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Student Well-Being: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Music Education
In order for SEL education and tools to be effectively used in music education the use must be intentional, embedded into the musical process and product, and sustained. Musical social emotional learning must be a collaborative effort with students, never something done to students. To capitalize on the transformative potential of the music classroom, focus must be put on helping students in these key areas:
Better understand their identity and how that informs their beliefs, mindsets, and decisions.
Facilitate a sense of belonging in the music classroom where students and educators feel safe taking risks and being vulnerable.
Amplifying student voices so they are experiencing agency and affecting meaningful change in their classrooms, schools, and community.
Why is SEL important now – and its connection to music education? (Video Below)
While SEL has been around for more than 2 decades, it has recently been an emerging educational priority as our school leaders have confronted the ever-increasing signs of stress and trauma our students are experiencing. The alarming rise in child and teen mental health challenges (appearing as early as Kindergarten), have contributed to what is clearly a mental health crisis in our schools and society. All of this was occurring prior to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges due to missed milestones (graduations, concerts, proms, trips, athletics, student activities, travel), trauma, loss, loneliness, and even questions regarding career aspirations and finding a successful pathway to one’s own passion in life.
The confluence of student mental health and well-being and the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the need for SEL front and center as our students return to their schools. Long after the fiscal and public health crisis recedes from our view… the mental health crisis will remain for years to come.
Over the past few years there has been increasing recognition about the unique connection between music and arts education and social and emotional learning. In fact, noted SEL pioneer Dr. Maurice Elias from the Rutgers Social Emotional and Character Development Lab stated:
“I believe everyone will soon come to realize that our arts educators are the secret weapon to implementation of social-emotional learning in our schools.”
The number one priority of our schools as we emerge from the pandemic is the social emotional well-being of our students, faculty, and staff and music education and educators will play a critical role
As we return to school it is critical to remember that our students will not learn:
until they feel safe
until they feel valued
until they have a sense of belonging, and
until they are heard
That is why the intersection between music and arts education and social emotional learning will be so important as our students return to schools.
Why is SEL a strong argument for music education?
Purposeful integration of SEL into music education will enrich the students’ personal connection to music.
The relationship built between teachers and students over multiple years of instruction fosters the caring environment necessary to help build school connectedness and foster empathy.
The perseverance needed to dedicate oneself to musical excellence fosters resilience both in and out of the music classroom.
Musical creation fosters self-awareness and allows for students to develop a greater sense of autonomy and emotional vocabulary.
The collaborative community developed in the music classroom around music-making welcomes discussions and an awareness of acceptance and embracing diversity.
Musicians learn the necessity of personal goal-setting, self-assessment, and accountability as they develop high standards for musicianship and themselves.
Music is a cultural necessity and is fundamental to being human. Music education and SEL exposes and deepens this for a cross-section of the student body.
Music Educators often address different aspects of SEL in their everyday practice either through individual or across multiple competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making). In some cases, these competencies are being addressed in a tacit way, without making explicit connections to the visual and performing arts standards.
Tools and Resources
Here are some tools and resources for embedding SEL into your classroom:
For information and resources on the intersection of social emotional learning and music education visit the Center for Arts Education and Social Emotional Learning at: https://artsedsel.org
For information and tools to help embed SEL into your curriculum and lesson plans learn more at the Arts Education and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Framework at: www.selarts.org
Music is important and can provide many benefits to those who participate including but not limited to the areas of: emotional, educational, and economic. Watch the video to learn more!
Dr. James Weaver is the Director of Performing Arts and Sports for the National Federation of High School State Associations. He has been a teacher and administrator at the district, state, and national level. As the Director of Performing Arts and Sports, Dr. Weaver oversees student participation, professional development, and awareness of performing arts activities throughout the nation’s 19,500+ high schools. Dr. Weaver has been a part of several national projects for performing arts educators including serving as the co-chair of the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study, creating copyright compliance resources, and developing national trainings for performing arts adjudicators. Dr. Weaver specializes in educational administration and leadership focusing on professional development and teacher job satisfaction and retention. Dr. Weaver has degrees from Concordia College - Moorhead, Northern State University, and the University of South Dakota.
Lynn Tuttle (LynnT@nafme.org) is Director of Public Policy, Research, and Professional Development for the National Association for Music Education. Her duties include supporting music educators and state leaders in the areas of standards, assessment, research, teacher evaluation, and the interconnection of federal and state policy. She also manages the production of NAfME’s 6 publications for the field. She is primary author of NAfME’s ESSA resources, and is the staff lead for the Association’s 5-year Teaching with Primary Sources grant from the Library of Congress. Lynn holds degrees from Peabody Conservatory of Music (valedictorian), Johns Hopkins University (Phi Beta Kappa), Arizona State University. Lynn continues to teach, study, and perform as a flutist and singer, and is the mother of two young musicians.
Justin Bills, Choir Director, Utah
Jennifer Brooks, Band Director, Oregon
Craig Manteuffel, Performing Arts, KSHSAA
Kyle Mills, Manager of Performing Arts, NFHS
Bob Morrison, Director, Arts Ed New Jersey
Marcia Neel, Music Education Consultant
Amy Perras, Instructional Supervisor for Music, Art and Library Media, Connecticut
Darin Au, Council for Guitar Education member, Honolulu, HI
Brett Nolker, Society for Music Teacher Education, Greensboro, NC
Ryan Shaw, Society for Music Teacher Education, East Lansing, Michigan
Michael Stone, Chair, Council of Music Program Leaders, Bakersfield, CA
Rob Lyda, Chair, Council for General Music Education, Auburn, AL
Jennifer Kauffman, Council for General Music Education member, Annapolis, MD
Anna Halliday, Council for General Music Education member, Montevallo, AL
Dean Luethi, Chair, Council for Choral Education, Pullman, WA
Susan Smith, Chair, Collegiate Advisory Council, Troy, AL
Richard Holmes, Council for Band Education member, Dallas, NC
Corren Duffy, Council for Choral Education member, Missoula, MT