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Hoarse sense

Talk is far from cheap when you're dispensing words of wisdom to your class day in and day out. Kevin Berry takes some tips from the luvvies on how to save your voice.

Is there another profession that demands so much sustained talking as teaching? Acting comes close, but actors are taught how to look after their voices. Teachers are not.

In 20 years of mixing with actors 1 cannot recall meeting one who had a sore throat or had lost his voice - they simply could not afford to. Nor can most teachers, which is why doctors and throat specialists - and actors too - cannot understand why voice care is not an accepted part of teacher training.

Unless you take precautions you can expect three or four days of hoarseness or an otherwise below-par voice in your first term. And you can expect hoarseness to be part of your working life forever after that.

Don't even think of shouting. Have you ever met a football supporter on the day after an exciting match? Yes, that's what your throat will feel like too - a Brillo pad. And your voice will sound like breaking glass.

Vocal power comes from the diaphragm. Hold your nose and speak a sentence trying not to sound as though you are holding your nose. This will get you into the habit of speaking from your diaphragm and not from your throat.

Tension makes breathing difficult and puts pressure on your vocal cords. So you need to take tension away. Relax your neck, your jaw and shoulders and get your vocal parts warmed up.

Roll your head loosely around your neck, aiming for the feeling of your head floating.

Then raise and drop your shoulders slightly more than you would for a shrug. Chatter your teeth repeatedly and make exaggerated "smacking" kises to relax your jaw. Pretend to chew toffee and use your tongue to "clean" your cavities. Try blowing kisses and yawning repeatedly. Your pupils may think you've lost your marbles, but your voice will be the stronger for it.

Here are some more useful vocal tips, gathered from the theatre world: Aim for good posture in every part of your body, especially towards the end of a tiring day.

Drink plenty of water to stop your voice drying out - at least 10 glasses a day, but do not add ice cubes. Tea and coffee should not be considered as substitutes and avoid tobacco and alcohol or significantly reduce your intake.

If you have a sore throat or some other vocal malady do not try to speak 'through' it. Silence is best - for two or three days if you can manage it. How can you teach silently? Use the blackboard, use sign language, transmit your messages through a pupil.

Do noT whisper or mumble in an attempt to save your voice, doing either is tiring and causes further damage. Coughing only creates more tension in your throat. Try swallowing or yawning instead, Throat remedies will only give temporary relief and some will cause dryness. Try inhaling steam, from a kettle or a vaporiser every couple of hours. Steam frees up the voice.

mucus can be reduced if you cut down your intake of dairy products, especially milk.

TRY contacting a nearby stage school to see what courses they con offer, or make an appointment to see a medical specialist. Just one session with an ear, nose and throat specialist could set you up for the rest of your working life, Recommended reading "Voice and the Actor" By Ciceley Berry, (Virgin Books, 10.99)."The Right to Speak" By Patsy Rodenburg. (Methuen, pound;9.99)

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