Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Approaches of a Secondary Music Teacher in Response to the Social and Emotional Lives of Students

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Approaches of a Secondary Music Teacher in Response to the Social and Emotional Lives of Students

Article excerpt


One girl came and said she was really struggling with her body image. She's been singing for me and doing things on the stage. She said to me, 'my mom finally got food stamps, so we now have food. I've been eating a lot of stuff I shouldn't eat. I went to the doctor and I weighed too much and it was way more than I've ever weighed in my life, and way more than a girl in high school should weigh.' There was a depression. I talked to her about being a woman and self-image and feeling fiat, dumb, and inadequate. I shared with her that I understand those days. (Ms. Jane1 Interview One)

Due to the amount of time teachers spend with students, they are witness to how social and emotional challenges affect students' lives, both personally and academically. After parents, teachers can be the most influential adults in a child's life. Understanding students' challenges and being prepared to provide support is of profound importance for music educators due to the strong bonds that can develop between teachers and students in music classrooms. This bond could be attributed to multiple years with the same teacher, augmented time spent in rehearsals outside of the school day, and the emotional connection and trust group music making can foster. Edgar (2012) found that music teachers interacted regularly with students needing social and emotional support. Further, these music teachers were often under-prepared to address students' social and emotional challenges.

The effectiveness of preparation for teachers to support students with their challenges has been questioned:

Concepts, such as fight or flight, are basic knowledge to child development, social, and behavioral science professionals. [It was] unfair to teachers that, through no fault of their own, they had not received the preparation that would enable them to understand why children do what they do, and how to manage it in a way that would aid their development and learning. (NCATE & NICHD, 2006, p. iv)

Purpose Statement and Research Questions

The purpose of this study was to examine approaches of a secondary music teacher in responding to the social and emotional challenges of eight students in a general music classroom at an alternative high school. Questions guiding this inquiry included: (a) What are the social and emotional challenges students bring to this music classroom, as perceived by the teacher? (b) What are the music teacher's motivations to respond to students' social and emotional challenges? And (c) How does the music teacher provide support to students regarding their social and emotional challenges and what prepared her to do so?

Past Literature

Social and Emotional Challenges of Adolescents

Adolescents face a multitude of challenges affecting their lives, including tests, substance abuse, suicide, academic standards, media and technology, violence, bullying, physical and sexual abuse, hunger, emotional abandonment of children by parents who are too busy, community and family disruption caused by job or income losses, and local industrial changes (Harper, Harper, & Stills, 2003; Zins & Elias, 2006). Of profound importance for educators were the negative effects student challenges can have on academic performance, test taking, and social behavior issues in the classroom. As of 2002, one out of five youth aged 10-18 suffered from a diagnosable mental disorder and one out of four reported symptoms of emotional disorders (Haynes, 2002). While not all children suffering from social and emotional challenges required mental health care, the effects can still be daunting. This is where teachers and other mental health support staff were essential.

Teacher/Student Relationships

Prior research has suggested positive teacher/student relationships can result in improved academic performance (Fraser & Walberg, 2005), stronger socialization in the school setting (Hargreaves, 1998), fewer instances of misbehavior (Schlichte, Stroud, & Girdley, 2006), lower levels of ADHD (Bergin Sc Bergin, 2009), and development of students' emotional well-being and positive sense of self (Ang, 2005; Noguera, 2007; Wentzel, 2010). …

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