By Cody Thompson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Kids are spinning out of control! Fidget spinning, that is. Fidgets spinners are the latest gadget to sweep the school systems and many teachers and administrators find them both distracting and annoying.

The two-to-three pronged toys are essentially just ball-bearings encased in plastic that children can hold between their fingers and spin. Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a tool to help children with attention disorders focus, but many school districts feel that the toy has become less of a tool and more of a nuisance.

“If not used properly, fidget spinners can be a real problem, just like anything else,” Grapeland Elementary School Principal Don Jackson told the Messenger on Friday. “If overused they can create a hindrance on a student’s education as well as the education of the students around them.”

Though many educators and administrators find the toy distracting and frustrating, fidget spinners have created a variety of mixed emotions among education professionals in Houston County.

Jackson stated that he has no problems with students using fidget spinners as long as they are used responsibly.

“There’s a right time and place for fidget spinners, just like there’s a right place for cellphones,” Jackson said. “I don’t mind the students using them in the hallways or during recess, but when it interrupts their learning or another student’s learning is when I have a problem with them.”

Grapeland ISD does not currently have a policy specifically targeted towards fidget spinners, but one could be put in place if they become a problem during the 2017-2018 school year, according to Jackson.

“I’m kind of glad that fidget spinners didn’t start getting popular until close to the end of the school year,” Jackson said. “The summer will give us (the administration) time to decide whether or not there needs to be some policy in place regarding them.”

Similar to Jackson’s outlook on fidget spinners, Kennard High School teacher Karen Lenderman stated that she does not mind the toys in class as long as the students are not distracted by them. 

“I haven’t had a student that didn’t get their work done because of a fidget spinner, so I guess I’m just a little indifferent to them,” Lenderman said. “To be quite honest, there have been several fads in the past that were far more distracting than fidget spinners.”

Lovelady ISD does not have a policy in place for fidget spinners, allowing the teachers to decide how to deal with the use of the toy, according to Lovelady Middle School teacher Lisa Allen.

“I took up three (fidget spinners) during the last semester of school. I took two of them up during one of my (gifted and talented) classes because the kids couldn’t hear a word I was saying because they were playing with them,” Allen said. “I just started telling them to keep them in their lockers and to not bring them to class.”

Fidget spinners are meant to be used as a tool to help kids with attention disorders stay focused in class, but have become so popular that almost everyone has one, including the students without disorders, according to Allen.

“I feel that kids with actual disorders like Attention Deficit Disorder can benefit from fidget spinners,” Allen said. “But they’ve gotten so popular that just about everyone has one and they’ve become the ‘cool’ thing to have. It can be distracting for a kid who doesn’t have a fidget spinner, but wants one, to see someone spinning theirs in class.”

One thing that Jackson, Lenderman and Allen did agree on was that they believe that fidget spinners are just a fad and that they will eventually fade away in time.

“I think once summer starts the kids will find other things to do and the fidget spinner craze will go down significantly by the time school starts back next year,” Jackson said.

“There’s always going to be some new fad that comes in when the old ones go away,” Lenderman said. “It’s been that way since as far back as I can remember. When I was a kid, we used to have these ‘clacker’ toys that we loved, then they got banned so we found something else. It’s the same with fidget spinners.”

“(Fidget spinners) are a fad, just like jeans with holes in them or the Rubik’s Cube™,” Allen said. “They all passed and so will this.” 

Fidget spinners have not only infiltrated many elementary and secondary schools, but have also found their way into the hands of several students at colleges and universities across the country.

The toy has developed a clashing reputation among professors at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville: some hate it and some love it.

SHSU mass communication lecturer LeeAn Muns stated that she feels the fidget spinner is nothing more than a distraction.

“Fidget spinners are toys intended for children and have no business being in a college classroom,” Muns told the Messenger. “You’re supposed to be an adult, or at least able to act like an adult, in college. Therefore, you should be able to stay focused for more than five minutes without having to play with a toy.”

SHSU history professor Jadwiga Biskupska claims that she has seen a rise in attentiveness among many of her students since fidget spinners became popular.

“I teach military history and most of my class is lecture-based so it can be a little tiresome for the attention span after an hour or so,” Biskupska told the Messenger. “As long as my students are responsible with them, don’t interrupt my class and get their work done, I don’t mind them.”

Whatever your stance on fidget spinners may be, there’s no denying the popularity of the toy: fidget spinners were ranked 96 out of the top 100 best-selling products in the games and toys category on amazon.com and the top five fidget spinner videos on YouTube have over 10 million views each, according to a Forbes Magazine article.

The fidget spinner is without a doubt one of the most popular items available today, but with how fast fads come and go in this day and age, one question remains: will fidget spinners stand the test of time or will they go the way of the innumerable fads that came before and fade away into obscurity? Only time will tell. 

Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at cthompson@messenger-news.com.