This story was originally featured on Working Mother
In a world where gratification is instantaneous and the answer to an inquisitive kid is to toss a smartphone at them and hope they entertain themselves, it comes as no surprise that so many students suddenly have an attention span shorter than the amount of time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn. Really. Three minutes into any assignment I’ve given as a 6th grade English teacher, and the majority are reaching for their fidget spinner, which is supposed to help with ADHD.
Fidget spinners: the very phrase makes me cringe. Its claim to fame is that it allows one to channel their excess energy to help maintain focus. The only thing my students seem to focus on, however, is the spinner, itself, and not their work. It’s like a friggin’ siren song. The allure of someone else’s spinner spinning is too much to bear. What color is it? What type is it? What shape is it? What’s it made of? How many arms does it have? Are there removable ball bearings in it? What are THOSE made out of? Those are the worst part of these fidget spinners. When the ball bearings fall out in the midst of excessive, overzealous spinning and clatter all around my classroom floor mid-lesson, and they always do, it sounds like Plinko … in hell.
Eff. These. Spinners. Seriously.
Honestly, I just don’t understand it. How is it that my 2-year-old is able to sit long enough to fill the pages of an entire coloring book, yet adolescent students cannot function without these helicopters of distraction whirling feverishly on their fingertips? Mind you, these are the same kids who can sit and text for hours, spend incalculable amounts of time on social media, and take enough selfies in one sitting to carpet The Cloisters. So, how is it that the majority of these same students cannot stay focused long enough to read a brief passage?
Parents, do you really feel your child absolutely, inarguably NEEDS to have something to squeeze, flip, push, tap or spin in order to stay focused for more than a handful of minutes? Frankly, I find that to be ridiculous absurd interesting. Do you think spinners are a good idea, or did you just not feel like arguing with your kid? There are plenty of days I do not feel like arguing with my own children, and so I don’t. I let them eat the extra cookie, or walk around the mall clutching a bear, or wear a shirt I think is hideous. This whole spinner craze, however, is so not the same thing. I’m hard-pressed to believe you would let your child fidget with it at your dinner table, so why is it acceptable to let them play with this toy in a classroom? Yes, it’s a toy. Let’s stop with the flowery euphemisms. It’s a toy and I hate it. I actually have a visceral reaction when they emerge from a pencil case or pocket, like a sadistic version of Pavlov’s bell experiment.
Truth be told, I totally sympathize with absentminded fidgeting when stressed, bored or worried. I, myself, am a cuticle picker. It’s a gross habit I’ve had since before I can remember, but my brand of fidgeting does NOT affect anyone else’s ability to focus. Nobody sees it, hears it or is distracted by it. As the teacher, I am thoroughly distracted by your child’s trendy toy. It makes it difficult for me to focus and do my job, and I worry about the students in the room who are completely thrown off track because it’s all they see. These are not the helpful devices they were intended to be. Instead, they’ve become the Millennial/Gen Z/Linkster version of Pokémon cards, Pogs or Tamagotchis. Now I understand why MY teachers hated those obnoxious things with the same red-hot rage I feel for fidget spinners.
My suggestion, parents: If you need to buy this thing, thereby forcing me to watch them twirl around my classroom, please send in a little gift card too. Better make it one of those Visa cards that can be used toward any type of purchase, such as wine … lots of wine. I’ll be sure to thank you for your thoughtfulness as I pour myself a glass (or four) and sit down with my own children to explain why Mommy will NOT let them play with this toy (because they’ll probably beg me to buy it, and I will … because I won’t feel like arguing) in their classrooms.