I just read this article about Google, a company with a lot to teach us about classroom management:
Google might be the world's most innovative company. They accomplish this, in part, by allowing their employees to do 2 things most companies discourage: slacking off and failing.
Okay, not slack off, exactly. But from the outside, Google's 20% Rule, which allows employees to spend one day per week working on whatever project they think has value, seems like a waste of valuable company resources. However, the 20% Rule has led to more than half of Google's successful products.
These successes emerge out of a string of failures, but as any inventor will tell you, failure is just as valuable as success.
In the classroom, we could take some lessons from Google by allowing students to work on projects they deem valuable. And also by encouraging smart failure. (Not on the report card, of course, but that's certainly part of the problem....if everything they do is graded, they will be afraid to fail.)
Curiosity, experiment, trail and error....if it works for scientists and innovative companies, it can certainly work for the classroom.