Feeling throaty?

12th October 2007 at 01:00
Sara Bubb on why you should breathe more easily this autumn.

Sounding a little husky? Yes, it's the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and sore throats. Your voice is your most precious tool as a teacher (even more than your interactive whiteboard) so you need to look after it. How you're feeling depressed, sad, stressed, nervous comes out in your voice and will affect your teaching.

Teachers use their voices as much as the busiest professional actor, but do so hour after hour, day in day out and often without any training. Not using it well can cause lasting damage. Many patients at voice clinics are teachers and some people are forced to leave the profession after suffering permanent damage.

Record yourself teaching for just two minutes are you using enough intonation to keep the pupils' attention, are you repeating things unnecessarily, talking over people, or simply talking too much? The look, the smile, the glare, the raised eyebrow, the tut can be so much more effective than words and so can a theatrical silence or the closing of a book. If you really need to raise your voice, yell the first word (from the diaphragm, with your mouth wide open) and then quieten down: "STOP what you're doing and look this way."

Classrooms can get hot, dusty and stuffy as well as germ-ridden at this time of year so keep an eye on ventilation and humidity. When you're speaking a lot you need to drink more water because you're losing lubricating moisture through evaporation.

When you're tense and dashing around you just snatch shallow breaths into your mouth or chest. This means there's not enough power to project the voice so you strain the weak muscles around your neck and put too much pressure on the vocal cords. Poor posture, plus tense shoulders and neck, mean the passage of air is blocked. Sounds like a good enough reason to ask someone to massage your neck and shoulders to relax. Aaah, wonder ***

Sara Bubb is an educational consultant specialising in induction. Her Successful Induction for New Teachers is published by SagePaul Chapman.

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