Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The importance of tone and volume

The teacher voice is something that many teachers are told they need to learn.  I think sometimes the 'teacher voice' is a catchall phrase that practicum teachers can have some difficulty learning.. I know I did as a practicum teacher.

Being soft spoken, it is something that I had to approach.  My first teacher instructor was a shouter - to her classroom control was maintained through a combination of fear and volume.  It was something that I was poorly suited to and found difficult to emulate.

My second teacher instructor maintained her classroom through warmth and caring.  She had an ability to develop a rapport with her students and her classes liked her - much of this I would attribute to her sunny, kinaesthetic Phys Ed inspired background.  Not being the warmest of people myself and a little awkward at times in new social occassions,  it too proved difficult to emulate, although I did take much away from that practicum that I have tried to incorporate into my teaching.  I could see how her approach made it easier to break down barriers and reach that zone of intervention.

My third practicum was nearly my undoing, where the teacher instructor was a disciplinarian - a person I highly respect for the results he achieved in his classroom.  I also taught the class next door once a week and found enforcing this approach was difficult - as setting bounds on classes not seen often was difficult - and is a regular issue in teaching high school.  Whilst being observed in this class, my practicum nearly terminated after a lesson failed to achieve lesson outcomes due to behavioural issues.

Yet from each I was able to take a little bit of what I wanted to do (and what not to do) and established my own style of teaching, authoritarian but with a degree of warmth used to encourage students to achieve above their own understanding of their ability.  Raising my voice a little into assertive tone brings attention quickly - raising my voice above this brings looks of shock and silence for half an hour.  I think my students realise that I care about their performance as long as they are pursuing the methods I describe for success and realise that I care about non compliance when it effects their grades.

Anyhow, assertive delivery is a powerful tool in the arsenal of a teacher.  Use of the tone usually requires a number of things
  1. establishment of an attention spot at the front of the room
  2. a quick scan of the room (seeking eye contact and indication that instruction will follow)
  3. a pause (to give students an opportunity to finish and look up)
  4. a statement to gain attention (eyes front, pens down, look here or similar statement) delivered without intonation at a slightly high volume level than instructional voice (a voice that can be heard at the back of the room).
  5. a second scan of the room to identify non compliant students in conjunction with a number of low key responses for students that need additional attention (hand signals, name, indication to neighbour)
  6. a willingness to discuss consequences with students and move students permanently that do not respond after multiple processes
Once attention can be gained and maintained easily, delivery of materials becomes considerably easier.  It's not really the obscure secret many teachers make it out to be nor is it an optimal strategy for all teachers.  It is one of the more successful strategies for practicum teachers to use during practicum where more reliable and effective rapport based strategies really take too long to successfully implement.

Being predominantly a rapport based teacher, I do empathise with practicum teachers that are not 'type A' individuals sport stars and fashion victims that students immediately warm to.  My fear with the current practicum system is that many of the highest potential teachers are lost to the system as they do not have the time to develop a reputation amongst the student population as a great teacher rather than as a new cool teacher.

I love being a math teacher - as sportiness and fashion are rarely problems for us.  No expectation of being cool here :-)

1 comment:

  1. Hey!
    teaching is an art, a skills and a challenge that can sometimes be more difficult then aiming and archery . your post make the teacher easy to understand and learn the best tips to teach. you concentrate all of the essential points and defining with clarity. thanks for your good post.


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