The Wrong Question

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Growing up, I was definitely the rule follower in my family. I grew up in a time where parents were revered, not talked back to. On the occasions when my brother or I did muster up the boldness to actually voice an opinion after an edict had been issued, it was immediately met by my mother crouching down to our level with a finger waved in our face and her threatening, “Don’t you dare talk back to me”, and let me tell you, that was ALWAYS the end of it. We positively knew what would have happened should we have taken that dare.

Fast forward forty years into my third decade of teaching. I’ve been fascinated as of late by the arguments by parents on social media over the latest incarnation of classroom distractions…the fidget spinner. Their rationalization falls in to one of these categories (yes, I have read all three):

1. It can help a child think and focus.
2. Students with ADHD need that outlet for their energy.
3. If used properly by an experienced teacher, they can serve an educational purpose.

Let me pause for a moment to laugh hysterically at #3…I’m not sure which is more disturbing…the fact that I have been insulted by the “experienced” teacher comment or that parents think they can justify this toy’s use by manufacturing some sort of every day educational setting where it would be appropriate.

Are there pros and cons and special circumstances where a special student may need something (not necessarily a spinner) to help them? Yes. But whether fidget spinners should be allowed in a classroom is simply The Wrong Question.

“What is the right question?”
I’m glad you asked.

“Why are parents arguing with what a teacher has asked?”

If the teacher says that Pokemon cards need to stay at home? Well then, they do. If the teacher asks students to use pencil, and not pen, than that is what they should be using. This debate over the fidget spinner is nothing more than parents catering to an already over-the-top spoiled generation of children that are increasingly allowed to do what they want and when they want. Most parents deny that this happens in their house, but come observe in any classroom and listen to the way students speak to teachers, peers, cafeteria helpers, and school administrators and you will quickly realize how child-centered most homes are these days vs. the adult-centered homes in which my colleagues and I were raised.

What I would like readers to take away from this, is that at home, parents are in charge, and at school, teachers are in charge. Teachers don’t tell parents what rules to make in their house. Teachers don’t tell parents what video games their child should and shouldn’t be allowed to play. Teachers don’t tell parents that their child needs to eat more vegetables and less fried food. And likewise, parents should not dictate what happens with the day-to-day running of their child’s classroom.

And getting back to my mother. She never, ever would have put up a defense for me to bring something to school that the school deemed inappropriate. Her time was too valuable to be wasted on such nonsense. That was the school’s business because they were in charge of her child during the school day and made the decisions that were best for students. A successful student will be one who learns at home that teachers and administrators (and their future bosses) are authority figures, and not someone whose authority is undermined by a helicopter parent.


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