Water bottle flipping.
Little paper footballs.
My list is incomplete. There is a legion of ways kids use other objects to distract or fidget with. And no wonder. Quite frankly, a day in the life of a 6-period middle school kid and teacher is physically demanding. Imagine running for a flight eight times a day: in the morning, between every class, 30 minutes for lunch, at the end of the day, trying to take care of biological needs and process learning. It’s go-go-go all day. I completely understand why the average student senses they “need” this, how those spinners seem to help with attention, but from my anecdotal observations, they hurt more than help, if only because they distract us, the teacher, from being effective.
If you want someone to “blame” for the spinners, it’s this man, Scott McCoskery. He had very good reason to create a spinner. From an interview on NPR:
SCOTT MCCOSKERY: I had a long career in the IT world.
MALONE: This is Scott McCoskery, and as an IT guy in Seattle, he says he spent a lot of time on conference calls and in board meetings that he didn’t really need to attend.
MCCOSKERY: During those times, I often found myself clicking a pen, opening and closing a knife or…
MALONE: A knife in a board meeting, Scott?
MCCOSKERY: A small pocket knife. It was nothing too threatening.
MALONE: All right, all right.
Well, I guess we should be glad kids don’t flick switchblades in class.
One of my favorite education bloggers, Larry Ferlazzo comes out on the side of the spinners, telling teachers to ‘chill out.’ He also confesses to only seeing two out of his 130 high school students. Let that sink in. Two. One-hundred thirty. High. School. Not twenty to thirty a day out of 130 MIDDLE SCHOOL kids. All day, every day, most teachers in my building watch students who click on games sooner than the actual assignment. Kids who reach for a spinner versus a pen or pencil. I agree, we teachers do need to choose our battles. I know kids aren’t getting enough fresh air, time to eat, time to talk and play, and often I feel more like a jailer than an educator. And the inmates will do anything to keep from going insane, and I don’t blame them.
Health Buzz: Do Fidget Spinners Help With ADHD? This article has a balanced approach to them. Just, you know, in case you want to read a balanced approach versus my diatribe.
But I’m not battling spinners only: the onslaught of cell phone use, and if it’s not that, it’s talking. And then I’m told I need to have them engage in ‘accountable talk.’ What if you were told that in chunks of 55 minutes you had to only have ‘accountable’ conversations? I can only imagine how awful book club would be if we couldn’t chat, catch up, talk about kids, food, work, and then spend some time talking about the current book. The thing is–truly–students rebel all the time against this daily structure. If they didn’t they would go nuts. They don’t want extrinsic token-economy fluff, they want time.
As I plan out the next few weeks, I’m going to build that time in. And parents–if you’re reading this — consider instead of a spinner a little sketchbook or some books they can use when testing is over, or they have some time:
How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith
The Total Brain Workout by Marcel Danesi
Here’s your earworm du jour. You’re welcome.