Recognizing Sunk Costs in Teaching

Erased blackboard

One of the business concepts that felt like a huge revelation when I learned it was the idea of “sunk costs.” 

When something has already cost us a lot of money, time, or effort, we’re reluctant to walk away from what we’ve put in.

And so: we’re more likely to continue to spend money, time, or effort on this same thing in the future.

There are lots of names for this when it’s working well: Dedication. Persistence. Commitment.

But if something is no longer a good use of our time, money, or effort, our past investment can keep us from seeing that. 

Sometimes, teaching ideas that seemed good at the time don’t work as you imagined.

Some of these can be streamlined. Some can be automated. Some can be reshaped into classroom jobs and handed off to the kids. But some might not be worth your time and effort in the months or years to come.

Even if you’ve already made the copies. Even if you have a laminated class set.

There are times when you need to keep your best ideas from slipping into the good-intention abyss.

But if you’re dealing with a sunk-cost situation, letting something slip into the abyss might be just fine.

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