Hi Galaxia, sorry to hear about your problem. Unfortunately, as been said, voice disorders are very common among teachers - so you're definitely not alone with this problem! I completely agree with Pob, having a good strategy of not "talking all the time" in the classroom is essential. In the beginning of my career as a a teacher I, as many others, made the mistake of lecturing too much. I've since learned that engaging the pupils more and keeping them motivated is the way to go. In this way you don't have to steer and command all the time, straining your voice. Of course, when you are giving a presentation or lecture in a large auditorium you are more on your own, thus mastering your voice becomes more crucial.
I teach voice daily for teacher students at the university, so I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned and noticed.
I would say that from the ca 100 students I teach in a year, ca 90 have some sort of problem with their voice. I often wonder, where do these problems come from? I would say that some of the underlying causes are: wrong models of speech, posture and breathing (be it teachers, parents or other front figures in childhood, and also children trying to imitate rock/pop stars), emotional trauma (narcissistic woundings, abuse etc) and related to the former, disconnection between the mind and body (lack of engaging the body). Very rarely, the problem is physiological (injuries in the vocal chords etc).
I once had a student who always started crying whenever she had to make any sort of sound. So every lesson we just made a few "funny sounds" with me not looking at her (this was crucial for her). Gradually, she overcame her fear, and at the end of the year she was singing a whole song!
Even though the root of the problem, in my experience, is almost always psychological leading to physiological "malfunction", training and vocalizing can be of great help. It's sort of "working from the other end of the stick-once you learn the correct technique, you get more confident etc. Here's a short list of the technical problems I usually work with my students (I'll try to post some exercises for you later):
- Breathing (correct deep diaphragmatic breathing, flexibility in the lower ribs). Sometimes they breathe in reverse, and correcting this can take a lot of time and effort. Doing Eíriú Eolas would be a great help here, as well as other exercises (I'll get back with those)
- Posture and tensions. Especially releasing tensions in the neck, jaw and pelvis are helpful. Different routines of body work, Alexander technique, Feldenkreis are very helpful for these
- Proper closure of vocal chords. This is more common with female students. But the devil is in the details: you have to learn to adduct the vocal chords without engaging the outer throat muscles and swallowing muscles. You need personal guidance with this, since there's a big risk of doing it wrong.
- Engaging the right support muscles, especially the transversus abdominis. You are training these for example if you do The Warriors Breath
- Getting rid of the false image of how you sound. This is more of a problem for singers, but can apply to speech too. Sometimes people are accustomed to hear their own voice (with their "inner ear") in a certain way. In this way they manipulate the voice causing tensions. Its tricky to correct, but once you're freed not to listen to yourself, the voice is more projected and thus more audible
These are just a few of the more common problems that I can think of right now. Without hearing or seeing you, it's hard to tell what your main problems are, maybe you could describe your sensations in more detail?
I'll get back with some exercises...