Teaching requires high-energy performance skills in order to get information across so teachers should be vocally prepared. They need to warm up their voices in the morning and ensure their voices are cooled down and the larynx is reset after heavy vocalising.
Actors and singers spend hours perfecting their craft to improve. Teachers spend hours preparing teaching tools and tactics, reflecting on new elements to be integrated into their classroom strategies. But what about their voices? It’s all well and good preparing great lessons, but what happens when the voice gives out and just won’t work on the day? All that preparation goes to pot, doesn’t it?
When the voice won’t work properly, or the throat is sore and you’re feeling hoarse, then it’s an indication to ‘shut up’ and not push through it; it’ll only make matters worse and prolong the vocal problem.
This is when ‘silent’ or ‘hand signal’ strategies come into their own.
Practised with the class when the voice is working well, makes for an easy transition when it’s not. The class will find it fun also.
But why get to that stage at all? Being vocally healthy is easy to start and maintain, and only takes a few minutes. Warming up the voice before the start of the teaching day and especially before heavy and intense vocalising gets the larynx moving smoothly without effort. It’s like changing gears in the car. If you don’t change gears smoothly the car grumbles and if you continue, the car will quickly become knackered, won’t it?
The voice is the same.
Teachers are actors and performers. There is a correlation between how well a teacher gives instructions to pupils and the quality of the voice. If the voice is hoarse or breathy, pupils will lose interest as they can’t hear properly. The teaching voice will become worse as information will have to be repeated or the teacher themselves will become frustrated and eventually stressed because no one is paying attention and ultimately, not on task.
By practising good vocal habits from the onset, the more challenging lessons will be easier to handle. Vocal over-loading may still be a problem on some days but the voice will be in a better healthier condition to deal with it, and reparation will be quicker. Of course, cooling the voice down at the end of the day helps reset the larynx.