Music to Your Ears, Music to Your Grades

Music in class might be more distracting than people think

By: Evelina Zubrinskaya (staff writer)

Music, though a simple and commonplace aspect of life, can have its own controversy in the context of John F. Kennedy High School and its “no earbuds” rules. Despite the guidelines that can be clearly seen posted throughout the school, music is still present in classes with students slyly slipping their earbuds in during class, or the less deviant approach of teachers playing music out loud for their students.

Whether or not this music is benefitting students intellectually is key to understanding why the earbuds rule exists and perhaps why it shouldn’t, in some cases. Kennedy Spanish teacher Cristina Sanchez uses music in her classroom, playing Spanish songs for her Spanish 1 and 2 students as they individually complete their classwork. Using music in another language provides exposure to cultural pieces, and it allows students to listen to music that may be new to them. She said that she plays music that may be mainstream, but is mainstream in Spanish, and tries to play less known music in Spanish as well to provide her students with diversity. It is useful in the context of her classroom, with Sanchez adding that students get the opportunity to “…learn about different types of rhythms in Latin.”

Sanchez does have an opinion on earbuds as well, admitting that, if it wasn’t for the rules, she wouldn’t mind and doesn’t have a problem with them as long as the student is working. She said that it is better for the student to be working with music than not working at all. Some students can concentrate on their work better if they are listening to music that they like. However, some students can get too “into it” and can’t refocus when the time comes to re engage in regular discussions and activities. It all just boils down to students having self-control.

Sanchez herself was playing upbeat music earlier that day, simply calling it her “work music”. Other teachers also make use of music, like English teacher Jayoung Kim who has classical music playing in the background of all her classes every day, and another English teacher, Holly Avdul, who plays music most days as students are walking into class and seating themselves. Avdul, who experimented with playing music, claimed that students were more excited and happy walking in when there was music being played. One teacher in the math department, Christopher Ireland, even creates his own music by creating math parodies complete with music videos Music, both this kind and students’ individual playlists, are all very prominent in Kennedy.

However, research suggests that the use of music while learning lacks a positive effect on students. According to Biology teacher Sara Wilson, the most recent studies suggest that music does not correlate with any improvements in learning, save for classical music which has certain benefits with testing. Wilson explained that listening to music while studying is considered multitasking, and multitasking “isn’t a thing.” Either one is concentrating on listening to music or studying; it switches back and forth but both cannot be done at the same time.

So, perhaps it is best that the earbuds rule remains as it is in the future, and music is used as a stimulus for learning rather than during learning. Music at school may be better off as a supplement in the teacher’s instruction, as it is done now.