I love a good soapbox - there is nothing like going off on a tangent for a long time as passion builds and frustration kicks in because you KNOW what you are saying is right, and anyone not following your belief is clearly off the mark.
I have a great soapbox for all types of topics...Library vs. Learning Commons, makerspace, special education, curriculum, planning, student support, family support, team support, and on, and on, and on…
It's funny how quickly a soapbox can kick in as well, and it doesn’t take much...don’t believe me? Go up to any teacher and say this: “I think teachers are overpaid babysitters.” --- Then sit back and wait, trust me, a soapbox lesson will shortly follow.
I was talking with a parent the other day and she pitched me a soft ball right over the plate when I thought she said…”You know, I think the problem in education is kids just can’t learn these days, everything is just handed to them so they don’t know how.”
I couldn’t help myself...I couldn't just leave a statement like that sitting out there, so I respectfully disagreed with a 10 minutes soapbox speech that would be been up for an Academy Award had it been filmed. I made my point, the parent seemed to agree with my thoughts.
We finished our, admittedly, one sided discussion, and as she left she said this: “I love how passionate you are about these kids, maybe parents giving kids everything these days isn't the problem.”
I sat there, silent. Wait a minute, I just gave this lady a phenomenal soapbox speech about why kids can learn. I thought we were debating the idea that kids today can’t learn...not questioning parenting today. I ran back through the conversation in my mind and realized I made a mistake. What I chose to hear was, ”You know, I think the problem in education is kids just can’t learn these days, everything is just handed to them so they don’t know how.” Yet, what she said was,“You know, I think the problem in education is kids just can’t learn to do things on their own, everything is just handed to them by their parents so they just don’t seem to know how.”
Slight difference, she was sharing her thoughts on parenting today, yet got a friendly lecture from me about why our kids can learn.
Soapboxes are driven by passion, by beliefs so strongly rooted that we often find reasons to share these thoughts. Truth be told, until that moment I never saw anything wrong with a good soapbox. But I decided to do an experiment…
I asked 10 teachers what their biggest soapbox topics were - Admittedly, I did ask people who I knew may have different opinions - something very interesting happened as they were as follows :
Teacher 1: Special education students need to be in the general education setting at all times
Teacher 2: Special education students need settings and supports built for their specific needs
Teacher 3: Departmentalizing elementary is key to student success
Teacher 4: Non-Departmentalized schools are most effective
Teacher 5: Students must have choice in order to have ownership
Teacher 6: Problem based learning is the future of education
Teacher 7: Everything in education is cyclical, keep doing the same thing long enough and you are doing the right thing again
Teacher 8: Change in education is vital to student success
Teacher 9: Instructional technology is the fastest growing, and most important, part of education today
Teacher 10: Technology is nice, but nothing is more important than a paper book and a great teacher
It doesn’t take long to notice a glaring issue...Not all soapboxes match.
For most people, when it comes to sharing a soapbox moment the mouth moves and the mind turns off. Look back to the example I shared above, I spent 10 minutes talking about why kids can learn, yet never did I stop, think, or even reflect on the actual conversation/comment. Soapboxes are usually created on core beliefs, beliefs we will fight for, argue for, and stand for. Yet, for me, when a soapbox begins, the learning stops.
The learning stops...that is the problem with soapboxes. In the world of education things change constantly - in order to truly be a successful educator, you need to be learning constantly. In essence, if you want to have a soapbox, it needs to be fluid.
Look at the examples above...I have a counter soapbox speech for at least half.
Maybe, for those of us with soapboxes loaded and ready, we need to step off the soapbox and shift to a seated conversation. After all, if our goal is to be successful educators, and we know we need to learn constantly, we might as well listen and share, as opposed to lecture and stand.
Full circle...think back to my parent moment...what if, after she said: “You know, I think the problem in education is kids just can’t learn to do things on their own, everything is just handed to them by their parents so they just don’t seem to know how.”
I simply responded with - “I think you make an interesting point...let’s talk about that more.”
Imagine what I might have learned...