I felt sorry for Theresa May. Coughing, spluttering, losing your voice whilst trying to retain a semblance of dignity during a speech must have been quite a trial. It is a trial many teachers have been through and will go through. A teacher’s voice is the most important tool in his or her armoury, lose it and it is difficult to teach.
Some of the reactions to Theresa’s performance are typical of any group of children when faced with a teacher who has struggled to retain authority over the class finding herself with a bad cold and a voice that is slowly but determinedly giving up the ghost. For any teacher it would be a trial, for a struggling teacher it is far worse. Yet there are things a teacher can do to stop the situation from getting to that point, a ten point plan for keeping your voice (except in the most extreme circumstances).
I have been giving voice projection and protection classes for teachers for over twenty five years now, a popular day course that can really help teachers be heard and be understood in the biggest classrooms with even the most ‘enthusiastically rowdy’ of classes; these, in no particular order, are my tips for teachers and Theresa for keeping that voice in a better shape.
- Speak from the gut, the ‘diaphragm’, breathe deeply, use a lot of air so that the throat doesn’t take the strain. Ensure you take a deep breath before you speak, don’t be afraid of the pause. This should be your normal mode of delivery.
- If you have a ‘frog in your throat’ try not to clear your throat, instead put your head back and gulp some air. If May had done this she might have not gone into the spiral of difficulty she went into. Saying that, people would’ve wondered what on earth she was doing…
- Open the mouth wide enough to allow yourself to be heard, shaping each word deliberately enjoying both the consonants and the vowels.
- If your voice is feeling strained try not to speak too much, maybe set tasks that involve the class in more silent work than usual.
- Don’t drink too many caffeine drinks or much alcohol… and don’t smoke…
- Do drink water.
- Take up singing, especially on the way to work (Hi Ho!) or in the shower. Warms up the voice.
- Speak to the person furthest away from you or to an object that is far away at the other side of the room.
- Don’t try lots of cough sweets and medicines, some, if used a lot, can make your throat drier.
- Stand or sit positively, not slouched and use gestures and facial expressions to emphasise what you’re saying.
oh and make sure any display work is firmly attached to the walls.