Sophmore Kai Stone working diligently in the NYC iSchool commons
Sophmore Kai Stone working diligently in the NYC iSchool commons

High school musical (but not a musical)

November 12, 2021

The classroom bustles with noise as the teacher attempts to talk over the amalgamation of noises. It becomes routine for you to grab your chromebook from the computer cart, opening the assignments that await you online. The room quiets down and you find yourself suddenly tormented by the loud silence, feeling uneasy rather than comforted by the hush.

You pull out a set of earbuds as the play button on your phone is vibrantly displayed on the screen. As your ears close out to the whispering of your classmates, a new world opens with the start of the tunes, melody enthralling your mind and clearing your jumbled thoughts.

Heading back to work, your mind blurs with the passing minutes, head focused on the fast pace of your playlist. Before you know it, the students rummage around the classroom once again, backpacks slung over their shoulders. Class is over and you can’t seem but help to wonder what occurred while your blank document sat so still. The clock must have been broken, right?

The reality behind the significance of music in the lifestyle of students is one which is often overlooked. Spending hours with headphones plugged in causes many in society to be unaware of what effects are being established on not only academics, but mental and emotional states.

With the explicit prevalence of music in the lives of students, there seems to be a path towards both progression and hindrance in regards to education, allowing some individuals to advance with studies due to the psychological aspects of music, while others are held back with distraction.

Society’s Beloved Music

Music is the one aspect in life which people constantly connect to, discovering one artist after another. Everywhere we go, the captivating notes of songs play out and many individuals don’t completely register it. Whether it be in a grocery store or walking down the halls of schools, the presence of music can always be found.

According to a 2019 Musically survey conducted in several countries across the world , “On average, people are spending around 18 hours a week listening to music, up from 17.8 hours a year ago.” This number which represents a rough estimate of the frequency of music is one which had obviously changed over the recent course of the years. With the growing influence of music during the pandemic, it is clear that more individuals will be immersed with listening to artists as many have become accustomed to the virtual way of life, coping using it’s artistic sensibilities.

Especially in younger generations today, teens find themselves relying on listening to hip hop or rap and so on, to be productive during their time. It is a factor in which we have become so accustomed to, life almost feels unbalanced without it.

Hadassah Chucks, a sophomore at the iSchool, exclaimed: “Music is that one thing that I find myself turning to everyday. I feel like my routine or schedule messes up without having something to play if I’m on the train or at home. It keeps me put together in a sense.”

This authority music has over hundreds of lives may seem alarming at times since society seems too reliant on it. However, this factor can actually present a door for opportunity. Students can utilize the presence of music to their advantage in numerous mental and social regards. It is not to say that music is widely accepted within educational rules, but based on the iSchool “policies” concerning so, it is undeniably a topic which teachers have reconsidered for school.

Lack or Gain of Work Ethic?

Staying on track during class is an ability many students have struggled with since their adolescent years to even adulthood. Teachers often struggle with finding methods in having their students active and engaged in the classroom. However, music is slowly becoming a factor people are leaning towards in allowing individuals to persevere during work.

Naturally, we had to ask iSchool’s only music teacher, Mr. Paris, on this conflicting issue.

He had spoken on just how much the public today is unconsciously surrounded by all genres of music, stating: “Nowadays, we are constantly inundated with sounds like in grocery stores or the subway station, and the way we are listening to this music is considered to be in a passive way. We are not necessarily noticing what it is, but it is creating the feel in a space.”

This broad existence of music in everyday life can inevitably have an effect on humans, whether it be explicitly or implicitly, regulating the emotions stimulated in individuals, and thus, determination and dedication displayed towards education for students.

According to Very Well Mind, “Research suggests that background music, or music that is played while the listener is primarily focused on another activity, can improve performance on cognitive tasks in older adults. One study found that playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed, while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory.”

This presence of music, whether individuals are active with it or not, has shown to be effective in benefitting the overall aspects which are significant to students. With cognitive performance levels enhanced by listening to songs, it can allow people to effectively evolve their perception of topics, having students go beyond their critical thinking during classes.

However, a major aspect which the iSchool considered when establishing the one earbud policy at the iSchool is passive listening. According to Mr. Paris, this system is essentially “ playing music while you are doing something else, so when you have one earbud in while doing work, it is considered passive,” not requiring the full attention of listeners.

This effect music can have on the work ethic of students was well-researched by several research centers. According to Florida National University, “Researchers utilized musical compositions from the 1800s in their study and found that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory.”

Through these suggestions of the psychological results of music, people can get perspective on the role it has on establishing a thorough system where the brain is able to effectively comprehend tasks and so, benefit students throughout their educational pathway.

On the other hand, being engaged while listening to music requires most of your attention, promoting what many know as “The Mozart’s effect.” Mr. Paris explains: “It is the idea that music has the ability to stimulate certain neurons and pathways in the brain that help make connections, which is great. But in terms of actually digesting the music and being present with it, I don’t think that is the way to do things.”

Although this method which has been widely introduced by scientists may seem as an unbelievable system in advancing the human brain, there can be multiple disadvantages towards the focus and concentration of students within a classroom. With people drowning themselves with noise, some may find it difficult to work in specific circumstances.

Mr. Whittaker, an iSchool math teacher and dean, mentions: “I think being able to use music mindfully is really important since there’s always the side of distraction when listening to songs that contain lyrics that require us to be active with it.”

Taking into consideration the distraction fully applying yourself to music can have for attention, he also mentions: “When you or your partner is distracted listening to music, it is not beneficial for communication which would then stem into your social skills and relationships.”

Such circumstances in school where music can pose as a harmful aspect in school sways teachers and schools towards questioning whether or not it should be allowed. Yet a major way Mr. Whittaker connects to his students is through music, having him state, “Communicating about music and listening and sharing music is a way that I like to connect with my students and get to know them overall.”

This perspective of a teacher who finds himself both acknowledging the downside of musical presence but also opening up to its possibilities allows us to see the toll this aspect generally has. Students are able to open up to their capabilities and outrule the negatives of music in school.

Not only this, but the musical presence within educational systems itself have proven to aid in the academic achievements students attain, which is why there is such a focus on the pursement of musical arts classes. Playing an instrument is believed to be one aspect in such success.

According to the American Psychological Association,“Students who spend school time in music classes, rather than in further developing their skills in math, science and English classes, will underperform in those disciplines. Our research suggests that, in fact, the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects.”

With this wide dependency not only students have, but educational structures as well, the value society places on music towards education increases. Considering how prevalent it is in our lives, it is appropriate to utilize its positive aspects for the lives of students and allow them to accustom themselves to opening up their senses and choosing how to organize a suitable environment.

Inexplicit Musical Influences

The psychological impacts music has on teenagers today can be significant if we consider how prevalent it is in our everyday lives. It has the capability to lift the mood, increase your energy, deplete stress, and in some unbelievable circumstances, help regain lost memories. These effects of music are not shocking if taking into account the emotions portrayed within lyrics and melody’s.

Just as how upbeat songs can thrill individuals or the blues stimulate a heartfelt response, our mental and emotional state can have a strong relation to the music we listen to, one of the most influential aspects being the energy radiated within an environment.”

Hadassah stated, “The music I play has a huge role in the way my day goes since it sets the mood in a way. The emotions I get from the music I’m listening to sort of reflects on my internal state.”

This factor brought up is crucial in student life since mood and feelings influence your educational perseverance and progress. If students encounter a negative set of emotions throughout the day, not only would it be difficult for them to sustain a good work ethic, but focus as well. The opposite would occur for positive moods, enabling individuals to experience motivation among other things.

This overall impact music has on mood correlates to the mental state of students as well. The educational standards established in society today have evidently depleted individuals of their attention towards well-being, increasing levels of both stress and depression or anxiety.

Modern-day solutions for this issue to younger generations is to drown out their struggles with music. Although this may seem far-fetched, many studies have indicated that this method can actually pose as a positive system towards developing a stronger psychological position.

According to Very Well Mind, “The results suggested that listening to music had an impact on the human stress response, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Those who had listened to music tended to recover more quickly following a stressor.”

With the suggestions this study initiates regarding stress levels and music, we are aware of the deep entwinement certain musical factors can have on the mind, sparking responses from the brain which reduce individuals of certain stress hormones.

Lauren Harper, a sophomore at iSchool, had brought up her own school life experiences, stating: “Sometimes when I’m listening to music I can spend more time thinking and take myself out of whatever stress I’m feeling as feeling a lot of pressure makes my mind foggy.”

The significant position music has is represented through this personal perspective on how students react to stressful situations with it being played. With this easy situation of turning towards your headphones for comfort, students do not need to agonize about reaching out of their comfort zone and instead, release tension as the rhythm of songs play out.

A large portion of these mental health issues in younger generations today also stem into anxiety and depression, being one of the most prevalent cases considering the burdening educational systems and lengthy period of the pandemic. Music was a factor which not only grew over these events, but had an increasingly impactful effect on the negative emotions triggered.

According to a 2020 AARP Music and Brain Health Survey, “A nationally representative survey of 3,185 adults found that listening to music — whether in the background, by focused listening to recordings or at musical performances — had a small positive impact on mental well-being, depression and anxiety.”

The overall results of this study indicated that although music does not have a drastic authority on the mental well-being of individuals, it does have its slight positives. Even if the effects of music are temporary, it can be a fit solution towards helping students relieve unfavorable emotions so that their emotional stability is not vulnerable.

Finding a connection to this study, Lauren had explained, “My middle school did not allow me to listen to music and since it was kind of rowdy, I would get really overwhelmed and agitated. But having music here has allowed me to be more relaxed and comfortable with the environment.”

Through this statement, we can see that the presence of music is considerably notable for the overall environment students face in the classroom. By being available to this option throughout the day, they can both find comfort and increase attentiveness during class by not being distracted or overwhelmed with anxiety and stress.

Another considerable psychological role music plays in the lives of not only younger individuals, but also those older, is increasing their memory storage. Many people today struggle to keep up with information and often tend to be forgetful. Surprisingly, music poses as an answer to this.

Florida National University discusses the aspects of songs which help the human brain remember lyrics easier. This section of a song, which is known as an “earworm” by psychiatrists, allows us to effectively memorize music easily and triggers the areas of the brain involved with memory.

Taking this into account, they state, “It just so happens, this is also one way of improving your brain’s memory, which is why some language courses are set to a musical pattern of ear-catching melodies.”

This research presents just how significant music can be towards the preservation and evolution of memory storage in the brain. Just as how organizations utilize it to help individuals learn different languages, the same positive aspects can be applied to the educational path of students. Having music can expand their capabilities regarding memories, which is crucial for school.

These several factors in student life styles which connect to the presence of music are important for school systems to reconsider when deciding upon policies within the building. Instead of automatically ruling the option of playing music in class, teachers should consider the several benefits students can encounter by working with it and how it can impact the environment.

What Makes the iSchool Different?

Unlike other schools throughout the country, iSchool’s educational policies are unique. Building upon their image of creating an innovative and progresive education, the school’s one earbud policy has been a significant factor in the lives of iSchoolers. Wandering around the hallways with music playing became a norm for many, which could be considered a privilege for “no-phone” schools.

Many staff in the iSchool, such as Mr. Whittaker, support the presence of music and take notice of how much students feel the need to be surrounded by a specific environment in order to get through the day comfortably. He exclaimed, “In my classroom no music is allowed unless the activities give some time for free work and I think it should only be used during independent periods since it can interfere with group work or class lessons.”

Although there are certain circumstances which Mr. Whittaker brought up that music may interfere with the attention students input in their work, many times individuals are able to differentiate when it is appropriate to play music during class.

At the end of the day, music is the one factor that allows many students to undertake the burdening expectations of our educational standards and establish an effective environment in which people can concentrate in and maintain their work ethic.

Such experiences are one which Hadassah brought up, stating, “A lot of my teachers play simple background music during work time like in trigonometry. Even though I don’t really notice it in depth, it does have an effect on the environment and I’m not distracted by the stillness of my working classmates.”

Taking these influences which music has on the everyday life of students today, we can understand how dependent not only younger generations are on it, but older generations as well. The presence it has in society has expanded over the years and thus, teachers are reconsidering its significance in classrooms.

According to Mr. Paris, “Music is a way to connect people and a thing you have complete control over. What do I choose to listen to? When do I choose to listen to it? How do I choose? Who do I choose? And then it connects to your environment, culture, and even social life, becoming a really special aspect in a person’s life.”

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