How is your Teacher's Voice?
Your teacher's voice is the voice you use when you're standing in front of your class. It's your professional voice and often different in quality from our day-to-day ordinary speaking voice. So how is your teaching voice?
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'called on to say a few words'
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There is reason behind my question. Even if you're now a teacher by profession, I'm sure you can remember the experience of listening to a teacher with a poor or weak voice. Perhaps they droned. Or may be the voice was shrill or harsh or too loud. That teacher may have been an expert in their subject but their voice didn't communicate in a way that inspired you to want to know more.
Instead you switched off.
If that happens when we're adults we may politely day dream - focus our attention inwardly and wait for the talk/lesson to end. However, if it's children in a classroom, their response is likely to be less restrained. They will whisper, pass notes, yawn, and prompt the class clown to entertain them with diversionary tactics.
Do you know what affect your teacher's voice has?
If you know your subject, have prepared your lessons carefully to meet your class needs and are still having difficulty maintaining attention, it might be time to consider your voice.There is nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I promise you the exercises are fun and easily learnt.
When I did my teacher's training years ago, we were taught nothing about voice. The little knowledge I had came from speech and drama tuition, something I had actively sought out but there was no help or guidance for my fellow teacher trainees. The result was ignorance. They didn't know enough to know what they were missing out on. Thank-fully, that is changing.
Communication & Voice Research
Now we have research to show the quality of a teacher's voice has a dramatic impact on how children behave and learn.
We also know through research done by communication consultants that the major important components of communication are a combination of what you say (the words) and how they are delivered.
I'll let Communication Expert Brian Tracy explain:
"According to Albert Mehrabian, a communications specialist, there are three elements in any direct, face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice and body language.
You’ve probably heard that words account for only 7 percent of the message, tone of voice accounts for 38 percent of the message, and body language accounts for fully 55 percent of the message.
For an effective communication to take place, all three parts of the message must be congruent. If there is any in-congruency, the receiver will be confused and will tend to accept the predominant form of communication rather than simply the literal meaning of the words."
To read his full and excellent article, please click here
What does this mean for the teacher's voice?
In a nutshell it means that what you do with your body while you explain the lesson is as influential as the words themselves.
If you want energized, focused, actively listening students then you need to mirror that in your actions. The trick is to SHOW while you are TELLING what you've got to share is exciting, relevant and important. This the congruency Brian Tracy is talking about in the extract above. Our body, tone of voice and words must match.
Some people achieve congruency of body language, tone and words intuitively. They are the performers who know how to hold an audience's attention effortlessly. Others of us need to learn consciously. In case you are tempted to judge yourself harshly; it is not a question of better or less than but merely one of difference. In fact, often the person who learns these skills consciously has more control and flexibility once they've mastered them. Why? Because they can stand back from themselves, analyze their results and adjust accordingly. The person who just 'does it' does not have the overview of their behavior.
Where do I begin?
With Body Language
A great start to re-energizing your teaching voice is to understand body language. I've a page of body language basics here.
I'm sure once you've read it you'll realise you know most of it already. What you didn't consciously understand though is that you have the power to choose what story your body language tells. Even though the page is an elementary beginning, you'll find enough to start experimenting with how you deliver your lessons.
Your next step is to look at vocal variety.
A teacher's voice needs to reflect passion but more than that it needs flexibility. This means having a wide variety of tonal expressions and other skills to select from.
You can find exercises to develop vocal variety here. Rest assured they are fun, easy to learn and EFFECTIVE!
Get the Power of the Pause
Do you know the trick of using the power of the pause? Timing is the key. Silence can speak louder than words. Find out about pausing for emphasis here.
Putting the Brakes on Motor Mouth
Perhaps you need exercises to slow your speech down? A teacher's voice rattling off its information at high speed will lose many students quickly. There are exercises for developing a flexible speech rate here. Fast is one option. Give yourself some more.
Do your students have difficulty clearly hearing your words?
If you habitually speak without sufficient articulation, there is a page of fun tongue twister exercises here to help.
Yes, there is a lot to learn but these pages are a great start. Your teacher's voice IS important. It's the vehicle for transmitting your knowledge, your passion, your concern...in short all the things that made you excited about becoming a teacher.
And lastly, breathing.
How you breathe underpins voice quality and health. Good breathing and postural habits are essential for maintaining your voice. Do read and then practise these breathing exercises. You'll find not only will they improve the quality of your voice but tension will fall away as well.
Go well. Have fun developing your teacher's voice. Remember you're never just a teacher, you are a motivational speaker!
If you have specific & ongoing voice health issues, please be sure to check out my voice health page. Get the help you need now.
If you're teaching public speaking you'll appreciate a good public speaking rubric. This one is available as a download and each grading criteria is fully explained to make it easy to use.
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