The Teacher Voice

The audio-visual tech at Audubon Zoo handed me a microphone headset. “Put this on and keep talking. I need to test the equipment.” I had been mixing food coloring into yogurt to make holiday frosting for dog treats and wasn’t aware that I’d been talking in the first place. It was fifteen minutes before my first reading, and no one else was in the Wildlife Theater, site of the Fireside Tales for Audubon Zoo Lights.

“What do you want me to say?”

“Anything. I’m having some trouble with the equipment, so keep talking while I go in the back to check one more thing.”

I babbled into the mic about the joys of making treats for dogs and what colors mixed together make purple until he returned.

“What did you hear?” I asked, suddenly embarrassed about my inane ramblings.

“Unfortunately, nothing. I’ve checked out everything, but it looks like I won’t get it to work tonight. You okay with that?”

“It’ll be fine,” I assured him. “I’ll just use my teacher voice.” Honking geese and the cries of flamingos—raucous squawks and barks often sounding more like dogs than birds—competed with the piped-in Christmas music. No problem.

The teacher voice. I’m not sure how long it took me to develop it, didn’t even realize I had it, but my mother was the first one to give it it’s name. We had been shopping, and she was checking out while I waited in the area by the carts. A small child, with no parents in sight, began to spin on the shopping carts.

“Hey,” I said, “you’re not supposed to do that.” He immediately climbed down.

Just then, my mother walked up. “I’d recognize that teacher voice anywhere,” she said.

Once you have the teacher voice, I think you have it for life. It’s been years since I’ve taught sixth graders, yet even my dog responds to the voice. I can say “Lola, no bark.” or I can say “Lola, no Bark!” Guess which one gets her attention.

The teacher voice travels well. A couple of years ago in Rome, my husband and were walking from the Trevi Fountain. My zipped purse was secured over my shoulder and tucked between us. I sensed more than felt something. When I looked down, I saw a thin arm reaching inside my bag.

“Hey!” I called out. The would-be pickpocket quickly removed her hand. I glared back at the young girl, and she gave me an I-didn’t-do-anything look, apparently the universal student response to the universal teacher voice.

Like cayenne pepper, the teacher voice is best used sparingly. My first and favorite principal was the most soft spoken man I have ever known. One rainy day the gym was full of students getting rid of pent up energy when he walked in and spotted a kid acting inappropriately. “Hey!’ he yelled. The students and staff froze. You could hear the proverbial pin drop.

Back to the Audubon Zoo. Neither the children sitting around me, nor the parents sitting farther back had trouble hearing, in spite of the flamingos who partied harder than anyone else at the event. I read a selection from A Dog Steals Home and, for the younger set, the picture book May I Pet Your Dog?  We talked about animal rescue and decorated dog treats for the pups at the Louisiana SPCA. We had almost as much fun as the flamingos next door.

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