I was having a chat with a friend the other day when I noticed she was looking at me strangely. Had I got something on my top? Was my hair sticking up? Did I need to blow my nose? No: the truth was far worse than that. “You’ve slipped into your Teacher Voice,” she told me. Argh. I apologised, and bought her a drink. Old habits die hard and even when we’re not in the classroom, elements of the teacher can slip out. Here are five signs you may have accidentally slipped into Teacher Voice:
Sign 1: you repeat everything (again and again and again).
It’s one of the first things you’re taught in training: never give an instruction just once. And you quickly learn in the classroom that things need to be reiterated if you want them to stick. But this can become such a habit that even outside of school, teachers find themselves saying something, rephrasing it, then rephrasing it again. Or stating a fact, then putting it another way, then another way. Or giving an instruction, then repeating it a different way twice over. Or… you get the idea.
Sign 2: every other sentence is a question. You know what I mean?
As teachers, we’re programmed to check understanding. We’re constantly pausing to check that the class is keeping up with us. Which is great practise with an energetic Year Nine group, but less endearing when we’re talking to our friends. In fact, some even find it patronising. Do you know what that word means?
Sign 3: people more than five metres away can hear your conversation.
We can bring thirty loud thirteen-year-olds to a stop with just one word. We can holler across a windswept, screaming playground. We can bring a pupil at the end of a corridor to a standstill with a quick command. Truly, we have amazing, powerful projection. But nothing screams Teacher Voice so much as, well, screaming. You don’t need to project when you’re sitting in your living room at home. Nobody next door wants to hear your thoughts on Eastenders.
Sign 4: you’ve just corrected someone’s grammar.
It really is involuntary. Someone says “I could of…” and you’ve swooped in with “could have” without thinking. Someone proclaims “I was sat”, and you twitchily correct to “I was sitting”. Someone tells you they “ain’t got time” and no matter how hard you try, you have to blurt out “haven’t”. It’s an affliction that’s a dead giveaway of a serious case of Teacher Voice.
Sign 5: you say nothing, but your eyebrows shoot into your hairline.
This is a cunning one, because it’s the silent but deadly Teacher Voice. Here, nothing is vocalised, but everything is said. Teachers are adept at the art of eyebrow talk. Raise one, raise both, bring both into the centre in a semi-frown… we can do it all. And people quake before the eyebrows. They really do.