Entering a School with Music: A Place to Practice Habits of Mind

Growing up, music had a huge influence on my life. Let’s just say that I come from a family of music enthusiasts. My brother is a pianist and my mother was a dancer. Suffice to say, I grew up under the influence of melodies and beats.

That’s why I’m in a perfect position to say that music helped me in all spheres of life. Other than bolstering practical skills and powerful Habits of Mind like creativity, imagination, and focus—I strongly believed it made me more empathic and a keen listener.

But, this post is not about me. It’s about why it’s paramount that schools incorporate music as part of their everyday culture and also the curriculum. Why? Because it fosters all the amazing qualities I mentioned and so much more. Moreover, music simply has the amazing ability to bring everyone together—in a way we can’t explain—but it does. In the classroom, music offers inclusion to shine by providing calmness, relaxation, brain breaks, and social cohesion. For students with learning disabilities, music can be a game-changer by offering opportunities for building peer relationships and positive outcomes. And, being a teacher myself—I’m more than qualified to advocate for all that.

We are emerging from a long pandemic. Everything was online, including online music lessons. But, it’s almost over and the schools are opening up and after such a long break from conventional schooling, it shouldn’t be surprising if we find a large number of students out of focus and having difficulty concentrating. In particular, students with learning disabilities need support and opportunities in getting them back into a productive and focused mindset for the school year.

Music and Concentration

Let me share a story. Growing up I wasn’t particularly good at Math. Back in those days, we didn’t have a ton of technology. I remember being particularly enthusiastic when I got a radio. I would come back from school and when it was time to get into math lessons, it would turn on the radio and let the station play whatever was on.

There was this distinct feeling of being so immersed in the music that many of the answers to complex equations seemed to come naturally to me. I was fully in the moment and mindfulness came naturally. It was metacognition! Yes, I knew myself…what worked for me…and the feeling that “music” had on my productivity. I was now the official driver of my brain.

Music does that to you. It tickles your subconscious and gives you answers that you didn’t even know you had. When employed strategically in schools, it could be a powerful enforcer in developing strong Habits of Mind in students. Focus and concentration—which connect to metacognition—are some of the most crucial ones. And, for students with learning disabilities, this habit is key.

Music and Keen Listening Skills

It’s important for schools and the entire education system to figure out how to deploy musical education in a way that goes beyond just one session. If they want kids to become keen listeners, there’s literally not a more powerful tool in their arsenal than music. And, music is inclusive. It meets the needs of everyone, offers benefits in different ways, and can possibly develop habits and listening skills you never thought imaginable. Take for instance the habit of listening with understanding and empathy. While listening to a song the listener devotes mental energy to the words, ideas, and emotions. What better way to develop listening skills!

Music can be conducted and achieved in a bunch of ways. Teachers can do that by conducting musical games or getting them to play an instrument. They could also do it in the form of recitals or listening games.

Research tells us that music stimulates auditory development in the human brain. Active listening, especially in a group setting, forces you to pay attention to the dynamics, harmonies, tuning, and tempos rather than just it being noise or random notes.

We can all agree that keen listening and listening with understanding and empathy are integral life skills that help you well beyond maintaining a successful career or even running a corporation. It’s the ability to listen to subtle commentaries of life that help recognize opportunities in a disguised form.

With so many distractions all around us; what with the constant bombardment of information, mobile phones, and ever-increasing screening time—students could do well with Habits of Mind (HOM). And, for students with learning disabilities, these productive behaviors (HOM) can make a significant impact with increasing skills and future goals.

Music and Creativity

I think the world is hitting a saturation point in terms of coming up with original ideas as we can see so much happening all around us. It can be tempting to build upon old ideas. That’s where creativity comes in. It encourages a strong personal stance/take on things.

Music can make you see things in a new light. It can break you free of old thinking patterns and ways of observing. Music is a catalyst that sparks creativity and interest. When we liken music to the habit of Creating, Imagining, and Innovating, the idea is that music will heighten creativity to a new level. The vibes, tones, and beats might be a catalyst for generating new and novel ideas. For students with learning disabilities, music could be that piece for increasing neural connections. According to the research, music develops new and stronger neural connections in the brain.

Our schools literally hold the key to the future human resources who could be the next Einstein or Tesla or Madame Curie. And, it all lies within the simple power of music.

We would be doing a huge favor to our future generation with something as simple as incorporating an element of musicality into classrooms.

And, it doesn’t even demand that much. If you were to take a balcony view of your inclusive classroom, what positive effect do you think music would have on each and every student? A soothing melody in the background, sharing some new beats, or even providing quiet time for your students and their own choice of music (with headphones of course) – this would be awesome!

In Conclusion

A school is more than just a place of education. It’s a place that develops minds, personalities, and souls. Most importantly, it is an environment where all learners have an opportunity to learn from one another and be included. Students with and without learning disabilities can all benefit from music. So, let’s broaden the way we view education and teaching and look beyond scores and test papers.

It’s about time that we look at how we can foster healthy Habits of Mind to nurture a generation that is about more than just technology. Educators in particular hold that key to unlock amazing potential by creating a more inclusive and music-enriched learning environment.

Curtis Dean writes on behalf of Sage Music School where they base lessons on the science and research of the psychology of learning. Their effective teaching methods create confident and capable students who enjoy the happiness of making music.

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