Tips for teachers: A new school year – take care of your voice!

By Mary Howell posted 30-08-2022 10:11

Whether you are an early career teacher or an experienced practitioner, there is no doubt that you will be using your voice a lot from the start of the term. Your voice is one of your most important teaching tools, but it rarely gets any attention in teacher training or CPD. Yet some simple principles can help with communication and help you protect this precious asset.

Why does it matter – teacher health

In a 2019 survey nearly a third of UK teachers reported having problems with their voice, compared with less than a tenth of non-teachers. Meanwhile head teachers report voice problems as a reason for staff absence and there is a considerable cost to schools and individuals.

What can you do to look after your voice and use it effectively in your teaching?

My top tip here is to establish with your pupils what non-verbal signals you will use and what they mean. Do this when you first meet the class and be consistent. If you have practical work or group activities think about how you will get the class back to paying you attention. Behaviour specialist Sue Cowley recommends having a ‘silence signal’ in her blog on voice use and the accompanying free download advice sheet.

The NEU’s ‘Voice Care for Teachers’ page does what it says on the tin and has useful guidance and simple self-help, such spotting the signs of problems, thinking about pitch and tone, and planning the spoken elements of teaching, plus a reminder about drinking water to protect your voice. I also love this single page of tips from the Speech and Language specialists in Hackney, which you could print out as an at a glance reminder of better habits.

During my teacher training all of us were offered the option of a session or more with a voice coach, one of the single most useful things in our training! Whilst that may not be available in your context if you know someone who is drama trained, they are very likely to be able to support you with this. Maybe this is something a group of staff could organise with a drama teacher from their own or a nearby school.

If you have any tips to share please do add them in the comments section below.

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08-08-2023 08:01

What a useful post; thank you Mary

I would like to add that both talking less and talking with a quite voice not only protects your vocal chords but can aid classroom management.

We all know that we should be getting children to talk more and teachers to talk less so that pupils are better engaged by using strategies such as thing, pair, share.  However, making sure that teacher voice is reserved for having something worthwhile to say (most of the time) also means that children are more likely to listen.  Then, when you do have something worth saying, using a quite voice generally leads to children who are more focused as they do not want to miss what is being said.

31-08-2022 13:24

Thank you Mary - a great idea to share with staff at the beginning of term.

31-08-2022 10:29

So true Mary. It is very very important to look after you voice and this is rarely/never highlighted in training or by mentors....
Talk to your drama teacher and get some tips...excellent idea I agree