Several worst case scenarios exist for classroom teachers. My personal greatest fear is somehow soiling myself in front of a group of teenagers. Clearly, having a fecal explosion in front of a class would require me to move to another school immediately, possibly to another city far, far, away. Luckily, it’s the sort of thing that would require a sudden onset of gastrointestinal distress of nuclear proportions: highly unlikely, if almost certainly fatal. It’s comforting to know I probably wouldn’t survive such an event long enough to die of embarrassment.
The thing I’ve long feared in second place has happened, sadly. Over the last couple days, my ucky but manageable cold has brought me a belligerent throat that, much like the troll denied passage to the three billy goats gruff, has created a blockade against my voice.
Hooray, Valentine’s Day: here’s a big (voice) box of laryngitis!
At first, The Electrician found my considerably lower vocal register kind of sultry, but things quickly downhill. Right now, he’ll only flirt with me in mime because my voice has become so unsettling. Yesterday, I sounded like the middle amphibian from the Budwiser frog trio. This morning, I sounded like a seventy four year-old man who’s diligently nursed a two pack a day habit since his tour in Vietnam. When a student wished me a good morning outside my classroom, she recoiled at my response and whispered, “Oh, you poor thing. Are you sick?”
Losing my voice used to be one of those “what if” games I played with myself. How would I handle the scenario? What creative solutions would I find to get through the day? Teaching without a voice was something that provided great narratives for my admittedly active imagination. It was right up there with the situation where I deliver twins in the rice and pasta aisle of Wal-Mart, or where I save a teenager and the child she’s sitting from a pack of feral tabbies. For the record, I’m completely cool and in control of both incidents: completely unlike the “what if” where I spot a massive spider in my classroom and weep until one of the burlier girls crushes it with a copy of Othello.
Teaching with no voice is far more challenging, and frustrating, than I could have anticipated. I feel a renewed sense of deep appreciation for my speaking voice, squirrel-esque as it is.
It’s easy to take my voice for granted, despite how heavily I rely on it to get me through the day. By second block, my vocal chords became almost totally useless, producing only a series of creaks, rasps, and the occasional melancholy whale call. In second period on Thursdays, I teach grade eight fine art. For the uninitiated, eighth grade is typically the one requiring the most diligent supervision and the most specific directions: it’s something to do with hormones getting ahead of maturity. I really like teaching grade eight most days, and the group I have right now is awesome, but they are still eighth graders, and hand signals and flicking the lights have minimal impact. We got through our lesson, and the project time went pretty smoothly, but I was repeatedly frustrated by my inability to express myself outside thumping desks and interpretative dance. I’m grateful the kids were so well-behaved, considering my temporary vow of near-silence. Pity is a powerful thing.
I have three blocks to teach tomorrow, Friday afternoon is my prep time where I can be basically silent, and then I can rest my dulcet tones over the Family Day Long weekend. I am considering zipping to the dollar store for a stack of poster boards to make giant prompt cards for class tomorrow. Either that, or the kind of air horn the crazies bring to hockey games, for emergency situations only. One thing I clued into quickly today is that there is a kid or two in every class who likes–no, needs–to shout, and if the voiceless teacher can locate that child, any directions that simply must be loud can be transmitted by the youth who is grateful to holler without getting in trouble. Sometimes they even add their own random accents, for funsies.
As frustrated as I am by my lack of voice, I am still grateful I’m only living the second most difficult scenario. I don’t feel like moving.
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