"I have seen the fruits of the freedom factor at work when teachers challenge their students to describe the standards of excellence."
This quote really stuck with me because I recently experienced the power of this firsthand. After a unit on public speaking, I challenged students with an end of the year speech of 3-5 minutes. They asked questions about topics, content and delivery.
I told them the directions were very simple. Hit at least the three minute minimum, tell me a great story that only you can tell, prove a powerful point. Once they got into the writing of their speeches and they realized they could take it wherever they wanted, they did just that. I simply reminded them to "be as honest as you are comfortable being."
Instead of using the school's presentation rubric or writing rubric, I had the classes come up with their own hybrid rubric so they could assess how each other did. It ultimately put more ownership on their part and they cared more about hitting the marks they were supposed to hit.
I had a Native American foster kid tell me the story of being bounced from house to house by the Penobscot Indian Nation. I had a Katrina survivor tell me the story of her dog surviving the storm. I had a transgender student speak out against bullying.
It was by far the most powerful few days of class I have ever seen in seven years of teaching. I cried four times in six days. Many tissues were passed around the class. It was amazing. At a time in the year when most students mentally checked out of other classes, these students OWNED an assignment like I have never seen before… with no testing involved.