Monday, September 13, 2021

In Silence

I typically dictate my blog posts.  Ever since I picked up my Google Pixel phone several years ago, I have been dictating my posts as a first step.  I helps me get my ideas out with a bit of flow.  Then, I go back and edit for clarity, spelling, flow,  accuracy, etc. If you read my blog, I bet you have caught a mistake from time to time.  A misspelling. An odd use of a word.  That sort of thing.  

I do the same thing with my students' college recommendations.  Also with emails. This workflow really helps me get my ideas out quickly.  Then, I can always go back for accuracy and clarity. 

But, not tonight.  Tonight I am typing.  Why?  Because I can't talk.  Last Thursday I had a nasty polyp removed from my vocal chords.  So, I am now on extended vocal rest. Tonight is day 5. That's right. I haven't said a word in 5 days! Those of you who know me may find that hard to believe.  I think it has been a nice break for my wife. 

I started noticing a problem quickly after we went to all zoom classes at the beginning of Covid-19.  I was simply talking too much and over projecting to get through the computer on Zoom. I was limping to the finish line at the end of last school year when I led a sing-along/jam session for seniors on the last day of school.  I sang too long in the heat, with no water, and knew the whole time I was hurting myself.  As I went home that day in May, I knew the damage was done.  

I knew because I had the same problem in 2008, 13 years ago.  When I first came to NCSSM in 2001, one of my teaching duties was chorus.  I over-sang for several years as a crutch against my lack of pedagogical skills as a choral musician.  7 years of over-singing took its toll.  I had developed polyps and the only remedy was surgery.  

Back then they used a scalpel.  Now it is a laser.  (Much less invasive.) Back then, the recovery was 4 weeks and now it is more like 2.  One similarity is vocal coaching afterwards.  Tomorrow is my first session.  I am dreading it.  Back then I had little boys at home who needed my attention. Now they are all adults and my wife and I have the place to ourselves.  It is much quieter than in 2008.  I learned back then that there is a lot of one's identity tied up in voice.  How deep?  How does it project?  This is particularly, I believe, impactful for a teacher like me.

Tomorrow will be my first day back at school.  My orchestra students have been so nice.  They are concerned about me!  It is so hard for me to take time off.  I have definitely rested and allowed my voice to recuperate, but my mind goes a mile a minute.  I miss being at work. I miss all the social interaction.  

So, what does a guy like me learn in 5 days of no talking?  Let me see if I can give you a list.
  • I like to listen to podcasts
  • It is frustrating to not be able to respond to conversation or pick up the phone
  • Vocal surgery makes one tired!
  • I enjoy long walks
  • I really do enjoy listening to others
  • It is so easy to get lost in my phone
  • I like to cook
  • Anesthesia messes you up for a day or so
  • I appreciate my family
  • My wife is an angel and a saint
  • One notices the world around when you can't speak
  • I truly like my work and miss going to school
  • My students are the best!
  • It was so fun to watch the Steelers with my sons, without talking (or cheering)
I am sure there is more, but these are some starters.
I have been communicating with a white-board at home and plan to continue to do so at school for the next two weeks. Wish me luck!

For now, take care of your voice.  You need it.  I know I need mine.  And, I am hoping that it will be back in its old clear form in just a few short weeks. And then, I can go back to dictating my blog posts.  For now, enjoy the silence!



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