Using "The Dad Voice" as a Rhetorical Tool: Day 8 as a T.A.

As I've mentioned, I received a Teaching Assistantship from UNM to cover my tuition in the Creative Fiction MFA program there. Calling it an assistantship is not quite right. Unlike other departments, where a professor lectures and a TA administers tests and grades homework, in the English department, TAs are on the front lines, with the first year TAs teaching freshman composition (which we do in exchange for our tuition.) I've been posting updates on the teaching over at the the UNM MFA Creative Writing blog if you're interested.

Today was the first day I had to use my "Dad Voice." The classroom was getting a bit too chatty while I was trying to carry on my lesson. After a soft-spoken, "Guys?", I barked out a "HEY!" It worked remarkably well. For those of you who don't know me, I'm 51 years old, bald with a gray goatee and, I'm told, broad shoulders. Also, my natural facial expression tends toward the unhappy. Even when I smile, the corners of my mouth turn down.

In essence, I look like way more of a badass than I'll ever be. The look has served me well over the years and kept me out of many a fight. Being able to add both the "Dad Voice" and "Dad Glare" to my repertoire has helped instill general classroom compliance

I imagine this can be a bit harder for some of the younger TAs -- those who are barely 4 or 5 years older than their students, but this is one of those times in life when being old really does have its advantages.

Last semester, while still an undergrad, I had a chance to talk with Dan Cryer, another grad student. I admitted to him my nervousness over teaching. He told me not to worry -- The students would take one look at me and know who was in charge.

It's a little like spiders; they're more afraid of you than you are of them.

But, I guess like spiders, if you don't crush them, they can come back to bite you on the ass later.

Views: 17

Comment by cathyray on September 12, 2009 at 8:04pm
Now Dick, I have seen you & you are far more interesting & nice to look at than scary. Plus, your wit & humor are absolutely endearing. I can totally understand how you could work a class with the dad voice, tho. You can probably "puff up" pretty good when riled. I hope none of your students read this. If they do, they need to know that it is all lies! Actually, I know you have got to be a fantastic teacher with a lot to offer those who are awake & give a heck enough to learn.
Comment by Dick Chingadero on September 12, 2009 at 8:21pm
Fortunately my students don't know me by the name of Dick Chingadero, though I'd be wiling to bet a lot of them are calling me both of those names!

Thanks for the vote of confidence though, Cathy!
Comment by mombat on September 13, 2009 at 9:33pm
Use that voice. I have gotten all kinds of milage from the Mom Voice over the years-e from removing drunks from the coffee shop where I worked in college, to teaching mid-school to getting people's attention in meetings. The stern glare is always a nice touch
Comment by Dick Chingadero on September 13, 2009 at 9:45pm
Right on! It must be good for something. Like the math you swore you'd never use after you graduated.
Comment by Ray Maseman on September 15, 2009 at 8:50pm
Early in my teaching career, when I was a 3rd grade teacher, I had a discussion with my principal about classroom management of my particularly unruly class. She said, "Look, you're a 6 foot tall male--use it." Since then, I've gotten much more proactive about simply towering over potential trouble. It works quite well, even with high school students.
Also, the Dad Voice works two ways. It's good with students, but years of using it with adolescents prepared me well for having adolescents at home.
Comment by Dick Chingadero on September 16, 2009 at 11:17am
Makes great sense, Ray.

Seems like it teaching should also work as a form of birth control.


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