Well at least I am. And you can blame the dreaded lurgy for the absence of post last Friday. Sorry, faithful blog readers!
My particular brand of lurgy is that really terrible brand, complete with no voice! Just in time for the start of term! So, how can you look after a struggling voice as a teacher? See my tips below!
- You can't avoid sick children, even when their parents insist on sending them to school but you can keep your distance. Enforce personal space in your classroom.
- Wash your hands! Always. Every chance you get.
- Eat healthily.
You've tried your best but eventually the lurgy catches up with you. And you can feel that voice starting to go...
- Stop speaking when you don't have to. Rest is the best thing you can give a sore, tired, failing voice. Your voice is a muscle and it needs time to recover from the inflammation.
- Stop speaking in the classroom. You'll be surprised how much you can accomplish with gesture and imitation. Especially in the music classroom. It's actually quite a good behaviour management technique. Practitioners of Orff use this a lot!
- If your lessons or ensembles require you to sing, limit it. Stop singing when the children are! This way you can save your voice AND listen to them.
- Hydrate. Drink water like a camel. And then more. Keep a water bottle in the classroom.
- Steam. Get a 'Bosisto' from the chemist, one of those steam inhalers. Throw out the oil or eucalyptus that comes with it and just inhale steam from plain boiling water. It will help keep your vocal cords hydrated. If you don't have a Bosisto then a bowl of boiling water with a towel over your head is just as effective (plus you get a free pore unclogging facial!)
- Gargle Betadine or a saline solution. This is especially useful as a preventative technique if you feel a sore throat coming on.
- Twang. Twang is that bright, cutting sound you hear in children's playground voices and Broadway singers. It's a great way of being loud without having to push vocally. It will help you cut across classroom noise or music (it comes originally from unamplified singers needing to be heard over an orchestra and makes use of a particular frequency of sound that orchestras don't use).
A few don'ts:
- Don't give in to temptation and overuse your voice. Know your limits and invest in other ways to communicate in the classroom. Use an instrument to get the attention of noisy children or flick the lights. Or even teach your class rudimentary sign language.
- Don't take anti-inflammatories. Anti-inflams are anti-coagulants and make it easier for your vocal cords to rupture and bleed.
- Don't drink alcohol and avoid caffeine (coffee and tea). Both will lead to dehydration - caffeine is a diuretic. Alcohol will also impair your ability to feel your voice and make decisions about its safe use.
- Don't clear your throat and try your hardest not to cough. Both of these are essentially your vocal cords banging together really forcefully and can cause more irritation. If you do need to get mucus of your chest, one big cough is far more useful than throat clearing every 30 seconds.
- Don't drink/eat something and think it will affect your vocal cords. It's a completely separate pipe. Your vocal cords are in your larynx (your wind pipe). Your food and drink goes down your oesophagus. If fluids went past your vocal cords you would drown (or more likely cough and splutter). People who tell you that port or lemon tea will help your lost voice are misinformed. They MAY help with soothing your sore throat symptoms (in your pharynx) or possibly assist with killing some of the nasties, but they aren't doing anything for your vocal cord health.
What are your tips for keeping your voice together during the winter months? Let us know in the comments!