JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — With classes underway, educators are experiencing new difficulties with one of the most crucial aspects of teaching.
Teachers are required to wear masks while teaching in-person, which presents issues in regard to material efficiently being communicated to students.
According to ETSU’s Dr. Chaya Guntupalli, associate professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology in the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences who specializes in speech and vocal fatigue, cloth masks tend to muffle enunciation, making it difficult for students to pick up.
Guntupalli also says while wearing masks, educators might experience a phenomenon known as vocal fatigue from raising voices to be heard, which results in throat pain, hoarse-sounding voices, and even loss of voice.
“This has been a year like no other for our teachers,” Guntupalli said. “They are already at a higher risk for vocal fatigue because of their increased voice use for their job. But now that we add a mask, it is harder for listeners to hear. Teachers in turn need to project their voice to get louder and be heard. By the end of the day, they may start to experience vocal fatigue or changes in their vocal quality.”
Guntupalli said that cloth masks aren’t the best fit for teachers; rather, masks that offer space for jaw movements allow for educators to be heard better in the classroom.
“You want to have a nice fit of the mask, which allows for a lot of movement for your jaw and articulation so that you’re not feeling like you can’t move anything,” Guntupalli said.
Guntupalli released a list of tips to help educators avoid vocal fatigue and also to help them communicate with their students while wearing a mask.
- Choose the right type of mask. The fit should allow for movement of your articulators and free movement of the jaw.
- Exaggerate your articulation behind the mask. Open your mouth wide and enunciate every sound with precision.
- Speak slower and pause frequently to take breaths.
- Project your voice from your mouth and diaphragm.
- Take vocal naps (short breaks for your voice). Set your teaching activities to incorporate breaks every 30 minutes to rest your voice.
- Drink water during vocal naps.
- Use other means of communication, such as gestures and writing on the board.
- Clap your hands or use a drum or bell to get the attention of the kids.
- A microphone with a portable amplifier can enhance your loudness.
- Listen to your voice. As much as your vocal symptoms bother you, it impacts the listener’s comprehension, too.