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Protecting A Teacher's Most Important Tool: Six Tips to Care For Your Voice

Monday, November 6, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

We’re at the point in the school year where your throat is probably starting to feel the strain.

Among all the professions in the world, teachers just may talk the most. In many ways, a teacher’s voice can be their most valuable and versatile tool. Your voice allows you to deliver lectures to the whole class, provide nearly-whispered one-on-one support at a student’s desk, and when necessary, offer up attention-getting discipline—that’s a rigorous vocal workout. So, it’s important to do what you can to take care of your voice. Here are six ways to make your voice more effective and protect it throughout the school year.

1. Practice

Remember the teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” with the monotone voice? It was meant to be a joke, but it’s a fact that voices like his are less engaging. To better get and hold students’ attention, you need to sound more like an actor or news anchor, and that requires practice.

It may feel embarrassing or even cringe-worthy, but recording yourself delivering a lesson and playing it back is the best way to hear what your students hear. Once you figure out your tendencies, you can work purposefully toward improving your delivery.

2. Drink lots of water

Teas and coffees may offer temporary relief to a sore throat, but without moderation, over the long run they can actually do damage to your vocal cords. The same can be said about cold drinks, especially carbonated sodas. The best drink for the long-term health of your voice? Room temperature water. Plus, drinking a lot of water is not only good for your throat, it’s good for your health in general.

3. “Stretch” in the morning

Just as if you were starting a workout in a gym, it’s also a good idea to stretch your vocal cords before beginning the vocal workout of a full school day. How do you do that? Try humming or talking at a soft volume during your commute to school. If you’re an avid fan of singing along to your favorite songs on your drive, be careful to do it at a moderate-to-soft volume.

4. Master attention getters

For many teachers, the primary stress on their voice comes from having to raise their voice over noisy students. There are plenty of strategies you can use to make sure your students’ attention is returned to you when needed, including clapping, using a “stoplight” system, or turning the lights on and off. Try several and mix them up to make sure students don’t become complacent with one strategy.

5. Increase your use of small-group strategies

It’s simple—if students are gathered close around each other and near to you, you don’t have to talk as loudly. You are probably already varying your instruction, but if your voice is feeling strained, you may want to consider upping the amount of time you spend in small-group.

6. Take advantage of technology

Have you noticed how much quieter students are when they are using their devices? Quieter students usually means a quieter teacher, and independent work time frees you up to circulate the room and talk individually with students. Of course, don’t just use technology for technology’s sake—be sure to find high-quality, engaging programs that are well-aligned to what your students are working on.

Looking for more tips to prioritize self-care this school year? Check out this post for 5 Tips to Stay Happy and Healthy This Cold Season!