Here’s a question you don’t typically consider. Could the expectation of sight in a blind person allow them to actually see?
Could expectation be that powerful?
Turns out the answer to that question is that yes, expectations can allow the blind to see. I’m not going to get into the details of this incredible story. Rather, just go listen to this awesome new podcast by NPR. It’s called Invisibilia.
Invisibilia feels like a podcast handpicked for me. It’s a podcast that examines all the “invisible” things that influence human behavior. It hits all the really cool things I love to study: ideas, beliefs, assumptions, thought processes, and why we do what we do. And it does it with cool narrative arcs and a good mix of humor…sometime rather edgy humor given its NPR roots (the episode of fear had a very quick aside to a well known Saturday Night Live skit featuring Justin Timberlake and a box).
This particular episode raised questions about teaching and parenting.
On Expectations & Teaching
One insight (no pun intended) from listening to Daniel Kish was that it’s really, really important to get expectations correct. If you set the bar too low, students won’t learn to jump very high. In the classroom it’s particularly easy to get this formula wrong because you’re juggling a bunch of kids with a wide degree of capabilities at the start of school. All of which makes me wonder:
- Can an academic performance expectation be more common than different?
- How do you get that formula correct? Sure, the state sets expectations (standards), so this is somewhat dictated. But there’s still a good bit latitude.
- And what about the kids who keep tripping over the bar? Seeing your students fail to meet your expectation over and over again is quite exhausting and, frankly, depressing.
On Expectations & Adoptive Parenting
Adoptive parents are told by a wide array of professionals and adoption books to constantly lower their expectations.
Part of this makes good sense. With biological children, most parents project a family experience similar to their own. If you’re upper middle class, successful, and generally well educated (not to mention had a childhood that was solid and loving from the beginning), you naturally think your children will be like you. And for the most part, that’s how it works out.
But adoptive children – especially older adoptive children – come with their own particular bags of issues (after all, there’s a reason they had to be adopted in the first place). Much of the cognitive and emotional capacity of parents and their adoptive children will be spent dealing with those issues…not necessarily the every day milestones healthy children face like learning times-tables, eating well, and understanding the mechanics of speech between peers and adults. Speaking from experience, we adjust. Often.
Adjusting is not necessarily the same as lowering. Frequently we lower and then raise.
Still, this episode of Invisibilia made me wonder if we’re calibrating correctly?