Speaking with No Voice

I woke up this morning with no voice. ”

I’m sick and the soreness of my throat has left me void of the ability to speak. My initial thought was…

“How am I supposed to communicate when I can’t talk?”

I thought about the students that I’ve taught over the years who were absent of a physical voice yet spoke candidly through other means….their actions. We talk a great deal in the educational circuit about “student voice” and “teacher voice”. Those conversations are usually centered around the idea of choice…giving students and teachers a “say” into how they tackle their educational journeys. What if there was no physical “voice”? How do we interpret needs of the voice-less?

 The Eyes Have It…

As a classroom teacher and trainer, I relied on the eyes of my learners more than their voices. Most of my learners were uncomfortable at saying, “I don’t understand”, but their eyes always told the story. Learners who were miles ahead of the others had a smile about their eyes that was completely undeniable. The “death stare” told me that they were thinking really hard and I allowed them to do so. Struggle is good, right? Learners who were completely lost had a look that I can only describe as “blank”. They had no idea and their eyes spoke what their mouths could not.

Acting Out

There is no greater feeling than an excitedly jumping kid who figured out the “solution” to a problem or how to do something. We love those moments. We struggle with the kid whose head is down or who is spending more time distracting others. In the schools that I’ve been in, those kids were the ones who spent most of their school day being sent to the office for non-compliance. In my classroom, those actions told me that I needed to spend one on one time explaining, pair them with a peer or as in most cases…something was going on outside of my classroom or even school.

While I can’t fix most matters of the home or end the 3rd shift job, I could provide a snack, an ear or even the words…

“This too shall pass and when it does, you’ll look back knowing that you got through it.”

You’d be surprised how often that helped in situations.

We have to be better at not labeling all actions as behaviors but know our students well enough to know the difference. For some, actions are the only voice that they know.

And the Tech Shall Speak

I lived by google translator with my students who could not speak English. They were my number one group of “muted” individuals. 100% of my ELL kids were from Mexico and google translator helped us to bridge communication when we needed it. I kept devices in my room so we always had access. Eventually we learned to navigate without and relied on “spanglish” as well as gesturing to get by.

Last week, I learned about the SpeakIt! Chrome extension from Alice Keeler. I love this extension because it reads more than web pages. It’ll read what students type in Google drive. I can think of several of my students who would have benefited from this tool. Devices can be a “voice” for those that need it when they don’t have one and that is extremely helpful!

We have to be mindful of how our learner communicate.

Whether our learners are using their physical voice, eyes or actions,

Are you listening?

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