Unforeseen consequences

Last year, I argued the importance of classroom teachers clarifying the consequences of students’ behavior. For example, if students fail to bring homework to class, what’s the consequence exactly? Tell them.

I still think that’s good advice in general for classes, but I’d like to modify it a bit. Classes aren’t real life, after all. In real life, no one knows the consequences for certain.

When I ate a jar of peanut butter every day for a month, I assumed I’d gain weight. I didn’t know, though, that it would mess up my skin or change my appetite. I also guessed I wouldn’t like peanut butter as much as a result of the experiment, but as it turned out, I enjoy it even more now.

When I lived without air conditioning for a year, I didn’t know it would have any lasting effects, other than maybe some money saved and an increased ability to deal with heat. As it turned out, I now feel cold in air conditioned buildings, much preferring indoor temperatures in the summer pushing 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I first ate chicken in Korea, my co-workers handed me two forks. Before that, I rarely ate chicken with even one fork, never with two. But that’s the Korean way, so I adapted while living there. Now, back in America, I’m continuing that custom, enjoying the duel fork style way more than the greasy finger version popular here.

I had no idea. I didn’t expect these results at all. I couldn’t weigh these consequences.

That’s life. That’s why I love to experiment and try new things. It’s because of these unforeseen consequences.

So in the classroom, yes, it’s good for teachers to be clear on consequences for specific behavior issues.¬†Our brains enjoy that certainty. For the rest of it, though, for the learning side, the consequences are uncertain. It’s probably good to keep that side of education, good to keep that side of life. That uncertainty keeps it exciting.