Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of

Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Help! I've Lost my Voice ... AGAIN!!!

Most people associate losing your voice to yelling at one's kids for too long as a part, straining your vocal chords as a professional opera singer, or just being sick as a normal human being. While I am not yet a parent, I find myself losing my voice (or having a sore throat) on a regular basis. Why? I teach 120 students per day, and while I am certainly not a traditional "yeller" in the classroom, I project my voice for long periods of time, four periods a day, 180 days a year. In addition, I am constantly speaking with colleagues at work and at home with my husband, family, friends, and acquaintances. As it that wasn't enough, I also sing with a semi-professional choral group, the Cathedral Choral Society.

This week, of course, is concert week. We have three Christmas concerts this weekend, and it is imperative that my voice is fresh, strong, and ready to perform. How can I guarantee it will be, though, if I still am straining my voice all day as a teacher and team leader? 

My Department Chair shared an interesting article with me recently that speaks to the strain, pain, and pressure we, as teachers, continually put on our vocal cords, which can have damaging and long term negative effects to our health. For example, my Department Chair, who is a dear friend, colleague, and master teacher of over 20 years, has always sung every week with her church choir and very much enjoyed it. Last month, she had to abruptly leave the choir, as it was too much for her voice to handle after so many years of teaching. How devastating! I cannot imagine never being able to sing with a group again; it would be an enormous gap and loss in my life. 

Read on to discover how her story is not typical and how YOU can avoid long-term damaging effects on your voice:

How to Mend a Broken Voice

Teachers, lawyers, and others who put a premium on talking can find their voices just give out.

How to Mend a Broken VoiceLee Akst believes most patients with voice complaints, including those with phonotraumatic lesions, can be helped.
Photo by Keith Weller 

Most people imagine voice patients as opera singers or actors. But the reality is that most patients with voice complaints work more routine jobs—as lawyers, salesmen, and schoolteachers, says Lee Akst.

"A classic voice patient is someone who uses their vocal cords so much that they’ve developed a lesion on them that gets in the way of good vocalization," explains Akst, a laryngologist. And schoolteachers are especially subject to such injuries. It’s a population—along with the marketers and lawyers and other highly vocal professionals—that Akst plans to treat as he takes the helm of the Johns Hopkins’ Division of Laryngology. Most importantly, however, he wants to grow the division and the breadth of services it offers. And he’s primed to do exactly that.

Akst, who specializes in voice and swallowing problems, joined Hopkins from Chicago’s Loyola University Hospital, where, as director of laryngology, he helped establish a center for voice and esophageal disorders. Now he’s doing the same here, joining together with current otolaryngology faculty and staff and bringing them all under the umbrella of the newly established Johns Hopkins Voice Center, in the outpatient center of the hospital’s East Baltimore campus.

"We really want to expand the variety of specialty services we’re offering patients with these issues," Akst says. Those patients tend to have one major thing in common: They must frequently use—and sometimes strain—their vocal cords.

"Teachers are particularly high risk because they’re constantly talking and projecting their voices to the classroom, and they’re unable to rest their voices when they’re feeling tired or hoarse," Akst says. "They have to keep pushing through in order to communicate with their students."

Over time, he continues, their voices—and those of others in vocally demanding jobs—just give out.

Fortunately, he says, most patients with voice complaints can be helped, especially if diagnosis is early and accurate. Patients with phonotraumatic lesions such as nodules, polyps, and cysts can benefit from voice therapy and also surgery. Patients with growths on their vocal cords, like cancer or papilloma, can benefit from surgery as well, often through procedures that use advanced pulsed laser technologies to help preserve voice. For patients with vocal cord paralysis, there are medialization procedures and also injections that can help restore voice.

"There’s always something we can do," Akst says. "We can always make someone at least a little bit better." 
Lauren Manfuso

1 comment:

  1. Kay! I hope you're voice is back full and strong! I can completely related! I was out for 3 days last year because I lost my voice. It was totally frustrating because I wasn't sick otherwise, and of course, I tried to teach the first day! LOL. My kids were really supportive, but it was exhausting and my voice only got worse. :( It made me realize just how physical teaching is... we need all of our senses and our limbs working well in order to truly succeed at our job!

    When I went to the doctor, she gave me this throat numbing syrup to help reduce any swelling, but it ended up numbing my entire mouth! hahaha... I laugh about it now, but at the time I felt like a slobbering idiot!! :-P

    Your article also gets me wondering; what would be a good extra curricular activity for teachers? Running and singing seem to come with possible neg. consequences. Perhaps yoga? If we stay away from the kiln, can we become potters? :)

    PS. Does your choral group sell CD's? I'd love to get one!

    Love you!