Stave off the season's bleatings

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Feeling like stewed rhubarb already? Well, Duncan Gray has the recipe to keep body and voice together until Christmas

November is a cruel month for teachers. Half-term has passed, the days are dark and your temper and voice are wearing thin.

If you're croaking like a panto witch and your throat feels like sandpaper, try a few tricks to look after that crucial asset - your voice.

Remember that the way you sound can determine the classroom mood and if you rasp like sand and gravel the children may feel the rough edges too.

So what can you do? Lower the pitch - speak at a deeper level, think sexy husky not raucous screech.

Drink at least six glasses of water each working day but make sure you make time for loo breaks too.

Rest your voice whenever you can. That may mean less gossip in the staffroom, or even taking up miming for the day, but give it a rest - some people will be grateful.

Encourage the children to be independent - hand over work and leave them to it. Keep your eagle eye and your penetrating stare on full alert and use pointed gestures, but keep quiet about it.

Announce class presentations by pupils. Perhaps give Leanne the chance to enthral the class with a presentation about her latest obsession, Tom could tell his fellow pupils about new bands and Sam might, at last, have the opportunity to speak, while you assess - silently - from the back of the room.

Stand with a straight back, knees relaxed, eyes looking forward rather than upward. This is not only good posture and relaxes the vocal cords, it makes you look alert and stern - even if your brain feels like stewed rhubarb.

Avoid shouting. Cultivate the low disapproving hiss rather than the high-pitched shriek. Some pupils take it as a challenge to make a young female teacher scream.

Think of alternative ways of grabbing attention. Use The Stare, draw a ticking clock on the board (extra seconds mean extra lesson time), raise your hand in the air while visibly counting, click your fingers at two-second intervals.

Remember you are a professional voice user and your voice is a vital part of successful teaching. You're no good to anyone if you sound dreadful. If it hurts to speak, take a day off - rest up and drink lemon and honey

Duncan Grey is a former teacher and writes on education. His book 'First Aid in Teaching' is due to be published next Spring

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