Developing a Teacher's Voice

Discussion in 'General Education' started by GrooGrux King, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. GrooGrux King

    GrooGrux King Rookie

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    Feb 8, 2015

    Hey everyone,

    I am a second year teacher (I guess you can say first, since I long term subbed in two different districts for a year) teaching 10th grade in an urban school. My class...well.... it is a little out of control to put it kindly. About half the students do not respect me. I've talked to individual students who I have developed a strong relationship with and they recognize that I am clearly working my butt off and think I am a great teacher. At the same time, some say my voice isn't assertive(or stern) enough when it comes to disciplining my students. My principal believes that it is the students holding themselves back and nothing to do with me, but the poor behavior must stop. I have spoken to some of my colleagues and they say a teacher's voice develops with time. However, there are many days when I come home stressed out and thinking about leaving the occupation, even though I enjoy teaching. Others say I should look at the elementary level where my voice would be better suited to work with young children.

    To the teachers of this forum: How did you develop your teacher's voice? Did it really come with time or was it something you practiced?
     
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  3. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    It really does take practice. There's a way to project your voice without yelling. For me, the "teacher voice" is deep, slightly louder than usual (but again, not shouting), and very firm -- monotone and probably a bit lower pitch than I normally talk. Usually arms crossed, eyebrows down, and no smile also helps get the point across that you mean business.
    It's almost like getting angry, but minus the emotional aspect of it, if that makes sense.
    Edit: Once the "loud" voice gets everyone's attention, switching to a quieter firm voice works well.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I find with my kiddos that the softer I get, the more they listen. That could be an elementary thing though. It came with time. The former music major in me always wanted to be loud and expressive... but when that was my normal, it was THEIR normal, too. When my normal became soft but focused, it became their normal. It happened more or less instantaneously, but I had to focus on doing it for two years for it to stick.
     
  5. GrooGrux King

    GrooGrux King Rookie

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    Thank you for the advice. That's what most teachers have been saying. I think my problem is getting my voice to be deeper. It's just not natural for me.
     
  6. GrooGrux King

    GrooGrux King Rookie

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    Interesting. I'm generally loud and expressive but I'll give that a shot.
     
  7. El sol

    El sol Rookie

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    Feb 8, 2015

    I was and still am soft-spoken, so at the beginning it was kind of difficult to even attempt to develop a teacher's voice--but I don't think that's what you are talking about.

    I can tell you, from my own experience, developing that voice is not just about that. It's about knowing how to use the appropriate tone in every situation and obviously acclimating your students to your different tones. I talk about tone and not about loudness because there is a difference.

    If you're talking about discipline, and students are mentioning the sternness of your voice, you have some ground to move. Half the class should know what they are doing wrong by you pointing it out on the spot with a clear tone and following through with consequences as stated by school rules and your expectations/procedures/rules. A teacher voice, I think, refers to a projecting one which would allow everyone in the classroom to hear you. It seems your area of work is not necessarily a teacher voice but classroom management, which is not a bad thing by the way.

    When is this half of students doing this? What consequences are you giving? Is your tone changing when you interrupt a lesson to talk about discipline?
     
  8. GrooGrux King

    GrooGrux King Rookie

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    Feb 8, 2015

    You're right, it is a classroom management issue as well. There is something that I should note: I teach at a school based under the Big Picture Philosophy. One major part of this educational philosophy is the fact that you stick with the same 15 students until they graduation high school (so 9th to 12th grade). I replaced a guy that left because the kids were a pain and now they are mine. At the same time, I received a ton of crap at the beginning because I wasn't the old teacher and it was a rough start. Now as far as relationships have gone, the students and I have created a better bond. Regardless, that bad start still had an impact on the year in my opinion.

    As far as discipline, I started out with detentions and found them relatively ineffective. More recently, I have started calling home and moved the seats. The main problem in class is talking and disrespect. They are disrespectful to me and their peers. The students that have my back will sometimes step in and tell the others to shut up, which can sometimes be effective based on the situation. As far as tone, it varies. Sometimes I remain calm and try to show them I'm not upset, other times I get too angry and snap. Though when I discuss poor behavior, the kids view it as "preaching".

    It also might be because I'm young, look like I'm 16 and skinny too. To them I could just be a friend and not a person of authority.
     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    The "teacher look" is just as effective as the teacher voice. That takes even more practice. My cooperating teacher almost fell out of her seat applauding the first time I shot it and it worked.
     
  10. El sol

    El sol Rookie

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    Looking young can be a factor, but that you can also work with. Students are smart though, and they should know the difference between someone like a friend and a teacher.

    If administration is helpful and effective, you can ask for help. You replaced another person which itself should be an indication that difficult situations are expected and they should be willing to offer support continuously. Work with what you got. The parents who are supportive, keep calling them.
     
  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Feb 8, 2015

    I agree with the teachers who mention that a soft teacher voice can be effective as well.

    I am normally expressive and talkative, but when someone treads on my boundaries, I stop everything. Sometimes I don't even have to talk. Sometimes, I just say very softly: "Stop."

    Accompanied with a certain look, a student knows immediately they have crossed the line, and it usually stops them dead in their tracks.

    At this point in my teaching career, I've stopped being wordy when asking kids to do something. I used to tell students things like: "Please stop talking, it's rude to others, and disrespectful to me, in addition, it slows down the learning in the classroom."

    Now it's "Stop, or go to the focus desk."
     
  12. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Feb 9, 2015

    Teacher's voice and looks only work if the students know that there is some bite behind it, especially with urban HS kids. The voice and the looks should be a warning that the kid has/is about to cross the line into trouble AND that doing so brings consequences. Basically, the voice and look should show that you mean business and that you - not the students - run the show.

    If the kids feel that you cannot back up these warnings with any real consequences, they may respond by ignoring them. And, as I am sure you are aware, some kids will try you just to see what you will do next. Make sure you have some enforceable teacher-implemented consequences to back you up.
     
  13. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Feb 9, 2015

    Also, I think there are some kids who are so used to only hearing a raised voice or being yelled at that they will take your quiet/soft tone as a joke until a relationship of respect and understanding is built. I see this happen all the time, especially with new teachers who wonder: "why would a kid want me to yell at them? Why do they only respond to me screaming and getting angry but ignore me when I approach them in a kind and respectful manner/tone?"

    These kids often do not like being told what to do because they see themselves as grown adults who do not have to respect authority - which is often the case in their home lives. A teacher being "nice" to them - which is how some interpret the soft voice thing - is a "joke" of an authority figure. So, sometimes, you may have to yell to let them know that you mean business and that you are in charge. This should not be happening all the time, but I don't agree when people say a teacher should never yell/raise their voice because it is a sign of frustration and loss of control. As my P says/said: "sometimes, we have to give the kids what they know so that we can reach them and then, we can open their eyes to seeing new ways."

    Just my :2cents:
     
  14. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Feb 9, 2015

    Take singing lessons. Seriously. Learning to control volume, tone, inflection and intensity are all part of expressive singing. As others have said, it's not all about being loud. All those other factors come into play as well.

    In addition to voice, body language makes a big impact. Stand and mice with an air of confidence and authority. If you are standing slouched over and moving around meekly, they aren't going to take you seriously. Instead, stand with straight, squared off shoulders, feet shoulder width apart, chin slightly raised. That gives off an air of power and the kids will respond.

    You say you look young. You can age yourself a bit by how you dress. A sharp looking blazer over a conservative top, business casual pants or skirt and sensible shoes will add ten years to your look.

    Don't try to be somebody you're not. Develop that air of authority within your own personality. If you're not comfortable in your own skin the students will know and they will eat you alive. I know teachers who are sweet as honey whose students wouldn't dare step a toe out of line and teachers who try to act like drill sergeants whose classes are completely out of control.

    Lastly, and again as others have already said, it just takes time. You will get there. One day at a time.
     
  15. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Feb 9, 2015

    Interesting you mention that. The one student I had an issue with last year had a mother who would excuse his behavior and backtalk by saying, "in our home he's used to speaking as an equal with me and my boyfriend."

    This was also the same mom that leaves him in the care of his grandma for months, so she can go out clubbing and who drove him to fight another student when he was in 7th grade.
     

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