The voice as a teaching instrument and other works

Nicholas Rochi
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In October 2018, CTERA published the results of a national survey on health and working conditions for which 2,283 teachers from 14 provinces were consulted: in this survey, 87% of teachers indicated that they had, during the last twelve months, suffered from pathologies such as stress and dysphonia.

But we could well go back to the Official Journal of 1996 where the List of Occupational Diseases provided for by the law on occupational risks was published, voted the previous year at the same time, for example, as the law on work flexibility. In the case of teachers (and not assistants), the payroll recognizes dysphonia and hepatitis A (for primary school teachers) as illnesses related to their professional activity.

Overwork, constantly talking for hours, outdoors, exposed to increasing weekly stress, among other economic conditions such as being the sole breadwinner, is a challenge that is not covered by social work specialists, and who is not ‘cured’ with an anti-inflammatory.

As a university professor of choral training and current municipal coordinator of the JJ de Urquiza School of Music, Marianela Suárez knows the risks of working professionally with the voice, and in this approach with parallel 32 He talked about how to take care of it, in addition to some warning signs to act preventively, edges a subject that needs to be heard.

“This slogan represents a clear statement from all voice professionals, since no teacher (not even music) today has the vocal technical subject in their curriculum”, began by expressing Suárez.

In the critical period of the pandemic, consultations increased dramatically — the interviewee noted — and as “normality” returned, the problems persisted. “Especially at the initial level (Teacher Garden Teacher), where in addition to the exhibition class, the teachers intervene through singing.”

In his particular case, Suárez had many questions “not only from the teaching field, but also from a large number of professionals, such as psychologists, for example, who speak during several hours of sessions with their patients, and the use of the chinstrap forced them to raise their voice even more; Added to the humidity generated by certain types of masks, it prevented the normal expiration of the air.

If we talk about the use of the voice in education, in addition to the traditional classroom and singing (in kindergarten), PE teachers are other victims of being subjected to increases repeated voices outdoors, and in extreme temperatures or on the contrary, when the weather is warmer, this also causes phonation problems. “At the beginning of the pandemic, and even if they were outside, they were obliged to wear a mask.”

It’s no small feat that there are more and more licenses for dysphonia. “which are rarely discussed, and I insist that the teaching staff is not trained, nor offered courses to work with the voice in order to make the most of this resource which is not inexhaustible.”

In the classroom and outside

With classrooms not dropping from 25 to 30 students for the most part, our interviewee insisted that raising your voice and wearing a mask was terrible, “because it required an extra effort that most educators don’t. had not been prepared. In addition to this, virtual classes (through platforms such as Zoom or Meet, among others), have made visible the need to start to articulate better, conditioned by a sound that was not good on computers, and for which they had to regularly increase their voice”

— What is the implication of raising your voice?

— “The implications range from transient dysphonia to nodules (formations within the vocal cords) or oral polyps (small blisters), if they persist over time, in all cases they are caused by misuse or voice abuse. We never think about the number of hours we talk, and since it is a muscle, the vocal cords need to be prepared, ‘warmed up’ or also relaxed, in the same way that a marathon runner warms up. and stretches before a competition. Why not us ? if we are going to use it an average of 12 hours a day. There are mobilization exercises and techniques that do not take more than ten minutes, in addition to having a good breath.

The basis of our breathing are the lungs and the air they store; I have students in particular whom I ask them to walk around, not to look at shop windows… I always tell them! (laughs) but at a steady pace. At least half an hour, every day, because there are people who work in the office, or in customer service who have to talk all morning, part of the afternoon and do not do any type of physical activity to develop their lung capacity.


“Generally most of the consultations come when the problem is installed, with recurrent dysphonia”, he mentioned, because there are also cases of people who exceed this threshold, since they use anti-inflammatories or d other (self) medications as palliatives that straddle this threshold. picture, making it worse. . “Their throat is itchy, or it hurts, many are poorly hydrated – they don’t drink water – overindulge in infusions like mate, tea or coffee, and all of that has negative repercussions. Drinking very cold water is also counterproductive, all of these things are not always known or the warning signs are heeded.

“What’s happening to the vocal cords with the smoke from the combustion in the islands area?”

“It is very harmful. Let’s think for a moment about what happened less than two weeks ago when the fire got worse, how in the patios of many houses you could see this ash invade them, or touch the clothes hanging to dry on the clotheslines and it was impregnated with these particles; Now imagine these impurities, which are in the air, entering our respiratory system. Much like the nicotine we involuntarily inhale in a smoker-contaminated environment, all of this burnt organic matter ends up in our lungs.”

If in addition to all of the above, it is not envisaged to take charge of a specialty such as otolaryngology, which is precisely that which observes the state of the vocal cords, and which can refer to a speech therapist, “the treatment can take several months where social security does not cover them, while this person continues to tire their vocal apparatus and to face the costs of recovery”.

At the end, Marianela reaffirms this concept which places the voice as a central element of our health, “to make us aware that we do not have replacement strings, which is why we must act preventively in the face of the slightest symptoms, by avoiding those transitory dysphonies to which we minimize them.” The voice over the years therefore behaves in the same way as the physiological, with the exception of extraordinary cases of singers like Estela Raval, who, thanks to her regular and sustained behavior, was able to retain that freshness and fluidity – among many other virtues of the singer remembered by Los Cinco Latinos – the rest of us mortals should pay close attention to these recommendations and act accordingly, especially those who are required by their profession to use their voice for long hours.

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