Tales from new teachers

Hear me roar

The problem

I had been getting on pretty well as a new teacher, keeping behaviour disasters to a minimum and getting primarily positive feedback (alongside points for improvement) after lesson observations. However, one area of my teaching was persistently being highlighted as a problem and it was starting to get me down. Apparently, I did not have a "teacher's voice" - instead I sounded too conversational and wasn't projecting with the authority I needed.

The options

My aunt, who is a teacher, told me not to worry too much as a standard teacher's voice didn't really exist - teachers were individuals and it was wrong to say they should all speak in a certain way, she argued.

She added that being conversational and talking to the students less formally would probably have more benefits than adverse effects. I agreed, but my school thought otherwise.

I chatted to some of the younger members of staff. They also felt that the criticism was odd but gave me some tips on tackling the problem. One idea was to record my classes on a dictaphone to get a better understanding of how I sounded. Another was to imagine that I was talking to someone standing against the back wall rather than someone sitting in the front row.

The result

I recorded myself in my next lesson. When I listened back I cringed at some of the conversational language I used,such as "I'm gonna show you." I also noticed that my sentences trailed off into an inaudible mumble or just stopped altogether.

In my next lesson, I made a real effort to be more conscious about how I was speaking. When I caught myself lapsing into conversational language, I corrected it straight away. I also made an effort to project my voice to the imaginary person at the back.

Soon, formal language and voice projection became second nature - by the time my next observation rolled around, I had improved considerably and my feedback reflected this. I still need to slow down my speech so that everyone can understand what I'm saying, however.

So improvement is a work in progress, but I am trying to tackle this as best I can. I had no idea when I got into teaching that how you said things would prove as important as what you were saying.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher working in south-west England

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