One of the time-tested ways to help children calm from emotional duress (or be able to go to sleep when they are tired and not in the best of moods) is to rock them. The rocking chair has been an essential piece of furniture whenever a baby or young child is in the home. I have memories of my wife rocking my children to sleep. I also remember putting them in a wind-up swing to calm them after a long day of activity. So, why do we stop this calming activity?
Classroom observation proves rocking still works
We tend to think the rocking motion is for babies or young children, but if we look at any classroom we witness how children and teenagers find ways to rock themselves. They may lean back in their chairs and rock (which is often corrected by teachers). They may be rocking their legs, feet, hands or fingers. Why do they continue to do so as they grow older?
The rocking motion soothes the brain and facilitates concentration along with the ability to think logically, which provides overall better cognitive processing. Rocking helps students who are experiencing a brain state of high arousal (hypervigilance) to be able to transition to a much more calm brain state to enhance his/her ability to learn and problem-solve.
For this reason, in one of our schools at Lakeside, we are employing the use of student rocking chairs. The rockers can be placed behind a typical student desk. The chairs permit students to rock back and forth slightly while they are in class as they listen, study, or take a test.
The sensation of rocking behind the desk is really less distracting to the rest of the class than other forms of improvised rocking. Moreso, we help students realize that the rocking is helpful to them to self-regulate their brain state and enhance their ability to learn.
At first the thought of student rocking chairs may seem to be a strange idea that may be annoying to some. However, once it is utilized and other students get used to the motion, it becomes quite normal and predictable.
Imagine entering a classroom and seeing it full of rocking chairs rather than traditional chairs.
Rockers would not only change the appearance of a typical classroom but also increase a student’s ability to have control and predictability regarding how they are feeling, thinking and learning. Moreover, when emotions are in control, so is their brain state. They become better able to hear, understand and practice the knowledge they are gaining from their teacher and classroom process.
Based on what we now know about brain states of our children and teenagers, I envision a day when we will have a good number of rocking chairs in each of our classrooms. It is a very simple and rather inexpensive purchase that I believe will add new dimensions to our students’ capacity to learn and more effectively achieve their academic goals .
Yes, this idea does start with calming babies in the rocking chair but why stop there? Rocking has the same impact to many children even through their school years and even beyond. It is another form of creating more resilience, empowerment and self-regulation in a world that is full of stress and distractions.
This is just basic neuroscience and something every school should consider for their students who can be calmed and more cognitive by constant motion. It could make a huge difference to their success in school and in life.
Rocking chairs in the classroom? Absolutely!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network