So I picked my daughter Julia up from school today. She said she had done a homework assignment, choosing the option of writing and recording a soundtrack to Chapter 3 of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. She had me listen to the soundtrack, which she had recorded using the "Garage Band" program on her laptop. She spent most of yesterday on this assignment. It was actually brilliant. 3 and 1 half minutes of music. She had put together the music, playing trumpet, adding other tracks... She asked me how to improve it. It was hard, because I thought it was already good, but I suggested putting more church bells in at a particular moment.
So that's the perfect pedagogical situation. A brilliant assignment from the teacher, and the kid buys into it wholesale. I didn't have to do much but tweak it. If your students buy into your assignment, then they will do great work. The teacher is not that "nice," because she demands a lot of work. But the kids will do the work.
When Julia was in 2nd grade, I taught poetry to her class, using Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?. The kids wrote really great poems for me. I would come in every other day for two weeks. That was actually one of my triumphs of teaching. Kids would come up to me years later and say, "Mr. Mayhew, how about a poem?"