Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Craft Challenge 'Garden Crafts' Round-up, Vote and Link-Up

Yes it's that time again to round-up this month's Craft Challenge, to vote on your favourite projects and to add your own to our link-up. We are celebrating having some sunshine and summer with garden projects this month. This was quite difficult for PJ and I as we have no garden, but nonetheless we found a project to brighten up someone else's day. Let's recap what we made:

Which of these projects do you like the best? Vote below:

Now it is your turn to link-up your OUTDOOR crafts. This month this can include recipes for the BBQ or a picnic too. The link party will be available for one week and then we will choose our favourite projects to pin to our Pinterest board.

I hope you guys enjoyed your summer and are very ready for the next chapter of the Craft Challenge. September brings us the fantastic opportunity to try our hands at crafting with paper...this should definitely be good fun. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with too.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Being a Student Makes Me a Better Teacher

When was the last time you learnt something where you had NO prior knowledge, where you felt that blind panic that everyone else 'gets' it but you're too stupid or incapable, where tears sting your eyes as you fight back the frustration to hurl your book at the teacher's head?

Before last week, I had forgotten.

Last year, when I was also in Germany, I took a month of intensive classes. It was challenging, but I worked hard and did well in the tests. So, without hesitation, I decided to follow that up this year with the next level up. I sat the entrance test as required and made it into the expected group.

It started well. I understood the rules, learnt the grammar, did my homework, participated in class - everything a dedicated geeky, good girl does to succeed. And then came the test. It was challenging - that's fine. I was worried about doing well so prepared for hours. Now this isn't where I tell you I failed...I have not received the test back yet so I have no real idea on what happened.

But on Friday the class suddenly took a turn for the worse. You see, the teacher gave us some 'feedback' on our performance, which would have been great if it was preceded by: "you guys did great in this....but we need to work on....." It wasn't. Instead the conversation went something like this: " A couple (out of ten or so) of pieces of writing were great, but the rest had too many mistakes...". The cause of the worst errors was when people tried to translate directly from English and didn't think in 'German' enough. Now as the only actual English person in the room, and being one of three who speak any English, I felt that this feedback might have been directed at me. This was confirmed when exact examples of errors from my work were shared (anonymously) with the class.

I do not recall EVER having done this with my own students. I can tell you though that it felt like crap. I could feel anger bubbling inside me. It felt personal - both my failures and this particular method of conveying them to me, so publically was not on.

The situation worsened. We then hit some 'pointers' on the grammar test. Apparently we ALL got a certain sentence structure wrong. Fine, except the teacher seemed really aggrevated and as we tried to cluster together her advice in our heads was curt in giving us feedback. And by curt I mean :"No, that is completely incorrect" followed by an exasperated hand-gesture and eye-roll.

Being a teacher I KNOW how personal and upsetting it feels when your students fail to grasp what you thought you had taught them. I also know that when ALL students fail it isn't actually their failure, it's mine. On this occasion, they need apologising TO not made to feel like they are the ones to blame.

With ten minutes of the lesson to go, I wanted to open my mouth and yell. A primal feeling to get the hell out of there took over, so I with a threat of real tears I retreated to the toilet where I paced around wafting my hands at my face, trying to get rid of the blotches that form before I tend to cry.

It struck me at this point, that this is what learning feels like when you are doing it for the first time and when the situation is mishandled. It was how I felt in Mathematics when I was in Year 7 through to 9 and why I vowed at the start of my teaching career that I never wanted to make anyone feel like this again.

Except that I know that I have. Somewhere along the way I dismissed this in my head as teen hysterics. It isn't. It is the raw emotion of learning where you have nothing to grasp onto, no-one to depend on and with no excuse but to sit there and swallow whatever crap your grumpy teacher throws at you.

I could walk out and go to the 'loo' to calm myself down. Many teenagers can't or won't. So as someone who has been through a fairly 'petty' drama this week, which felt a lot bigger, I will try my hardest to remember it when I am dealing with those frustrations in the students I teach.

More than anything I needed to be told that I CAN DO IT and shown HOW. I will be doubling my efforts to build student self-esteem from September and be the biggest support I can be for my remaining term teaching in England.

Has anything like this happened to you? What was the best way anyone gave you feedback/confidence? Anyone fluent in German want to sit the next test for me? Pretty please?

*P.S. I learnt today, when I couldn't pronounce a word, that it is more useful for the teacher to give a ten minute lecture on why it was important to pronounce things properly, without any instruction on HOW to do it......well that motivated my lazy butt to be able to say the word....um....NOT. It motivated me not to speak for the rest of the class.....I just needed to share that. I'm done now. x

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wedding Websites and a Sneak Peak at mine!

I never realised how much invitations cost to post until I had my 30th a (cough) couple of years ago. The major issue was that I picked a weird card size. Anyhoo, when it came to our wedding invitations it became quite important not to use too much of our budget on stamps. So we cut the pages and pages of information that standard invites contain and decided to make a website. It was great doing some blog design again and work out the 'look' of our day with A. We spent a LOT of time collating the information to help all of our English guests find their way across the pond to Germany. Here's a sneak peak.
This is our homepage. Can you guess our colour scheme? We wrote a welcome message on the front and the picture is from our trip to Budapest - the day before the BIG proposal.
I used Google documents to make a RSVP form. Most of our guests will be tech-savvy enough to do this, but we have also put other ways of responding on the back of the invitation.
The location page is really important. As many people will be travelling to the area for more than the wedding day, I put together information about the area as well as links to all of the major travel providers. A also wrote out all of the directions people will need to drive to and from every aspect of the wedding. These are available as downloadable Word documents.
The hotel section was a combined effort. The countryside where the wedding is set is very beautiful, but the wonderful people speak very little English. My lovely man had a lot of phoning, negotiating and information to gather so that I could write down the best options for the guests. We will also be adding in German documents too which we scanned in from the Tourist Board (I haven't quite got there yet though!)
Lastly we had two pages called 'Gifts' and 'The Big Day'. We chose a gift poem to place on this page, but the most fun I had was making this graphic to give an overview of our celebration:
I have great hopes that this will iron out some of the questions about what to expect from our very Gerglish wedding.

By having this website we are able to keep our invitations nice and simple (like us....). From the feedback I have had from the very few important people who have looked over it for me, I think it will provide useful support to help people to be able to come along.

So my top tips for building a wedding site would be:
1. Use a free blogging platform (I used blogger - because that's where my design skills are at.)
2. Back up your design so that if it collapses you can reinstate it. If you aren't great at web-design then perhaps choose word-press and an existing theme which best suits the tone of your wedding.
3. Ensure your website reflects the design and feel of your wedding. We're going for something contemporary, hand-made and multi-cultural.
4. Think about what your guests would want to know. The more information you can provide for them the easier it will be to sign-up to be part of it. How can they get there? Where is it? What will happen on the day? Is there a dress code? When do I need to RSVP by? What should I bring with me? etc.
5. Make sure your partner is part of the process. This was a combined effort. I might have the web skills, but could not have found all of the information by myself. That's for sure. If he didn't like my design ideas I would have changed them.

So there we have it - this took up a good two or three weeks of my time. But it was well worth it and not just for the cost of some stamps. It also centered our thinking on what we both wanted the 'style' and 'voice' of our wedding to be. It enabled us to communicate better with the great designer friend who is designing our invitations as I type and it is a BIG job off of the massive 'To-Do' list.

For anyone who has ever organised a major event, we all know how good that feels. How did you organise your wedding invites? Would you ever go completely digital? I would love to hear from you.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Craft Challenge August 2013: Bring a touch of 'Glass' - An Outdoor Chandelier Tutorial.

I was chatting online to Anja while she was making this month's project, which was definitely not a tactic in the competition. So basically she made this one-handed or something like that and it still looks AMAZING. Darn it! You can vote for your favourite project and add your own next week to our end of the month link-up. I am now going to go off and busy myself with writing an actual blog post. So tomorrow you can ACTUALLY come back and read something about what I've been up to recently. I know, I'm spoiling you right?
This month's topic - crafting something for the outside - should be totally up my alley. Turns out, it would be. If I had more time. So instead of all those awesome projects that I could have done (and that my garden might actually deserve) I opted for a small, cheap project for which I didn't need to buy new supplies because you can find them in your regular craft stash: a mini garden chandelier.

You need one of those metal hoops used for wreath-making, beads, string, crafting wire, and a little lantern with a handle (without the handle, it is going to be a bit more difficult).

First of all, you have to create two wire crossbeams which enable you to just slip the chandelier onto the lantern.

Then I made several loops out of wire to which I could easily attach whatever beads I wanted to attach. Of course, you could skip that step and tie them directly to the big hoop, but then they could slip. Mine were about 2 1/2 inch apart.

Now it's time for your imagination. String up beads and attach them to the little loops. I started like this:

Then I attached longer elements. Here's how I created them (of course you can make them as long as you like):

After a little bit more time that I had hoped I was finally done. I put it up in a tree in our garden and we had a nice dinner underneath it.

Of course, there are lots of ways to add more bling to the mini chandelier, by using crystals or adding a second layer (with a smaller hoop). But for me, this is just right.

I hope you enjoyed this sparkly project. Next week, it's time for your own outdoor projects. I can't wait to see what you have created!
I enjoyed this project very much and had seen those metal circle things in the craft shop and wanted to make something with them - just not quite got there yet. I am motivated to buy some when the store reopens this week. Watch this space....
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