Tips for Protecting Your Voice

Do you have voice amplification systems available for use in the classroom? Do you use it?

According to researchers at the Voice Academy at the University of Iowa, 40% of teachers experience voice problems. Why is that?

We obviously know that teachers use their voices at work more than most other professions. But also, teachers typically don’t have voice training, which I think would be a great addition to the education requirements for teachers. It is possible to train your voice for teaching, just as it is for singing. If you are a person who consistently experiences hoarseness and other voice problems, formal voice training might be beneficial.

From personal experience, another contributing factor to voice problems in teachers is the environmental conditions of the school and/or the teacher’s classroom. Dust from books, carpets, ventilation systems, low humidity, or molds can all contribute to vocal tissue irritation, which will affect the function of the vocal cords and throat.

I previously taught in an older (50+ years) school building for 12 years. Over those 12 years, I got sinus infections and laryngitis regularly. And I wasn’t the only teacher who had problems. One year was particularly bad with seven significant infections in nine months!

The basement of that school had been flooded during a great flood in the spring of 1997. The entire school got cleaned and a facelift but I can’t help but wonder if there was mold still present in the basement. In addition to mold being suspect, the heating system was old and the vents were so dusty, deep inside. Without taking out the fans and electrical wires, there was no way they could be cleaned well.

So many of the factors that could be contributing to voice problems in teachers are out of our control. However, there are several things that a teacher can do to help protect their voice. Check out the tips below and see which you already do and if there are some you want to try.

  • Use non-verbal strategies, such as gestures, for classroom management.
  • Have a student get the students’ attention for you.
  • Post instructions or assignment procedures.
  • Position yourself closer to students so loud talking is not needed.
  • Establish classroom routines so continual instructions are not needed.
  • Wait for students to be quiet before speaking.
  • Keep directions and comments brief and to the point.
  • Use visual aids and handouts that reduce your voice use.
  • Give your voice a break by having quiet time and group projects.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water.
  • If you are hoarse, avoid using your voice.
  • If you have a classroom amplification system, use it.
  • Get enough sleep: When you are tired, your voice is tired and can be hurt more easily.
  • And as always, learn to manage stress, because it can affect how you use your voice.


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