Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Teacher Voice

I've started videotaping some of my classes. It's less scary than it sounds!

Everyone I know who has gotten their National Board Certification has touted the benefits of watching yourself teach, so I set up 2 cameras on opposite end of my classroom.

The first thing I notice is that my saddlebags are a bit larger than I thought. That shirt and those shorts need to separate and never see each other again. And my room is bland. Granted, the camera is facing the area that's most difficult to decorate, but poor kids who have to face that way!

After I get over my body issues and classroom aesthetics, I start to notice the kids. Most of them truly are hanging on my every word, but when I'm teaching, the only ones I notice are the ones who goof around. On the whole, the kids deserve more credit, and their teacher needs to chill out a bit.

The surprise at the kids' real behavior wanes quickly when my voice breaks through the rustle of papers. Okay, and I realize that my computer volume is almost zero. I seem to have two distinct voices: a "whole class" voice and a "real" voice. The whole class voice is obnoxious, piercing, makes me want to claw my eyes out. It's all fake and careful and kindergartenish. If a teacher talked to me that way when I was 10, I would have laughed in her face. Oh, wait, I did...only time I ever got in trouble in class.

Redemption comes when I start talking to the small groups and switch back to a normal voice.

Why do I have these two voices? I've noticed that some kids don't seem to hear me when I'm giving instructions. Whether it's the result of laziness or being an English learner, the blank stares I receive when I give instructions in a normal voice make me wonder if I'm declaiming in mermish.

How do I temper this ridiculous "whole class" voice while still making instructions clear to my English learners?


  1. Manda--I know what you mean about the "teacher voice." When I hear that voice start to rear its ugly head, I slow things down, and try to be as personable/humorous/whacky/serious as I can be (whatever fits the situation) as I talk to the class. In other words, try to use my lame acting skills to connect in a way other than as a boring lecturer/directions-dispenser.

    I have a hammer and an ax made of foam. My kids love when I get one of them down, because I will hit one of my kids on the head with the hammer a bunch of times when they are not getting it, or they are being squirrely, and I tell them, "Tell your mom I hit you 10 times on the head with a hammer." (They all laugh.)

    Maybe some props will allow you to be more "for real"?

  2. Manda---When I said, "more 'for real'" I meant when you're giving instructions, or when you get into full teacher mode, vocally. I was not intimating that you sound fake when you speak to your class.

  3. Sioux, thanks for the responses (and sorry for the delay...)

    I love your idea of the foam hammer! The trick for me is actually recognizing when I'm using the Dolores Umbridge voice...