Thanks to Doug Peterson‘s This Week In Ontario Edublogs post, I read Jonathan So‘s recent post on fidget spinners. I think that Jonathan makes many wonderful points in his post, and ties these points back to self-regulation and connections with kids. As someone who continues to work on really listening to students (of all ages), I certainly appreciate what he’s saying here. I engaged with Jonathan a few times through comments on his post, and later, through Twitter, and it’s really my second comment that resulted in this post of mine.
I continue to wonder if so many problems would be solved if we just gave students a little more time. Maybe it comes down to, is every problem really a problem?
As I implied in my comment to Jonathan, I am not going to pretend that I’m perfect at doing this. My amazing teaching partner, Paula, continues to remind me to “just wait.” It can be hard. Often I have to wait way past my level of comfort.
- The room is too loud. Make it stop.
- The toys are distracting. Put them away.
- The children are arguing. Intervene.
- The task is too challenging. Help out.
What if we just stood back and watched? What if we gave the time for the noise, the arguments, and the silliness … and then waited to see if we got to calm? Would it happen? I bet that we’d find that we have to say and do far less than we think. I say this because I’ve had someone like Paula reminding me again and again to just let things be/give them another chance, and I continue to be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
This conversation kind of reminds me of what I used to say in presentations about inquiry: “if you base your decision on continuing with an inquiry approach after your first experience giving it a try, you will likely never do it again.” Why?
- Students are unaccustomed to the approach.
- They are still learning how to ask good questions.
- They are still learning how to solve problems independently.
- They are still learning how to make use of the space and resources in the classroom.
- They are likely meeting with more failures than successes.
Maybe the same thing can be said when bringing a new tool into the classroom: students are still experimenting to see if this tool works for them. I’m not saying that fidget spinners will work for everyone, and I do support the ideas that Stuart Shanker shares in his post about them. If we want to figure out if they do or don’t work though, we need to give them a fair shot. For those students where fidget spinners are not successful, hopefully they will recognize this on their own, but if not, we have a great opportunity to work with them, ask questions, and help students find a calmer alternative.
In one of his tweets to me, Jonathan mentioned the problem he sees with waiting.
@avivaloca Yup but the problem is we as a community of teachers jump and Ban. Then kids will do it cause we said no.
— Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) May 12, 2017
I wonder though if students continue to bring in and use these tools “because we said no,” or “because this is what they really need.” Either way, I can’t help but wonder if a “sleep on it” rule would help.
@MrSoclassroom Maybe then there has to be an agreed upon rule about how long to wait before instituting new policies. It's like the "sleep on it" rule.
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) May 13, 2017
How many issues would become non-issues if we just waited long enough? Sleeping on it (sometimes for multiple days), isn’t always easy, but I think it may be necessary. What do you think?