Hi Catherine, Congrats on the job – and regarding "tone" - well here are some things to consider:
1. Give it time.... Not sure of the exact criticism that you received about your tone of voice, but keep in mind that many times when you are "new" you are going to be under changing scrutiny – so don't take a lot of it personal. People are just trying to get to know you and it involves a process – they judge surface stuff first, then other things – and they see more and more of you as things get peeled back - and then one day – they usually get a well rounded picture of who you are. Often, after a couple of years, your vocal tone or other "ways" just get accepted and become a part of who you are. Not always, but usually time allows for adjustments and acceptance and what seemed like a big issue wasn't too much after all.
2. Change what you can, but accept yourself too. I think so often people are at opposite extremes: They are stubborn and resistant to any change or they can be SO insecure and buckle any time they receive criticism. It takes years to get comfortable in your own skin and to relax with the "way" you are wired. Inner personality wiring is truly a part of our DNA – and that is mixed with years of social conditioning from the years we have been in this world. Many times a loud or "brusk" tone is simply a very real part of who you are – it comes from your biological makeup, family of origin and from your life experiences. Yes, we can modify things – and it is wise to always have some level of self-improvement going on – but at some point you have to just make a list of your pros and cons - and accept them all. It may sound trite, but every time you think about your loud side (or an area that you consider a con) think of two areas of strength that you have. And maybe learn to celebrate your tone instead of just assuming it needs to be changed because others think it should. Now yes, we do need social graces – and yes, as a newbie you want to be smooth – but keep a balance with your self scrutiny. It is hard to change the way you act because so much of it is by rote – and it is so engrained in who you are. I recently saw an interview with Melanie Griffith – and she mentioned how critics have always hated her voice (which has been called lackluster and soft and had no inflection)– she expressed her deep struggle and inability to really CHANGE her vocal tone – and shared that she finally just had to accept her limitations. Experiment and see what works for you and then realize any limitations.
3. Consider your chemistry fit. You may be working at a place that will never appreciate you. If years later they are still talking about your loud style, and if you have tried to change a bit and they seem to still knit pick –well it may indicate that you need a different place to work. A good analogy here comes from art tone. Tone in art is sometimes relative. "How dark or how light certain tones come across depends on what's going on around them... A tone that's obviously light in one context may appear darker in another context if it's surrounded by even lighter tones." The same with you and your vocal tone and style– it depends on where you are. Finding chemistry in any area is important, and all the more when it comes to our work. I worked in a traveling program many years ago and our team visited hundreds of schools. Some schools were edgy and filled with life, some were stagnant and dull. Some schools had teachers that were amiable, upbeat and seemed to click with our team – others had a staff that was pompous and seemed irritated with life in general. Now if I had to pick some of the schools to work at, not all of them would be a good fit or match to what I personally bring as an art teacher. Different strokes for different folks... Lol. My point is that not all schools are the same and a loud undesirable tone one place could be welcomed or even the norm elsewhere. So definitely give it time, but if a place is overly critical and has teachers that are always complaining, jealous of you or just seem off – well it may NOT be a healthy place to stay long term. Of course things need time, and of course we modify and have to accept some school flaws (because no school is perfect and the grass is not always greener – and sometimes the grass has a much worse tone over there - ha) but if there are a lot of red flags and constant heaviness, don't ignore it and stay there just to keep a hard to get art job. You'll lose your life freshness and you may be missing out on a better fit – and life is too short for that!
4. Loud is not always bad. Yeah, I know that Miss Manners talks about a socially desirable vocal pitch and I know that rudeness is often associated with too much loudness, but some of the most fun people I have ever been around have had a certain boisterous, loud side. They are filled with life and have a zest that others only wish they had (or must take stuff to get). Some loudness may be hard to absorb at times, like in the early morning – or on days when your head hurts, and okay, sure, some socially loud people may have serious anger or even selfishness as they don't care about how they come across. But a lively or loud vocal tone can be energizing and refreshing at times too – and some very fun people have such a raw and vulnerable way of relating and they make the world a better place. Our uniqueness as an individual will never appeal to EVERYone – and some of us turn others "off" more than others (just have to accept that), but we are not robots with controls. And even though we DO want to be socially smooth and fit in, we must celebrate who we are instead of trying to be a chameleon.
5. Start with small changes. When students are learning about art tone, there is a lesson plan that includes starting with a block of white and a block of black, and they gradually work their way towards a gray scale with nine tones... With a little practice, students learn more about shading and value. Similarly, you can practice something like this for your vocal tone. If you think of vocal tone as having a scale, let's say from one to ten – and if you think you usually talk at a 9 or 10 – well at the next meeting try to talk at lower level – at a 5 or 6. Or practice using a 2 or 3 tone while reciting something in front of a mirror – or role play with a friend- but things won't change if you do not actively practice. And all of your improvement work can't be done on the fly or in stressful situations – so be creative. Start small and changes can happen. Oh, and don't keep labeling yourself (if you do) Like don't keep saying, "I know, I am a loud person" or "The loud art teacher is here...." because the more you say this stuff, the more you will be locked into this perception and the more they will "see" you as loud. It may feel diffusing to joke about it, but I think it hurts more than helps.
6. Get some specifics: If you want to work at coming across quieter, or developing smoother delivery – well you have to truly know HOW you are coming across. You may need to video tape yourself in action, or ask people to give you SPECIFIC feedback of how you come across to them. Little surveys from people may be awkward to ask for, but if you say that you are doing a self-improvement activity and you have to ask 20 people to describe how you come across – it may not seem so awkward. So make or find a type of questionnaire that can give you more details. You have to see some of the details in order to direct your behavior modification. Then start small. Think about the times that you encounter your peers. If you meet in the morning for a few minutes – start with that and work at being quieter during that morning time. Or just shut up for a while – we can't be too loud if we aren't saying anything – and sometimes less chatting is good discipline and helps us get to know people more. And the old saying says, "Even a fool is considered wise when he shuts his mouth." So work at times when you intentionally listen and interact with saying as little as possible. It can be a good thing for many reasons. Also, try times where you purposefully whisper or talk with an exaggerated lower, quiet tone. I know one teacher that uses whispering as a way to instantly quiet down her class. Then when they resume talking, it is still lower than what they were at before the whisper time. I know another teacher that bought a portable decibel reader and used it to show kids how loud they became. It was a neat tool for really showing what TOO loud may be. You should get one and watch the levels when you talk.
7. Advantages of change: Now yes, much of our vocal tone is wiring and may need to be accepted, but it is advantageous for us to try and modify as well. For example, many people UNKNOWINGLY damage their vocal chords from chronic voice misuse (myself included here). Also, people that refuse to welcome any self-improvement, miss out on growth and the benefits of giving their flesh accountability. You can become better when you challenge yourself. I don't think it is squelching the true you to say that when you are at work you need to try and do this or that. Our professional sides need some tweaking and some boundaries – and that can lead to more success and contentment in all areas.
8. Compromise. Last year, I had a 7th grade student that always used a dark value in all of his sketch work. I had never seen so much dark tonality in certain lesson plans. Many times his work felt heavy and I felt as if he was missing out various things for learning purposes, but at the same time, this was HIS art expression and this was his style –(and what if Van Gogh was told to stop using his color choices in his latter years - and that he should return to some of his earlier color use, well we would miss a part of his true art style). So with this student, I requested that for certain lessons he had to follow the rubric and show various values and use various pencil pressure – but for his other projects - he could use his heavy values and let his style unfold. And so with your personal vocal tone, compromise! – At times work at being quieter and then other times just be yourself. Like maybe work at being quieter during meetings and in the break room, but take other times where you can drop your guard and be you - like maybe at lunch or after school. Accept that you are an individual with a personality. And many times, the healthiest people I know are the ones that come clean and just say, this is who I am. Later, they are the ones we trust more as well because they have less masks and they are authentic. I know a lady that is a paid youth leader. Not a lot of people care for this lady and at first we couldn't understand why. She is nice, not directly offensive, always smiling, etc. But after a year or so, we realized that her masks and her fake social self is a cover for her many issues – and she can't be trusted because she is not letting herself be known. Many times people embrace flaws and hangups more than we realize - and it can lead to richer intimacy. Anyhow, it seems she has worked so hard to fit a social mold and has modified to be what people want, but it hasn't brought her more success. Is she truly better off socially or personally with such a controlled front? And so your goal is to fit in and become an authentic part of the staff at this school – but still be true to yourself and still be real. And the best way you can do this is by caring and modifying – of course - but also by staying genuine and transparent when appropriate. A lifetime of smothering the true you or trying to socially please in every area will wear you out in a big way and it would be impossible to sustain.
9. Consider other angles: Do you have a problem with your ears and is your loud vocal tone because of this?
Are you nervous with your new peers and does your pitch and tone go up as a part of coping mechanism? Working on breath and awareness – and developing bonds with folks will help with this. Is there too much noise in the room or school – that you hear and does it make you talk louder? For example, schools can have the loudest noises – not just from students ... but things like AC/Heating units, vending machines and even lights can hum. Does your strong leader style come out using a loud tone? Or are you feeling insecure and the loud tone is compensating for this? Are you getting your oral and overall vocal needs met? Like you may need to work out your voice, sing and use your voice more (or more effectively) . Some people just need to talk more than others or need to use their voice more than others – like just watch folks that sing as they move along through their day. It may help to take some singing lessons. A few voice lessons can help you speak using more air (as opposed to talking from your vocal chords) and it may help you develop your overall voice mechanics. Are you physically working out? This may be a factor because our lung use, breathing and cardio health effects how we use our voice as well.
Okay, I wanted to make a list of ten things, but I can't think of anything else - so I will keep it at nine. Hope this gives you a few things to consider as you gear up for the year. ;) Mrs. Prior in VA
I am excited about getting rolling in my own room but need some help with my vocal tone and delivery. The students and I get on fine, however with my peers, I have been considered too loud and sometimes brusk, and I don't even realize it. There is no intercom or audio device in this large art room. Suggestions, please.