Tips for teachers ahead of the new academic year: Take care of your voice!

By Mary Howell posted 07-08-2023 14:56


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 sadly isn't currently available, but this Sec-Ed article covers similar information and advice, including 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. Sing Up's Vocal Health for Teachers article is free to access, it has details of how to warm up your voice, that are relevant to all teachers, not just those leading singing. 

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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10-08-2023 15:34

Hi @Mary Howell @Yanika Hennig I cant find anything from the NEU anymore but Cambridge University Hospital Trust have published this guide specifically for teachers which I'm sure goes along the same lines.

08-08-2023 13:23

Hi @Yanika Hennig thank you for pointing out the broken link.  I have contacted the NEU to asked them if the content can be made available.  In the meantime I have added a couple of new links that have similar information and guidance - the updated links are now in the blog, as follows -  Sec Ed article with similar content to what was on the NEU site and Sing Up's Vocal Health for Teachers advice article with lots of tips on warming up the voice for talking and singing. Thank you again.    

08-08-2023 09:25

Thanks for the info. The NEU link comes up as 'page not found', could you update if possible?

Many thanks!