUSA California Championships. I did not need another thing on my plate. But I did not want to alienate the district person either. What to do?

I turned it over to the students. I told them about the opportunity. I did not give them an assignment. I did not give them requirements. I didn’t tell them what they had to do. I told them what they could do if they wanted. It turned out they wanted to. Many students went the extra mile to produce pieces for the district event. Of course they did. They had spent the year experiencing success- public success- by doing the kinds of things they wanted to do, as opposed to doing the silly useless tasks I used to assign that nobody wanted to do. Including me. Giving kids a voice really brings out the best in them.

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