Fidget Spinners: An End of School Year Metaphor

Well, that time has come again. There were times when this school year seemed to fly by and other times it felt like we were crawling to reach the finish line. And though this school year was filled with ups and downs, good days and the inevitable not-so-good days, we survived teacher friends!

When I think back to this school year, one thing in particular sticks out in my mind:

FIDGET SPINNERS.

Where did they come from? How did students with attention issues ever focus without one?

If you’re sensing my sarcasm, read on. Because I can’t possibly think of a better metaphor for the last quarter of the school year than these newly-outlawed devices.

Let’s start with the first day that one appeared in the halls. This can be compared to that exciting feeling we felt when we were entering 4th quarter, the home stretch. The buzz from my students in hallways over these new devices was paralleled by the buzz from my coworkers that we were that much closer to sweet sweet summertime.

Then, we start to see these fidget spinners to appear in all different shapes, sizes, colors, some even glowed in the dark or had flashing lights.The diversity in these simple toys can be compared to the diversity of the students who I get to teach every day. Even though we are nearing the end of the year, it’s an important reminder that all of our students are unique, like these spinners, and we need to continue to meet the needs of these individual learners.

Before we knew it, it felt like every kid in the school had at least one, if not multiple of these spinners. I remember that day in sort of an oddly fond way, because I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. This day took me back to the fads and trends that we experienced and participated in when I was just about their age. Giga Pets. Beanie Babies. Tech Decks. Pokemon Cards. Pogs. Even yo-yo’s had made a comeback for a short while. We too had toys that annoyed our teachers and eventually probably got banned from classrooms. But let this be a reminder to us as teachers, that at the end of the day, they are still KIDS. They still want to do what all of their friends are doing. Our job is to merely teach about the appropriate times to use these spinners and when they need to buckle down and do their work.

Once everyone had one of these spinners, teachers began to get irritated by them. I follow enough teachers from all over the WORLD on social media to know that this problem was much more than just at my school. We as teachers, got ANNOYED. REALLY ANNOYED by these fidget spinners. This is all too similar to how we can get annoyed with individual students or specific behaviors, especially toward the end of the school year. So like many schools, we too banned these toys in classrooms. Now, we can’t “ban” displeasing behaviors we may experience from some of our students can we? No. We must exhibit patience and continue to redirect these children in hopes to correct their behaviors. So let the annoyance of the fidget spinners serve as a reminder that we need to continue dealing with issues in a positive manner to ensure the best classroom environment through the end of the school year.

Once the school-wide ban was put into place, there were still some teachers who allowed students to have these spinners in their classrooms. At first, I wanted to feel frustrated, but then again, no two classrooms are run the exact same way. What works for one teacher, may not work for another. We have to remind ourselves that we have to do what works best for US. And when students complain that “Other teachers let us have them!” I remind them that no two classrooms are the same and usually include the phrase, “Well that teacher must just be cooler than me,” and that typically ends all argument.

Just when you think the spinner craze is over, the underground trade of them starts. From what I hear, students are selling and trading spinners on the down-low at our school; or my favorite: just letting their friends “borrow” their spinner. Well guess what? It's usually these “friends” that get out the spinners in class, because if they get it taken away, there’s really no loss on their end, it wasn’t theirs to start with. Then the blame game starts. The person who’s spinner it is comes to me, usually upset that I have their spinner. To which I remind them, they were the one that gave it away. Accountability. This is a character trait I try so hard to teach year in and year out. Students need to be reminded at the end of the year that they are still accountable for their actions, their words, and their grades; placing the blame elsewhere (i.e. the person they GAVE their spinner to) will not get them very far.

Next we move to the little sense of joy I feel when I confiscate one of those little spinners. I know it’s terrible to say, because it does upset my students, but the expectations were clear to begin with, right? Now, I’m not one to brag, but my record is 3 in one day all before lunch time. The metaphor here lies in the feelings my students have when they come to me at the end of the day excited to get their spinner back. Usually this exchange involves a brief conversation about “making smart choices,” (my go-to teacher line) and how I don’t want to see one in my classroom again. The feeling my students have upon getting their spinners back is more or a less a feeling of relief. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a feeling of relief at the end of the school day sometimes. For me and my students, tomorrow is a new day. Next year is a new year. A mentor once told me that teaching is the best career because each year we get a fresh start. We get to learn from our mistakes and success to be better for ourselves and for our students each following year. So getting your spinner taken away at the end of the day or having a rocky end to what was sometimes a challenging school year is not the end of the world. Next year is a new year and you’re only going to get better.

Best of luck on your end of year endeavors!


HEY THERE!

Hello, I'm Lauren. I'm a 6th grade math teacher in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mathematics in the Middle is an educational blog devoted to resources and ideas that can be applied to any middle school mathematics classroom.

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