After hitting the Google Reader hard while at Subway the other day (probably should've been eating lunch and relaxing instead of working) I was inspired by @InnovativeEdu's post on asking kids to design their own learning. Having just switched to the project-based learning format for my classroom, I love to share what my students are doing at these professional development sessions we conduct.
The question that always comes up is "Yeah, but what level do you teach?" When my response is AP Statistics, it's immediately dismissed since "they are AP kids." So what if I said, "I had this great lesson where I stood and lectured for 46 minutes with zero audience participation!" I can almost guarantee to have the same response, "Well, your lecture worked so well because they're AP kids, no way that would work with my 4.0's!"
As an educator in a professional development workshop, why not spend that time to think of ways to reach the kids that are not "AP kids". It seems like that would be a better use of time than to confirm your suspicions that there just isn't anything that works to educate those that are not taking Advanced Placement courses.
The students in 4.0 classes are the ones that have been most vocal about being not interested in what you have to say. They are students that are completely unwilling/unmotivated to work unless it interests them. Know what is especially uninteresting...x's, y's, and slopes of lines. But these lower level courses cover basic equation solving and "find the slope" the exact same way, over and over again from the time the student is in 9th grade until 12th grade.
Great lessons, quality education, and interesting projects shouldn't be reserved for the best and brightest students. The 4.0 students don't need more lectures and more basic junk that they don't care about. They need to be interested, first and foremost. They don't need more discipline or a rigid classroom structure. They've told you 100 times that they hate that environment, so stop imposing it on them.
When I see my "AP kids" work on a project that they're excited about (sampling teachers in the school to see if they have tattoos, experiment on whether or not people can walk and text, see how often radio stations repeat certain songs) they aren't excited about it because they're "AP kids". They aren't excited about it because I threatened them with detention if they showed a lack of enthusiasm. They're excited about it because they had the choice in what they wanted to do. They're students, there is no way they are so drastically different than their peers that just so happened to not do well in one math class so they were forced to slide down the ladder and be stuck in "4.0 world".
Oh, and they learn way more from me doing their own projects than they ever could from answering some multiple choice and some free response questions for me.