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.