Back to School: Save Your Voice

You know it is the beginning of the school year when
  • You call the pizza delivery place and without telling the employee your name, he or she asks if you want your regular.
  • Your refrigerator is full of take out containers.
  • Your house looks like a combination of a school supply warehouse and bookstore with dirty dishes and laundry thrown in for good measure.
  • You can't remember the last t.v. show that comes on after 7 p.m. that you were able to finish.
  • At home the answer to most questions is "no".  
    • Did you wash my soccer uniform?
    • Did you pick up my clothes at the cleaners?
    • Did you remember to pick up my prescription?
    • Have you called the repairman?
Do these sound familiar?  Do you ever feel like you are getting pulled in every direction?  Is your stress level and your family's at an all time high right now?

Being a teacher has advantages and disadvantages for teachers and their families.  I love having the time in the summer to spend with my family, get those deep cleaning projects done, cook real meals, and do all those other things that I don't always get to do during the school year.   The drawback to this is when August rolls around; there is an adjustment period for my family.  Not only are teacher-moms and dads busy with setting up their classrooms, sometimes children of teachers are roped into helping with the set-up, too.  My daughter and sister-in-law who is also a teacher's child like to compare notes about the pitfalls of being a teacher's kid when we go visit my family.

There were always a few things I could count on happening at school, too.
  • My schedule will change.  It doesn't matter if my administrator promised that it was set in stone, schedules do change.  Do not begin making plans until the day before school begins.  This is one of those times where the early bird does not catch the worm.
  • Your class list can and probably will change. Do not make your class chart, list all your students alphabetically and assign them a number yet.  Your class list is just a ***SUGGESTION*** (for lack of a better word) the first day of two.  There is usually some shuffling around.  Parents who must have their child with such and such teacher or their child can not be placed with another child often are moved around the first few days.  You will be less stressed if you don't make concrete plans until the second week of school - at the earliest.
  • Absolutely, positively do not, repeat, do not make a million and one nametags because you will often get a new student the first day or two of school.  Sometimes at the Meet the Teacher, you will find out that your students go by names that look nothing like what is on their permanent records.  You might have a student named Theodore Xavier Smith who will inform you that he prefers to be called Bubba.  When you ask his mother, she will confirm that this is what she wants him called at school.  So, save yourself time, nametags, and headaches and wait for the dust to settle before you do too much work.
  • Yes, I get it!  You want to feel like your ducks are in a row.  I think it must be in teacher's DNA to have that trait.  But, this trait can add stress the first week of school.  I've tried different things such as giving students a sentence strip and have them write their name on the strip.  Let the student choose where he or she wants to sit.  Sometimes students know other students from soccer teams, the neighborhood, or being in other classes together.  You have earned a gold star with the student and the parent by letting the child choose where he or she wants to sit.  You have taken an informal assessment of their writing when they wrote their name (for K and 1st).  You now know the correct spelling and what the child prefers to go by.  You saved your self time you would have spent writing the nametags and taping them to the tables or desks.  You will have fewer tears and anxiety problems the first few days of school because students know whom they are going to sit by.
Most teachers will usually spend the first week going over rules, procedures, and do get-to-know activities.  Some of you may refer to this time period as Boot Camp. During Book Camp:
  • Have a bottle of Tylenol handy.  Headaches are very common the first few weeks.  For after school, I like to use one of those wraps filled with buckwheat seeds that you warm up in the microwave.  There is something magical about putting that on your aching shoulders after school.  It's like a mini-massage.  If you get migraines like I do, you may want to use this during the school day.  Your students will learn to use this as a visual cue to speak softly when that is around your neck.  
  • Keep a change of shoes at school.  I don't know what the research or science is behind this, but, I like to change into a different pair of shoes at lunchtime.  For whatever reason, it seems to rejuvenate my feet and give me a little boost of energy.  Try it and see what you think!
  • I also like to get new massaging insoles for my shoes.  It is tough to be on our feet so much at the beginning of the year.  Add this to your Back to School shopping list.
  • Stock up on some snacks that you can eat while you work.  If you don't have nut allergy students, I recommend keeping a can of nuts in your desk for your breaks.  Nuts are great because they fill you up and you can eat while you work.  I've also found kits of small cans of chicken salad or tuna salad with crackers at Costco that are tasty, too.
Do you lose your voice during Boot Camp?  I can't tell you how many times I have gotten hoarse during the beginning of the year.  Then it happens again around the two Parent-Teacher conference periods.  These are not the best times to lose your voice.  Our voice is one of the tools of our trade.  I just made this new discovery that may help you keep your voice this year. Have you heard of a Voice Booster?  

One year I had a student that received extra support.  One of the supports this student received was the teacher using a microphone/speaker system. The district gave me a small microphone to wear and it reminded me of the Voice Booster.  The district had to install a speaker system in my room to use with the microphone.  The year that I had this student, I did not lose my voice during the 3 times that I normally do.

There was an added bonus for my other students. I noticed that my students used the microphone as visual and auditory cues.  When they saw me put on the microphone they knew it was time to pay attention.  I also think the amplification of my voice helped some of them pay closer attention to what I was saying.  That year I was not constantly saying "1, 2, 3 all eyes on me".  All I had to do was pick up the microphone and my students knew talking stopped and listening began.

My bonus was less discipline problems and a well-rested voice.  Once I figured out the magic of the microphone/speaker system I begged my principal to let me keep it.  But, the system followed the student.  I tried substitutes like a karaoke machine, but there was always some type of drawback.  It is a little hard to carry around a karaoke machine when you are teaching.

So, when I got an email from TK Products asking if I would be interested in checking out the Voice Booster, I knew this was something my readers would be interested in, too.  I spoke to the owner of TK Products who developed the brand VoiceBooster, Jim Sauter yesterday.  It turns out his wife is a teacher, his mother was a teacher, and he has several relatives that are teachers.  So, the Voice Booster has been "in the trenches" already thanks to his family.   He understood exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned the stress of Boot Camp.

 One of the things I like about Voice Booster is it is small enough that it won't get in your way when you are teaching.  The microphone is on a headpiece that is small enough that you won't have to worry about it giving you a bad hair day.   If you have "senior moments" like me and often forget to charge your phone, you will love this - its battery last 2 days!  You can play music through it while you talk, too.  I'm sure there are many more things it can do.  I'm still playing around with it.  To me, the cost of it is worth it when I think about how stressful it is to lose or strain my voice.  If you get one, I would love to know if your students respond like mine did to the visual and auditory cues of a microphone.

The drawback to the microphone system that I used before was the system was on a belt or necklace type of thing that hung from my neck.  So I couldn't wear necklaces that year.  Plus it kept knocking off my name tag.  It also created problems when I would bend over.  Do you know how many times a day a teacher bends over during the school day?

I think the set up of the Voice Booster will work much better in the classroom.  I took a picture of the Voice Booster headset so you could see how small the microphone headset is.  It doesn't weight much at all.  The speaker can either clip to your waistband or there is a belt that comes with it that you can use.

Do you remember the old commercials that said, I'm not doctor but I played one on t.v.?

Click HERE to watch this commercial.

I feel like I need to give a disclaimer here.  Yes, I am a teacher and yes I did see positive results when I used a speaker system, but I do not have a scientific study to back up this.  This is only my opinion.  If you do try it and you are a teacher, I would love to know if you got the same results that I did.  Please email me ( and tell me about your experience. Thanks!

I typed up some of these tips in case you would like a paper copy of these ideas.  
Click on the picture above to download it.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.


Life As I Know It... said...

I desperately wish I could've read this before my first year of teaching a few years ago! This is great insight and wonderful reminders!

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Life As I Know It

Kelly said...

At my old district, they bought field sound systems for all of the classrooms with money from the special ed department. I absolutely loved it! I have nodules on my vocal cords and it totally save my voice. I moved to a new district this year, I may have to invest in a voice booster. Thanks so much for sharing this!!!
I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

Michelle said...

Thank you Jamie! There are so many things I wish someone would have told me. I'm now trying to share a few of those things with others. :)

Thank you for sharing Kelly. I think it is so important that teachers protect their voice. I would rather spend money on this and be less stressed than possibly use sick days.

Many PTA groups that I have been involved with are willing to fund equipment like this that will groups of children and teachers. Donor's Choose is also another great source for funding equipment.

Becky said...

This is a great post! Lots of good information. I'm entering my tenth year of teaching, and I still learn new things from other teachers (and via teacher blogs!) every day! Thanks for sharing!

Trials and Triumphs

Unknown said...

This is a great post! I have a student this year that also has the same speaker system. I haven't started back to school yet, but I was wondering if you think that the VOICE booster is better than the system your school district provided for you? Looking forward to hearing from you! Thank you!