“One in five teachers miss work with voice problems, five times the national average. Voice strain, one might argue, is becoming the new RSI” (Are you damaging your voice? Telegraph 2004).
As the Telegraph suggested that ‘Voice Strain is the new RSI’ in 2004, I guess it’s the old new RSI now. In 2010 a study by Elsevier concluded that ‘a preventative voice care programme for teachers’ is needed.
Do not shout – it is not ‘high status’ behaviour – was drilled into me when I was a student teacher… I was told that if I shouted then I had lost control.
I 100% agree with this, but how was I to communicate to a class of 30 pupils doing ‘stuff’ in a science lab? Raising my voice seemed to the best idea, not to lose control but to maintain it and ensure that 30 pupils doing ‘stuff’ with chemicals and Bunsen burners were safe!
This isn’t just the case for teachers of science. It’s the case for any teacher working with students ‘on task’ doing what they are supposed to be doing but not in silence (how Victorian). Students undertaking any kind of collaborative activity are naturally communicating with each other. For all kinds of good reasons the teacher will need to interject to the whole class from time to time. I suggest that the most ‘down to earth’ way that most of us do this is calmly (high status) and with a raised voice. Just that initial bit of communication… ‘look this way’… ‘stop what you’re doing’… ‘pens down’… ‘has anyone seen Tom’s right shoe?’… the usual kind of stuff.
The voice strain risk is not peculiar to teachers – it applies to any job situation where using the voice a ‘lot’ can put a strain on it. Telesales operatives is a good example. I mention this to lead on to the fact that teachers talk a lot. We ask lots of questions to assess how our students are doing and we ask lots of questions to encourage students to think things through and arrive at the answers we want them to as oppose to just telling them. So the fact teachers talk a lot, not including the odd time we raise our voice, can put a strain on the vocal chords.
What’s the answer to reducing voice strain?
One very good answer is a voice reinforcement system in the classroom. Involve offer an InClass sound reinforcement system, which is a simple mini PA set up specifically for classrooms. They are easy to use and certainly enable a teacher to be heard. This in turn enables teachers to facilitate learning and students to learn. It also means that everyone will hear you say, ‘I want your homework handed in next lesson’. No excuses!
Contact us to find out more about voice enhancement and Sound Reinforcement Systems for the classroom, or keep an eye out for the follow up to this blog, which is about hearing loops in the classroom.