The Newsletter
 September 1st, 2009                                                                  Find your natural dynamic speaking voice and maintain it!
Vocal Tip of the Month!
Are You Vocally Prepared?

The month of September is crucial in establishing a healthy classroom routine and traces the pathway to a positive school year.  Discipline in the classroom and vocal wellbeing go hand in hand on many standpoints.  I spend most of my day talking: teaching, giving feedback and encouragement, giving directives, disciplining, etc...  I rarely
find myself giving my voice a break to rest during a school day.  Even during lunch, I want to socialize with my teacher friends in the staff room!  This is where balance and vocal care comes into play to ensure I can talk as much as necessary without feeling any strain.  Here are some vocal basics to refresh your memory and get you started on the right foot this year.
1) Pay attention to your breathing.  Let your belly come out naturally during inhalation without raising your shoulders.  Apply a slight downward pressure during exhalation and while you talk to engage your support.  You can compare that sensation to how your abdomen muscles tense up when you blow candles on a birthday cake.  This is the most pressure you will ever need if you're going to raise your voice and try to project it against the room.  More effort than that is too much!  During regular talk, the diaphragm expands in the same way on a much smaller scale.  

2)  Find your natural pitch level and place your voice in your natural resonators.  You can do that by responding with "Mmmm" enthusiastically to any questions you'd like!  Words and sentences like "Hi!" and "How are you?" have a tendency to bring the pitch level of your voice right where it belongs!  Replicate that pitch during speech.

3) Relax your face, jaw and neck when you talk.  This is important to let the larynx do its job and balance it into a neutral position during speech.  You can massage your face, tongue and neck several times a day to help you release accumulated tension.  Remember: If you can "feel" your voice, you're doing something wrong.

4) Keep your instrument hydrated throughout the day.  Drink lots and lots of water.  If you have to drink a coffee or tea in the morning, compensate with at least an equal amount of water to offset the drying effects.

5) Take the time to warm-up your voice before class starts to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the day.  Visit my website for a few warm-up exercise suggestions.

Good luck!


Interesting Facts

Going Back to School is Stressful!

While parents secretly celebrate at the thought of their kids going back to school and finding some peace and quiet at home again, we take over the challenging task of looking after everyone’s kid, often 20 to 30 of them at once, and sometimes more.  After an 8 week long break, if getting back in the groove isn't stressful enough for you, then tell me what else is!  Many parents recognize the difficulty of our task after they spend a full day with us volunteering in the classroom or on a field trip.  The difference is that we have to maintain our sanity for 10 months!  

1) Be selfish.  Take decisions that will benefit you!  Take good care of YOURSELF!

2) Use your breaks wisely.  Step out of the teacher mode when you get home and during weekends.  Avoid bringing home schoolwork when possible.  Practice relaxing your mind and letting go of work when you're at home.  Everybody needs a break.  Don't stress out about things ahead of time unnecessarily.  Plan your day meticulously to find balance and address school-related issues when the time is appropriate.  Include lots of "YOU" time!

3) When I ask professional singers what they do to keep themselves in top shape on the road, they almost all come to me with the same answers: They get a lot of sleep, they exercise and they eat well.  It should be the same for us.  These are fundamental to keep your mind and body strong to cope with the ups and downs of teaching as well.

4) Whatever you do, do it right!  Keep trying your best and be happy for what you have accomplished even when it has flaws.  When you try your best, it always gets better.  Show your appreciation!

Inspiring Quotes and Stories...
Purifying Your Space

To start this new school year chapter of my life, I want to make sure that I am surrounded by positive energy.  I would like to share a Native American tradition that I have decided to use in order to bless, cleanse, protect my classroom and invite good spirits to guide me and my students together on our path.  It is called "Smudging".  The ritual in which a sage and cedar smudging stick is used to purify the energy field of a space will be part of my first day of school activities.  Build your stick ahead of time, preferably picking plants yourself.  

I use sage, cedar, sweet grass, rosemary and thyme spices to build my stick.  Lavender would be an excellent choice as well.  Remember to always ask the plant permission before picking its branches and leave one of your hairs in exchange for the goods.  Roll the herbs in a bundle and tie them tightly in a stick with cotton twine before letting it dry for about a week or so.   When you're ready for the smudging   
ceremony, light up your smudging stick with a candle flame until it is burning well.  It might take a few minutes before it's smoking the same way you would use incense.  Gently fan the flame with a feather or blow it out until it turns blue.  While your smudging stick continues to burn and its calming delicate aroma fills the room, ask students to make wishes for the upcoming school year.  Walk towards the door and windows circling the stick counter-clockwise and ask that only positive energy enters the room.  Ask for the protection and blessing of the classroom.  I think it will be a simple inspiring spiritual activity that the kids will love.  It symbolizes desire for peace and harmony.  Have fun with it!
Relevant Links

Voice Yourself in the Classroom

Valerie Bastien

The Voice Connection
What's Happening?
Welcome Back to School!

You have one of the most important job in the world.  You influence and you inspire.  I wish you and your students the very best for this 2009-2010 school year.  I want to send you positive energy for the year to come and more best wishes; click the link below:

View e-card!

Things to Note
If you like what I do, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and feedback with me by signing my online Guest Book! You can also contact me directly at:

Have a wonderful month!

-Valerie Bastien