Voices Part 1 – What Is a Voice?
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools
To explore the meaning of ‘having a voice’ and how we can use our voices for good.
Preparation and materials
Have available the YouTube video ‘How music can change a film’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.26 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn9V0cN4NWs
Optional: you may wish to use the Bible reading from James 3.3-12.
Ask the question, ‘What is a voice?’
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a voice as ‘the sound produced in a person’s larynx and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song’. ‘Voice’ can also denote a type of communication whereby a particular opinion or attitude is expressed, such as ‘a dissenting voice’.
There are various ways to voice opinions or attitudes.
- The spoken word. The tone of voice can be just as important as the words that are spoken.
- Body language. This can also communicate how we feel about a person or situation. Sometimes, our voices convey one impression and our body language another.
- The written word. We can communicate in written form, but we often need to hear a person’s voice to truly understand what they mean.
- Art and music in all their forms.
We all use these ways and others to communicate a wide range of feelings and intentions, such as praise, blame, reward, warning, concern, happiness, worry and satisfaction.
Play the YouTube video, ‘How music can change a film’.
Ask the students if they agree that the scene taken from the film felt very different depending on the music that was used as the backing track. Point out that our opinions, or the way we are perceived to feel about a person or a situation, often come from something other than the actual words we speak.
There is an old story about a rabbi who was trying to teach two argumentative children the damage that words can do. They had been saying hurtful things about each other and were both very upset.
The rabbi gave the children a bag of feathers and told them to go to their town’s main shopping area, shake all the feathers out of the bag and then return to him. The children came back full of excitement about how the feathers had been blown everywhere.
‘Good,’ said the rabbi. ‘Now go and pick them up again.’
The children protested that this was impossible.
‘Yes,’ agreed the rabbi. ‘The feathers are just like the words that you have spoken; they can never be collected up and unsaid.’
St Benedict was the founder of the Benedictine Order of monks. In his rules for monks, he said, ‘If you talk a lot, you will not avoid falling into sin.’ He suggested that the monks only spoke in cases of absolute necessity, and that they should ask permission when they wanted to speak.
Although we would not want to go as far as St Benedict, many of us do say too much! It is very easy to say things that we regret the moment the words come out of our mouths. That is why it is so vital to think about what we are going to say, how we are saying it and how we present ourselves as we speak.
Time for reflection
What we say now has an effect in the present and in the future. We should always remember that our present will be someone else’s past.
- A word of praise to a child now may totally transform his or her life for the future. In the same way, a word of condemnation or belittlement could have the opposite effect for a lifetime.
- A friendly word now may alter the course of someone’s day. It may affect the way they treat others, and a whole future may be changed.
Read James 3.3-12, which describes the effect our words can have on those around us.
Ask the students, ‘What can we do to make sure that our voice is always heard correctly?’
Listen to a range of responses.
Here are a few suggestions.
- Try to adopt the habit of thinking before we speak.
- Continue to build our lives on a good foundation of the right values, remembering that our families, friends and religious communities all affect the way we live.
- Examine our lives regularly to see if we are living up to our values, considering whether we need to apologize to anyone and are treating others as we would like to be treated.
- Ask God for help.