In my line of work at the hospital, I meet a lot of patients with voice problems. In the past, majority of these patients were school teachers. I have long thought that voice care should be a required course in the college curriculum of teachers.
More recently, call center agents were catching up. These people were called voice professionals -- people who depend on their voice in the performance of their jobs. Truth to tell though, anybody who works in the service industries need their voices to be effective in their work.
When we hear the phrase "voice professionals," we think of singers and actors first. Most of the time though, singers and actors have been trained to protect their voices. They have voice teachers and voice therapists when their voices get into trouble. However, even if they were supposed to know a lot about their voices, a lot of them still do a lot of behaviors which harm their voices.
All voice professionals, from the coloratura soprano in the opera house to the salesgirl in the coffee shop, need to understand how their voice works, so that they know what to do and what not to do in order to keep their voices in tip top working condition. Such instructional material is not exactly easy to come by, and if you see one, it is probably very expensive.
Thankfully, a Filipino writer has taken it upon himself an admirable advocacy for the voice care of teachers (as well as all other voice professionals) Pocholo Gonzales calls himself "The VoiceMaster". He is a true voice professional -- for the past 20 years, he had been a voice artist, a radio broadcaster, a motivational speaker and yes, he is also a teacher himself. It had long been his dream to write a book about voice care especially for teachers, a profession for whom he has utmost respect and admiration. This year, that book has become a reality.
VOICE CARE FOR TEACHERS by Pocholo Gonzales is a slim, soft-bound handbook of 132 pages, published by Central Book Supply, Inc, 2015. It has 10 chapters about various aspects of the human voice and teaching.
Chapter 1 was very useful for its interesting statistics about voice use. Chapter 2 is useful for its self-assessment tools about our voices. Chapter 3 is a valuable discussion about our posture, its role in our voice and how to achieve a good one. (It was in Chapter 3 that I noted the only major printing error in the book as the content on p. 29 were repeated on p. 30.)
Chapter 4 is about the three processes in voice production - breathing, phonation and resonation In my practice, there is a fourth process in the enumeration -- articulation. It was mentioned here in the text, but not detailed as the others. I thought the breathing exercises, as well as the part about aligning the vocal tract and that about mask resonance were also very interesting and engaging to follow.
Chapter 5 was about a Vocal Workout, including warm ups and cool down exercises. Like in the previous chapter, there were photographs to illustrate the positions described in the text, making the instructions easy to follow. It includes a part about a Last-Minute Warm-up for those situations wherein an activity of great vocal strain suddenly comes up. I thought that was a very useful tip to include.
Chapter 6 is about Vocal Health, and involves a discussion of various diseases which cause voice problems, like nodules and polyps, vocal fold paralysis, paradoxical vocal fold movement, spasmodic dysphonia and aphonia. The descriptions were very layman in tone, not complicated at all. I noted that he described polyps to be comparable to blisters, but a vocal cyst with liquid content, may be the more apt comparison than a polyp, which is solid. In the discussion of spasmodic dysphonia, he uses the common term Botox, which is actually a trademark. The generic term for Botox is Botulinum Toxin.
There were Voice Care Tips enumerated at the end of Chapter 6. I liked that he mentioned lozenges which a lot of people use but may not really be the best idea. He failed to mention an important food to avoid when you have voice problems though, and that is acidic food. Acid reflux causes a lot of cases of acute or chronic laryngitis. I am also glad he did not fail to mention that if a voice problem is lasting more than two weeks, a consultation with an ENT specialist should be done. It should be mentioned that there are actually ENTs in this country who have subspecialized in Voice.
Chapter 7 is about Teaching Strategies to improve engagement of students. I am glad he thought of describing the students of today (whom he called Gen Z, or those born in the Internet age) and their attitudes. There was an error in the first page of the chapter when he mentioned that there were 4 questions which will determine whether a student will tune in or tune out of a lecture. However, he enumerated only THREE. I wonder what that other missing question was.
About the three strategies discussed, I thought Strategy #1 (Optimizing Classroom Layout) and #3 (Multi-Sensory Learning) were within the topic of protecting the voice. However, I thought that Strategy #2 about Modes of Response felt like it did not really address a voice issue. It could have been edited out without really affecting the tone of the chapter.
Chapter 8 is about Teaching through Storytelling where he writes that the 21st teacher should be an Edu-Tainer. Here he lists down a short course on voice acting -- describing critical elements of a character's voice, sound effects and movement. These tips would probably make classroom discussions livelier, though teachers should discern for which topics techniques like these would be appropriate.
Chapter 9 was entitled the Psyche of the Voice, which really caught my attention. However, as I was reading the content, it turned out to be about rehearsing Crucial Confrontations in preparation for conflicts. Of all the chapters, this was the one that rather disappointed me because I was expecting something else. The topic may be interesting, but it was not really directly tied in to voice management.
Chapter 10 was about Action Planning about correcting your bad voice habits. I wish there was an accomplished sample so that users of the book will have an idea how to answer the empty tables properly.
Overall, I thought this was a very well-written book. I really enjoyed reading Chapters 1 - 6. Mr. Gonzales writes in a very conversational way, like he was right there talking to you, giving you a personal seminar. You can imagine how effective he must be as a teacher. Even the most technical and medical topics came across to the reader very well with his simple, easy-to-understand language and manner of writing. I liked how he encouraged the reader to do the exercises and not just read about them. How I wish though that the references were listed after each chapter, and not all at the end without specifying in which chapter that particular resource was used.
I heartily recommend this book as a basic primer for voice care for all voice professionals, not only teachers. Kudos to Mr. Pocholo Gonzales for his admirable advocacy. Interested parties can order the book from the author's website at this LINK.