Fidgeting has schools in a spin

Fidget spinners are the latest fad among schoolchildren and are marketed as aides for individuals with anxiety, autism and ADHD. Some schools have banned the toys for being distracting. Photo: Pixabay

Gershom Aitchison writes:

Fidget (verb): make small movements, especially of the hands and feet, through nervousness or impatience.

When a member of my staff first raised the issue of children having Fidget Spinners in class, I admit that I had no clue what they were.

One was duly pried from the fidgeting fingers of a Grade 5 and brought to our morning staff meeting so that judgement on classroom usage could be proclaimed.

The moment I held it, I couldn’t help myself, I immediately started to try and spin the thing (much less dexterously than the children do, I might add).

Within seconds teachers were passing the thing around wanting to have a go themselves and seeing who could spin it the fastest … so, if this is what goes on in class, I can see the problem.

  • If they are being used inconspicuously, as intended, as a tool to lessen anxiety and aid concentration, let the kids have them and let’s see if they actually have the advertised effect.
  • That does not extend to multicoloured luminous versions with flashing lights.

Seriously, until science can prove how flashing, multi-coloured lights can aid concentration, I’ll keep filing those ones under the heading of ‘ money-making gimmick’.

I should add that since we granted ‘permission’ to have these toys in class a couple of weeks ago, I have barely seen them at all (and they still remain categorised as toys, not tools).

It is almost as if by allowing them in class, it took away some of the novelty (and the fun of watching the teacher moving ever closer toward apoplexy). Imagine that.

Personally, when it comes to Fidget Spinners I think many schools and parents are missing the point of the argument. Should kids have them in class? That ship has sailed – they have them.

Do they work as an aid to concentration or anxiety? There is plenty of literature out there to help answer that (if you’d like to find out more then read Stephanie Pappas’s fairly unbiased and informative article in Livescience).

For me, the overarching question is… does their use in the classroom in any way hinder a teacher’s ability to teach, or interfere with another child’s ability to learn?

In a good school, the development of IQ is as important as the development of EQ (emotional quotient) and AQ (application quotient). Only through the successful integration of these three elements do we grow a successful critical thinker.

Hot-button topics like Fidget Spinners are an opportunity to create awareness – if we can teach a child in a mainstream class to understand that their Fidget Spinner allows them to apply themselves to the learning process (AQ), in a manner that has no impact on the environment and society around them (EQ), in other words without compromising anyone’s ability to teach or learn, then the focus is not on the toy, it’s where it should be – on the learning process as a whole.

The attention is moved away from the micro level where all the focus is on the current fad and shifted back to where it is important – a constructive and effective education.

My last word to parents, teachers and schools who are in a spin over this fidget fad: refocus and relax! This too shall pass.

 

Yours in education

Gershom Aitchison

Headmaster at Education Incorporated Boutique School

 

* This letter has been edited for length and clarity.

 

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