It’s How You Say It

If an average person says 7000 words in a day, how many words does a teacher say?  I just know I’d come home on Friday evenings not wanting to say one more word . . . to anyone. But for how much I talked, I often used only a small part of my vocal range. That is, until I sat in the back of Mr. Love’s class. He didn’t have a teacher-type voice—one that talked at kids, not with them. He didn’t alternate between sharp-edged voice and a sugary one. He used his voice to connect kids with content. So when Mr. Love spoke, students listened. Here are some tips from Mr. Love I’ll pass along to you:

  • Pause—Just before an important concept, Mr. Love would pause. “Listen to this,” he’d say. “Get this.” Then he’d wait. And silence would hang in the room. He seemed to know exactly how long to hold the stillness, and at just the right second, he’d make his point. Sometimes he’d pause just after he made a point. And in that silence, I could almost hear the thinking.
  • Emote—Mr. Love used his words as baskets to carry feeling. He’d make his voice big and then he’d make it intimate. He’d tone his voice up and down, filling it with awe and then practically whispering to show intrigue or mystery.
  • Alter rhythm and tempo—Mr. Love varied his voice as he change approaches or ideas. He showed degrees of importance by how he spoke. Were his words part of an aside? A continuing narrative? A focal point? Students could tell. They could hear the emphasis.

When I sat in the back of Mr. Love’s class, he had already taught over a decade. And that day, he had already taught for five periods. But his voice wasn’t plodding through a lesson. His voice showed he had something to say and he enjoyed saying it. Mr. Love’s voice presented the content, but it also presented a theatrical side of him. And this drew students into his words.

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