Voice care tips for Teachers
For many teachers, a classroom full of children will have been a rarity over the last 6 months but now your pupils are back in school and you are back into the swing of teaching.
Voice issues are quite common among teachers, with symptoms including:
loss of voice,
hoarseness or croaking during speaking,
a constant sore throat,
frequent throat clearing.
a quiet voice when you are trying to speak normally or loudly.
If you have any of these symptoms for more than 7-10 days, please see your doctor.
As a Speech and Language Therapist, one of my clinical areas is voice and there are often a few croaky voices heard in the staff room, especially in the Autumn term.
Here are some tips to help you to protect your voice at work.
1. Hydrate -sip water regularly throughout the day to keep your mouth and throat moist. This will help all of the moving parts that contribute to your talking to work more effectively.
2. Volume – try to lower your volume and not shout. The worst thing you can do to your voice is shout in short sharp bursts. This stretches the vocal folds beyond their comfort zone and can result in quick loss of voice. Instead, aim for eye contact and a lowered voice to get your message across.
3. Pace- slow down your pace of talking (or shouting). This will help your children to process your words more easily and reduce your need to repeat your sentences. Like Professor Snape, take your time while you have their attention.
4. Use non-verbal cues- reinforce your spoken communication with pointing and gestures. Instead of telling the children to sit and be quiet, point to a sign in your classroom instead. Or use a bell to get their attention and frown at them- especially if you are wearing a mask.
5. Ventilate- open the windows wide to provide fresh air. This helps to reduce the amount of germs in the room and clears dust and fumes from the environment in your classroom too. It’s also handy to wake up any sleepy pupils.
6. Be mindful of your breathing- shallow, upper chest breathing can aggravate the vocal chords and affect tone and resonance. Aim for deeper breaths, using the diaphragm, to help you get enough air- especially if you are wearing a mask. Deeper breathing is also great for relaxation and can reduce your need to shout.
7. Rest- you likely haven’t used your voice for long periods of time for months and you might find it tires more easily than before the coronavirus lockdown. Make sure you get enough sleep to rest all of your muscles, especially those in your throat.
If you do have ongoing difficulties with your voice, please do consult your doctor or a specialist as there may be an underlying condition like reflux, allergies or something a little more sinister.
You have such a special job to look after and teach children but don’t forget to look after yourself too.