Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Music Classroom

By Clements-Cortés, Amy; Chow, Shulammite | The Canadian Music Educator, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Music Classroom


Clements-Cortés, Amy, Chow, Shulammite, The Canadian Music Educator


Introduction

Self-esteem is an important aspect of mental health and can influence student attitudes toward success in the classroom and beyond. In school-aged children, there has been a documented decline in self-esteem as children mature into adolescents; however, music interventions have proven to be a protective factor as positive social experiences instil confidence in individuals. In particular, active music engagement can additionally improve emotion regulation, resilience, and foster identity and self-image in adolescents, while facilitating social acceptance and a sense of belonging in a nurturing community.

Self-Esteem

Self-esteem falls under an umbrella of interchangeable terms explaining an individual's understanding of themselves, such as: self-concept, self-efficacy, self-worth, self-identity, self-awareness, and self-acceptance. Branden (2006) defined self-esteem as "the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life, and as being worthy of happiness" (p. 238). In his concept of self-esteem, Branden speaks of six pillars that are fundamental in achievement. These are defined as practices to improve overall quality of life: to live consciously, to be self-accepting, to attain self-responsibility, to initiate self-assertiveness, to live purposefully, and to live with personal integrity. These practices must be grounded in reality and used toward accepting ownership of one's actions as well as in establishing a firm belief in their ability to succeed in purposeful tasks. These continuous constructs aid self-confidence and in building self-esteem over time so that one's sense of self remains in a healthy cognitive and emotional state and continue to improve in everyday life.

The Importance of Self-Esteem

In children and adolescents, low self-esteem is associated with a higher risk for mental health illnesses such as: depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies; as well as social issues such as: antisocial behaviour, difficulty in sustaining and forming close relationships, violence, substance abuse, school failure, and teenage pregnancy (Rickard et al., 2012; Culp, 2016). These issues are present in the school system, as students continue to shape their identities and sense of self through social interactions with peers. As children and adolescents are in the school system for a large portion of the day, it is crucial that students are provided adequate support through engaging in activities such as active music making to enhance and protect their self-esteem in the classroom.

Group music therapy and participatory music making provide a safe and positive environment for students to build confidence and self-esteem through consistent social interactions. These programs target the development of social acceptance and provide opportunities for success through supported learning while using music as a tool and interactive experience for students. Enhancing self-esteem with the use of music therapy interventions and active musical engagement through specialized programs will also improve: 1) emotion regulation, 2) resilience, and 3) identity and self-image of participating individuals.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is a developmental factor for school-aged children, and can be addressed and explored through social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning targets behaviours, cognition, and emotions - three things that have a significant impact on self-esteem. By targeting these areas of learning in music engagement, students demonstrated a higher sense of self-efficacy, a better sense of community, and improved prosocial behaviours (Zins & Elias, 2006, p. 234).

Linking social and emotional learning with music is foundational in music therapy interventions and can serve as a foundation for active music engagement in the classroom. Learning from the discipline of music therapy and goals in music therapy interventions for the treatment of emotional and behavioural disorders Sausser & Waller (2006), encourage self-expression, and the reinforcement of cognitive skills to enhance participants' self-esteem These goals, however, are only attainable in a nurturing environment when opportunities are provided for participants to actively engage in successful musical and social experiences. …

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