Only years later did I discover that one particular class I taught used to call me Voigty The Volcano behind my back.
They reckoned that they could tell when I was about to explode. The whisper would float across the class that “He’s rumbling” and they’d know to back off any wayward conduct for a little while.
They did this because my volcanic explosions were most unpleasant. They were also because, as an inexperienced teacher, I had not yet learned to control my emotions in a challenging classroom.
This isn’t to say that I never raised my voice after realising this. I just did it seldomly, intentionally and with, rather than without, control.
Sylvan Tomkins, in his profound restorative research, speaks to nine innate human affects. Two are positive (enjoyment-joy and interest-excitement) and six are negative (shame-humiliation, distress-anguish, disgust, fear-terror, anger-rage and dissmell).
But one affect is neither positive nor negative. It’s neutral and is expressed as surprise-startle.
It’s the crack of lightning or the car backfiring that’s brief and it sharply draws your attention away from whatever you were doing – even reading this post. It’s sudden and rare.
That’s how you use a loud voice as a teacher. On the rarest of occasions, fully intentionally and only to startle so that you can return them to attention straight after. We should never use a loud voice to generate a negative affect, such as fear or shame, in our students.
And please use that voice only every now and then. If there are cars backfiring around you all day … you just stop noticing after a while.
But a smart teacher using her/his voice to full effect can ensure that a message is heard. Just every now and then, ok. Pick your moment.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. It’s great to be planning events and conferences again and I’ve established a speaking webpage and a media webpage if you’re looking for somebody to provide a provocative, humourous and story-based keynote for your next event. I won’t, however, explode on stage. Promise!
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