Music Education and Social Emotional Learning by Scott N. Edgar

Jon Bubbett • Bubbett's BookshelfJuly 2022 • July 8, 2022

Few people would argue that music is a “calling.” However, teaching is a “calling” as well. Combining these two into one profession gives you something special! The most effective music teachers are not the ones who are simply purveyors of knowledge, but those who genuinely care about their students and strive to make the quality of life in the next generation better than the previous one.

What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is not a new concept. As music teachers, we are already doing and accomplishing many of these aspects of SEL. Social-emotional learning takes what a caring, nurturing teacher does anyway and presents it more intentionally. Music teachers are already doing most of the components of SEL daily. This book suggests ways to be more aware and intentional as you nurture the next generation.

Socialization in the Music Classroom

Socialization is an essential part of a student’s development. Understanding this process can be very insightful to all teachers. As music teachers frequently have the same students for multiple years, understanding socialization can help to better guide them.

Bullying in the Music Classroom

Understanding how socialization works also helps understand how bullying can occur, even in the music classroom. The music classroom, by its very nature, is hierarchical. Therefore, teachers must understand how bullying works and have strategies to promote and cultivate protective friendships to safeguard against victimization.

Music Educators are Not Counselors

There is a difference between being a facilitative teacher and being a counselor. While teachers often find themselves in the role of being a “parent” and “counselor,” there is a difference between offering support and understanding and being able to “engage in clinical, therapeutic, or diagnostic interactions.” As counterintuitive as it may seem, the author suggests teachers should never offer advice but rather lead students to find solutions independently. Several strategies are presented in this chapter on how to actively listen to students and guide them to solutions without offering advice but instead encouraging students to think for themselves.

Self Awareness and Self Management in Music Education: Self Discipline and the Music Within

 Focuses on relationship building and enhancing activities many music teachers already use. Most of the activities directly bear on what we do in the classroom and can further strengthen the rehearsal experience. Some activities include different ways to approach maintaining practice journals, breathing exercises for relaxation, and preparing our body for rehearsal. In addition, preparing our minds by practicing mindfulness, identifying emotions in music, having students “own” their performance, understanding tension and release in a musical phrase, and exploring emotional creativity are some of our ultimate goals as music teachers.

Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Music Education: Sharing and Communicating Through Music 

Explains how we bond together socially in music settings, which can add additional stress to our students’ lives in some instances. This chapter deals with how to “consciously capitalize on the potential benefits of social music-making while de-emphasizing the potentially stressful elements.” The activity “Who’s Leading, Who’s Following” is a lesson on modern-day leadership training. Leadership as it applies to all members and not just a few. Leadership from a musical perspective can include rotating soloists and student-run sectionals. Leadership as a service activity with humility is encouraged. “Leadership is not a title; it is an attitude, a way of life.” Diversity has become increasingly important in our education systems, “exploring diverse perspectives is essential to developing empathy and social awareness.” Aspects of teaching selflessness, dealing with frustration, and developing coping skills are all things teachers do regularly. These SEL activities present a way to do these things more intentionally.

Responsible Decision Making and Music Education: Problem Solving Through Music

One of the biggest goals of music education is to get students to think for themselves. Good decisions don’t happen by accident. They occur because someone was there to guide the student toward a good decision in a thoughtful way rather than trying to “fix” them. Teachers can provide a “safe environment” where students can learn from their mistakes. “Making mistakes is not the worst thing to occur; not learning from them is a different story.”

The Heart of Music Education – Our Common Bond

A few ending quotes and thoughts from the author:

“A music classroom can be a place where race, sex, gender, religion, disability, class, or age do not become objects of discrimination.”

“Music…is a uniting language that can help us overcome what makes us different and celebrate our differences.”

“Musicians who share in music-making can be one tool to help unite the forces which attempt to divide us.”

There is also a companion workbook (not reviewed) to use in a classroom setting which contains various activities. In addition to the workbook, online resources are provided with downloadable worksheets that correspond with the workbook.

2017 – GIA Publications, Inc. – $21.95 – 195 pages

Jon Bubbett’s teaching career spanned 38 years with the last 26 at Thompson High School in Alabaster, AL. Bubbett’s concert band and ensemble music is published through Excelcia Music Publishing, RWS Music, Eighth Note Publishing companies, and through his website

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