Three Books to Consider
By NAfME Member Paul K. Fox
This article first appeared on Paul Fox’s blog here.
Teachers, you’re in the home stretch now! You are within weeks of a long vacation break and the chance to rest, refresh, recharge, rewind, and rejuvenate. After what COVID-19 dished out to us, you deserve some time off! Here comes much-anticipated trips, family visits, sleeping in, and going dormant for at least 2-3 weeks!
However, most music educators never totally shut down. We seek out new enrichment opportunities by attending conferences or music reading workshops, researching new methods, and “retooling” for our lessons ahead.
Modeling the annual Peanuts comic strip’s January theme of Lucy Van Pelt assigning Charlie Brown a long and unwanted list of New Year’s Resolutions, yours truly (a retired teacher with a lot less stress) is about to do the same and recommend YOU kick off your shoes, climb into a comfortable lounge chair, tune out all extraneous noise and media distractions, and crack open some “serious summer reading” . . .
Here are my three favorite books for the season to take with you when you go to the beach or sit by the pool!
In keeping with an alliteration of all those “Rs” to promote healing and health during this “recess,” take time to prepare for 2021–2022 and reflect on and restock your reservoir of resilience, robustness, and resourcefulness!
S Is for “SEL”
Yes, the values and life skills of emotional/mental/social “balance” begin at home. But the expectation is that schools and teachers are always relied upon to be the “safety net”—pick up the pieces or fulfill the needs not provided at home. And it should not have taken a pandemic for us to discover how important social emotional learning (SEL) is to the health, wellness, and success of every child (and their family members) we serve in our classrooms, ensembles, lessons, and after-school programs.
“Music educators are in a prime position to help students become socially and emotionally competent while at the same time develop excellent musicianship. For every child to be successful in the music classroom, teachers need to be aware of the whole student. How do music educators create success when students every day struggle with social awareness, bullying, communication, problem solving, and other challenges? This pioneering book by Scott Edgar addresses how music educators can utilize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to maximize learning in the choral, instrumental, and general music classroom at all levels, and at the same time support a student’s social and emotional growth.”—back cover of Music Education and Social Emotional Learning—The Heart of Teaching Music
“Finally! Thank you, Scott Edgar, for your willingness to walk boldly into this often trodden, but rarely addressed aspect of music education you have rightfully labeled social emotional learning. For every music educator, from preschool through a PhD program, we know the opportunity to ‘develop the whole person’ is right in front of us each and every day. Where else in the academic community is there such a perfect forum that cultivates both the cognitive and effective growth of those involved? Ultimately, the rehearsal room/music classroom becomes a society within society, and the skills needed to grow and succeed at the highest levels are simultaneously offered in content and context. And yet, there are very few resources to guide the mentor in a positive, productive fashion. Now there is and this book is a powerful blueprint leading us to a worthy outcome and more.”—Foreword by Tim Lautzenheiser for Music Education and Social Emotional Learning—The Heart of Teaching Music
Probably the most authoritative textbook on SEL for music teachers, it may be hard to believe that Scott Edgar wrote it in 2017, long before the crush of COVID-19. SEL is now coming to the forefront due to the “pandemic-related” problems of students feeling disconnected, stressed, over- or underwhelmed, and unmotivated during their physical isolation from in-person schooling and remote learning. (See this Edutopia article and this article from Education Week.)
You have a wide variety of choices to explore this topic, and all of these are from Scott Edgar!
The NAfME Professional Learning Community: Music Education and SEL – An Advocacy Tool for Music Educators accessible as a video:
Music for All webinar series:
- Episode 1: Teaching Music through Social Emotional Learning—Composing with Heart hosted by Scott N. Edgar with guest presenters Brian Balmages, Brandon Boyd, Richard Saucedo, Alex Shapiro (composers), and Bob Morrison.
- Episode 10:Teaching Music through Social Emotional Learning—Narwhals and Waterfalls hosted by Scott N. Edgar with guest presenters Paige Bell and Adrien Palmer.
The NAfME Music in a Minuet blog, “Music Education and Social Emotional Learning: The Heart of Teaching Music”
Music Education and Social Emotional Learning—The Heart of Teaching Music in book form is available from Amazon and GIA Publications.
Check out his all-encompassing Table of Contents:
Section One – Teaching Music Beyond the Notes
- Chapter 1: What is Social Emotional Learning
- Chapter 2: Socialization in the Music Classroom by Jacqueline Kelly-McHale
- Chapter 3: Bullying in the Music Classroom by Jared Rawlings
- Chapter 4: Music Educators Are Not Counselors
Section Two – Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Music Education
- Chapter 5: Self-Awareness and Self-Management in Music Education – Self-Discipline and the Music Within
- Chapter 6: Social-Awareness and Relationship Skills in Music Education – Sharing and Communicating through Music
- Chapter 7: Responsible Decision-Making in Music Education – Problem Solving through Music
Conclusion: The Heart of Music Education – Our Common Bond
SEL—the New “Buzz Word”? What Is Social and Emotional Learning?
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”—Collaborative for Academic, Social, & Emotional Learning
- Self-awareness skills such as ability to identify and recognize emotions
- Self-management skills such as perseverance in the ability to manage impulse control
- Relationship skills such as cooperation, empathy, and respectful communication
- Social awareness skills such as the ability to recognize diverse thoughts and opinions.
“Responsible decision-making” includes:
- Behavioral skills such as situation analysis, anticipating consequences and generating alternative solutions.
- Cooperative skills such as balancing personal in group expectations.
The three key pillars of SEL:
Probably the best conclusion I have ever read about the value of SEL in the arts comes from Scott Edgar in the last section of his book:
“The music classroom is a melting pot of students from different backgrounds, musics of different cultures, varied personalities, and diverse values. All of this diversity is united under the common bond of music… Music classrooms, possibly more profoundly than any other academic setting, can help students and teachers cooperate to recognize diversity, engage in respectful dialogue to resolve conflict, and empathetically respect human dignity, because this is how music has functioned for centuries. Music classrooms are social because making music is, has, and always will be a social activity. In a time when there are so many divisive forces, music and music education can be a powerful uniting weapon. The tenets of SEL interwoven into a musical education strengthens both entities. Emphasizing self- and social-awareness makes music education richer and more personal. Music education brings humanity and culture into a world of personal and interpersonal interactions.”
Seven Teachable Skills to Cultivate and Nurture THRIVERS
The latest book by Michele Borba, Ed.D., Thrivers – The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, is a definite must-read from cover-to-cover.
“Michele Borba has been a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years – and she’s never been more worried about kids than she is right now. The high-achieving students she talks with every day are more accomplished, better educated, and more privileged than ever before. But the old markers of success (grades, test scores) aren’t what these kids need to thrive in these uncertain times – and they know it. They’re more stressed, unhappier, and struggling with anxiety, depression, and burnout at younger and younger ages – ‘We’re like pretty packages with nothing inside,’ said one teen. Thrivers are different: they flourish in our fast-paced, digital-driven, ever-changing world. Why? Dr. Borba combed scientific studies on resilience, spoke to dozens of researchers/experts in the field, and interviewed more than 100 young people from all walks of life, and she found something surprising: the difference between those who struggle and those who succeed comes down not to grades or test scores, but the seven character traits that set Thrivers apart (and set them up for happiness and greater accomplishment later in life).”—from the front flap of Thrivers
The first thing you need to do (after you order and read both her original best-seller UnSelfie – Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World and this sequel) is to download her give-away “Core Assets Survey.” Here is a sample page of her assessment checklist for her seven character strengths.
How to Use Borba’s Book
Although it is generally marketed as a guide for parents (and grandparents), this is a perfect “program and process” for everyone who serves as youth caregivers and educational professionals. Borba prescribes these steps to use the book with the above evaluation tool:
- Assess your child’s character strengths: self-confidence, empathy, integrity, self-control, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism.
- Tally up the points, prioritize his needs, and address initially the one or two traits receiving the lowest score.
- Read each chapter of “evidence-backed strategies and skills” which can be easily transferred and taught to your child from preschool through high school.
- Motivate and help your child to adopt each character strength “as a lifelong habit to optimize his potential in thrive.”
- Choose one ability a month, focus on it, and “practice it with your child a few minutes a day until he can use it without reminders.”
For teachers, this is a wonderful “soft curriculum” for nurturing these seven essential personal traits, each broken down into “character strength description,” “abilities to teach,” and “outcomes.” It will become apparent to you that these are directly related to SEL.
Besides the character strengths (#1 above), the reader is introduced to several revised definitions and new acronyms that may help to reshape our perspectives for teaching kids (these are a few samples): C.A.L.M. (chill-assert-look strong-mean it – p. 239), C.A.R.E. (console, assist, reassure, empathize – p. 90), comebacks (p. 240), creativity (p. 178), C.U.R.I.O.U.S (child-driven-unmanaged-risky-intrinsic-open-ended-unusual-solitude, p. 175), digital limits (p. 78), emotions (p. 76), goals (p. 209), gratitude (p. 86), growth mindset (p. 205), micromanaging (p. 171), mindfulness (p. 133), moral identity (p. 148), multitask (p. 110), “the four P’s of peers, passion, projects, and play” (p. 163), parenting styles (dysfunctional) – “enabler,” “impatient,” “coddler,” “competitor,” “rescuer” (p. 127), triggers (p. 121), self-esteem (p. 33), T.A.L.E.N.T. (tenacity-attention-learning-eagerness-need-tone – p. 39), and well-rounded (p. 36).
Activities throughout the book are categorized for age-suitability: Y = young children, toddlers, and preschoolers; s = school-age; t = tweens and older; a = all ages.
In the final pages of the book, Borba poses some excellent group discussion questions to facilitate a thorough review of her work. A few of these especially resonated with me:
- Do you think raising children who can thrive today is easier, no different, or more difficult than when your parents raised you? Why?
- What influences children’s character and thriving development most: peers, media, education, parents, pop culture, or something else?
- Which of the seven character strengths are more difficult to teach to children today? Why?
- What kind of person do you want your child (or your student) to become? How will you help your child become that person?
- What are some of the sayings, proverbs, or experiences you recall from your childhood that helped you define your values?
- [As a teacher] what would you like your greatest legacy to be for your [students]? What will you do to ensure that your [children] attain that legacy?
Her specific anecdotes, object lessons, and research for each character strength are priceless!
LOVE the Job, LOSE the Stress
In my “New Year’s blog” posted on December 29, 2020, I shared my advice on “how to make a difference in 2021” and told readers to find their own good role models and “positive gurus” to sustain their vision, motivation, and drive throughout the year.
Someone who has recently become inspirational to me is the wonderfully uplifting Lesley Moffat, probably an expert on the search for “mindfulness” in personal life and even during her band warmups. In my opinion, her transformative stories provide the roadmap for happiness and wellbeing! She now has published two books (you need to read both)—I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me, and Love the Job, Lose the Stress. If you are still teaching music full-time, you need to peruse her website.
Now her latest book ties in all of the above enrichment and enlightenment—“successful social and emotional learning in the modern music classroom”—and adds an essential focus on teacher self-care and wellness. What was that saying attributed to Molesey Crawford in Unlocking the Queen Code?
- Know thyself.
- Love thyself.
- Heal thyself.
- Be thyself.
Lesley Moffat has taught high school band for over 32 years in the Pacific Northwest, with her ensembles earning superior ratings and performing all over the US, Canada, and even in Carnegie Hall. She was planning to retire at the end of 2019-2020 when the pandemic hit. (As far as I know at this time, she has not retired yet—“for the sake of her kids” she stayed throughout this challenging time of COVID-19 and the slow reopening of schools!) She clarifies this in the introduction to her Love the Job, Lose the Stress book:
“I completed the first draft of this manuscript on March 3, 2020. Ten days later, schools across the world began shutting down as the coronavirus began sweeping the globe… The ultimate purpose of this book is to share the protocol I created that has become the basis of the social and emotional learning needs for my students (and truth be told, for me). Everything I talk about in this book was true before the pandemic, and it has proven to be as powerful in a virtual environment as it is in person… The great news is that you can give your students the gift of learning to self-regulate, calm down, and focus without distraction through intentional design and practice.”
She offers an intriguing set of easy-to-read chapters in her “hard to put down” 191-page work.
- My Life’s Work Is So Much More Than Just a Job
- I Love My Job but It’s Killing Me
- The Badass Band Director’s Bible
- Step One: The Moffat Music Teacher Mojo Meter
- Step Two: Identifying the Three C’s – Care, Clarity, and Consistency
- Step Three: Identifying Your Priorities
- Step Four: SNaP Strategies for Music Teachers
- Step Five: Tuning Our Bodies
- Step Six: Creating Your Own First Four Minute Protocols
Highlights of Suggestions from Love the Job, Lose the Stress
Like her last book, the Moffat Music Teacher Mojo Meter returns. If you are ever privileged to have her as a clinician for a local workshop, it is likely she may send out this survey to the participants in advance. These fifteen questions will provide her an individualized needs assessment of the stressors attendees are experiencing so she can differentiate the planning of her “help session” (page 48).
You’ll have a lot more questions to answer in Chapter 5 (page 50). Read and identify (and define for yourself) her three C’s for success: care, clarity, consistency.
In Chapter 6 (page 67), she wants you to identify your priorities. This is your chance to dream big! You’ll have to read her story (with wide swings of emotion) about her Jackson HS Honors Wind Ensemble performing at Carnegie Hall.
Also returning from her previous book, Chapter 7 (page 81) shares her Start Now and Progress—or SNaP to it—strategies for music teachers. Revisit her amazing tale about doing (of all things) push-ups: “By taking small incremental steps that build upon what I did each day before, I was able to take a skill that was very difficult for me on April 1 and do it 60 times just 30 days later.” She sums up three SNaP Strategies “for busy band directors” (page 90).
- Gratitude for the attitude
- Time stealers
- Reset yourself
Don’t miss her Chapter 10 (page 156) and “Lesley’s Top Ten Badass Band Director Tips!”
Finally, probably worth 1000-times the price of the book and all the time you will put into it is her Chapter 8 “Tuning Our Bodies” (page 103) and Chapter 9 “Creating Your Own First Four Minute Protocol” (page 129). This is where you will take what you read, reflect on her philosophies and system of classroom management and warm-ups, and adapt it to your situation. Adding to your teacher’s toolbox the techniques of mindfulness, breathing exercises, and listening skills—and practicing them with your students daily—will make all the difference in the SEL of your own lessons and overall program.
BRAVO and thank you, Lesley, for being so intuitive, upfront, and personal… and being so generous in sharing your secrets!
We applaud your efforts, and agree with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser who said in the foreword to Love the Job, Lose the Stress:
“This latest-greatest contribution offers a tried-and-true blueprint for vocational success while embracing the critical importance of fueling one’s mental, emotional and physical health. Spot on! Bull’s eye!”
“This is not a book you read and then put on the shelf; rather it is a file cabinet of priceless data certain to boister the health, happiness, and good fortune of every (music) teacher.”
“As music teachers, we teach students how to develop all kinds of skills, from mental to physical, in order for them to be well-rounded musicians. We show them how to properly form and embouchure, the correct fingerings to use, how to read music, what proper posture looks like, how to be artistic and expressive, and so much more. And we always tell them to ‘pay attention and focus.’ But do we ever teach them how to pay attention and focus? The secret to getting students engaged, focused, and curious so you can teach them all the cool stuff about music is teaching them how to actually build those skills until they become habits. Once you’ve taught them how to learn, then everything else becomes a million times easier for you and for them.”—from the back cover of Love the Job, Lose the Stress
Now you have it… a collection of at least three potential life-changing inspirations for summer study.
In addition to these “finds,” I need to mention a couple other educational publications for your consideration (see picture below). But, first-things-first as Stephen Covey would say! Check out Music Education and Social Emotional Learning—The Heart of Teaching Music by Scott Edgar, Thrivers—The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine by Michele Borba, and Love the Job, Lose the Stress by Lesley Moffat.
Future Book Reviews
About the author:
Paul K. Fox, a NAfME Retired Member, is Chair of the PMEA State Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention. He invites you to peruse his website.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
June 18, 2021. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)