First, embed your activities in real-world situations. It's popular for schools to use "case studies" in which school lessons are applied in a fictional scenario drawn from real life. But even better is actually engaging with the world around you -- doing field research in science or the social sciences, or working with a class on a volunteer project.
Second, try to get as much *motivation* as possible from the outside world. Grades are a necessary evil, but as much as possible try not to make grades the sole reason why a student wants to do something. Find activities that are rewarding by their very nature. This will encourage students to find their own reasons to engage in an activity, rather than simply working the bare minimum necessary to earn the grade they want.
Third, continue to work, as much as possible, to change the learning situation at your school. Programs such as No Child Left Behind are good in principle (nobody wants to leave a child behind), but very reductive in the way they attempt to achieve their goals. Teachers simply can't avoid rote learning as long as the current version of NCLB continues to control their work environment. Lawmakers and administrators need to be persuaded to make accountability better match the way students actually learn.
You can't. Society is all about standardized tests, and decisions of placement is based solely on a bubble in answer, that is either right or wrong. It's the most convenient way for institutions, governments, teacher, ect to get an idea of what the kids have MEMORIZED, not what they know, beca it takes too much time and effort to find out and analyze the kids opinions and supported ideas, which is a true measure of a person's intelligence.
Well, given that most teenagers systematically refuse to think, i'd say with great difficulty. All insipid social stereotyping aside though, probably getting funding of some description would be a good start. Decide what you would like to think about, organise a lesson plan of some description based around that, get a few other people in on it and see if you can get the ball rolling.
If you can't get people behind you to begin with, keep trying and if it's a good idea something *will* happen.
Alternatively, you could shave your head, call yourself 'Xavier' and start a school for mutants.
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