I thought that the advice may be useful for those starting back with classes after a long break. Or for those new to teaching this term.
But, in addition, I have lost my voice! It started with a sore throat on Thursday and I became hoarse. However, instead of staying off yesterday, I considered myself ‘indispensable’, went in and croaked through 2 lessons and three meetings and am suffering all the more today.
It will have been a false economy if I can’t speak next week and have to be off.
So, an additional piece of advice that I would add: DON’T ignore a sore throat or throat infection. When it strikes, rest and avoid talking.
I have worked previously with staff and students to help them look after their voices; as teachers our voice is a crucial tool yet one that is easy to abuse.
My sessions in the past have been practical so I will endeavour to make my ideas work on paper.
What I will write is preventative; if you have ongoing voice problems or a persistent sore or hoarse voice, please consult a doctor as you may need treatment.
My husband is a biologist and may be horrified by the non-scientific way that I describe things below but the images work for me.
Imagine a catherdral. In the cathedral hangs a wind chime. When a breeze enters the cathedral 2 parts of the chime brush together and a sound is made. The sound then echoes and resonates in the chambers and spaces of the cathedral.
The breeze or energy needed to make the chimes sound is your breath. The chimes are your vocal chords. The spaces where the sound echoes are the cavities inside your head where your voice gains resonance and volume.
It is crucial that you support your voice with breath. To breathe deeply, place both feet flat on the floor and centre your weight. Imagine that your chest and rib cage is a glass bell jar with a rubber diaphragm at the bottom (- ooh, bit of real science!). As you breathe in, keep your shoulders down and attempt to push the muscles in your stomach and round your back out. Breathe right down into your back and bottom. When you first do this, your head may feel light so take it easy! As you breathe out, pull your stomach and bottom muscles back in.
This may feel counter-intuitive but keep at it!
Before you speak, remember to breathe.
Relax the muscles in your face, mouth and neck. Blow raspberries. Chew as if you are chewing a huge toffee. Yawn. Get a neck massage.
Play with your voice and try to find a way of speaking that allows you to project and find resonance without straining or shouting. This may result in you changing the way you speak (eg raising or lowering the pitch) but it may be needed if you are to keep it healthy!
The cavities in your nose and the front of your skull are crucial resonators. Find them by humming. Push the hum into your nose and feel it buzz in your nose and lips. When you speak with resonance, the sound needs to come from that area so try speaking and focusing the sound there.
Sounds like hard vowels can hurt your voice if you force them; play with the word ‘apple’ and try and attack it more gently.
Don’t smoke. Ever.
Drink lots of water.
Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol.
Try to take time off talking for a short time each day, longer on weekends.
Be very aware of when you are tired and take extra care with your voice.
Don’t shout above classroom noise.
If you need attention in a busy class, use a slow, calm and well-projected countdown from 5 to 1 where 1 is silent and still. Teach and practise it from day one.