Saturday 28 January 2012

Planning and Paperclips: a School Story

A two-week accumulation of dust has settled over my blog.  Ooops.  But real life has got in the way I'm afraid.  Plus all my crafty time is going towards my class Just One Sketch.

But while I don't currently have any scrappy projects to share, I think I can still scrapbook.  It's real life that's going to end up on those pages after all.  Planning a page in advance means I can dive right in when I do find a bit of me-time.  My title, journalling and picture will all be ready to go.  It also gives me a chance to draw inspiration from myself and think about the kind of page I want to make.  So this is more of a note-to-self, a page I want to make when I can find the time...

The Title 

Broken Record (Or: Don't tell the physics department)

The Journalling

I got back after the holiday to find that someone had been using my desk.  My draws resembled the place that old stationary goes to die.  Only it wasn't my stationary.  I'm nicer to my stationary than that.  Hello, scrapbooker!

I rescued a jar of paperclips - according to the label there were 500 in assorted colours - and began absent-mindedly clipping them together into a chain during a Year 11 lesson.  The students' heads were, for the most part bent over their work.  But as always, there was one who had cheerfully abandoned any pretence at improving his mind, and was regarding me curiously.


"What's up?"

"What are you doing?"

I raised an eyebrow.  "I'm going for the world record" I confided, conspiritorially.  

"Oooh, what in?"

"In weasel catching."


"You muppet.  No, I'm going to make the world record paperclip chain."


A reasonable question.  Somehow explaining that I'd just found a lot of paperclips in my draw didn't seem to be a sufficiently inspiring reason.

"Why not?"

The student accepted this without question.  I resisted the temptation to call him a muppet again.  

"But miss!" A new head was raised from its work.  The attached student waded into the discussion. "Miss, what is the world record though?"

"You should be working, sunshine" I admonished.

He smirked.  "Nah miss, you said we had to listen to everything you said".  

This was undeniable.  

"Yeah miss, you did."  Two more students.  "So what is the world record?"

"Does it matter?" I enquired.  "All I've got to do is keep doing paperclips.  It can't be that many.  People have got to have better things to do than sit around hooking paperclips together."

"You haven't miss"

"Yes I have, I'm teaching you a valuable lesson about setting goals and achieving your dreams and being the best you can be.  The paperclips are a metaphor.  So there"  

"Can we help, miss?"  Another student.

"You've got work to do" I reminded him.

"Yeah but think how much quicker it would be if you gave us all 50 paperclips and we made chains for you. Then you could just clip the chains together and get the world record."

I pondered this. "I could make a speech in which I thank my Year 11s for their continued support of my paperclippy endeavours."

They nodded.

"No, I'm sorry gents, you've got work to do."


"I said no."

"But miss, we wouldn't do it in your lesson."

"You're right, you wouldn't, because I said no."

"But we've got physics next. We could do it then and bring the paperclip chains next lesson"

"Oh. Well. OK then."  I sent a mental apology to physics and doled out handfuls of paperclips.

The next lesson, the boys were true to their word.  The arrived in the classroom all wearing extremely colourful necklaces.  Made of paperclips.  We linked them together and made a chain that wound around the room several times.  That's teamwork folks.  A second valuable lesson.

As it turns out, if you go for the world record paperclip chain, you can use up to 60 people who all spend 24 hours clipping paperclips together as fast as they can.  It's not allowed to be one person who does a bit here and there between lessons.  I let my Year 11s down gently.  And refused to set up an official record attempt.  I explained that first of all, I do have better things to do with my time, and that I'm teaching them another valuable lesson about how sometimes, even when you work really hard, you can't get what you want.  Even if all you want is a really long chain of paperclips.

An the moral of the story is that you can turn any situation into a good maths problem. If you have 1,560,377 paperclips and each one is 4cm long, how long would the finished chain be in miles?  (NB: there's a bit of overlap between each paperclip.)  If 60 people spend 24 hours hooking them all together, how many paperclips much each person do in a minute?  Extension problem: see if you can do this.

Learning objectives:  Functional skills, reading and interpreting information, conversion between metric and imperial units of measurement.  Fine motor skills.

The Inspiration 

I'm going to take a combo of the two pages posted here: both ones I've made before, and both pages where I liked the outcome.  The first has room for a lot of journalling and the picture is much less of a focus, which is true of the page I want to make.  In fact I don't have a picture at all, but I'll snap one and print it at a size around 2x2.  The second uses a background patterned paper that I LOVE from Studio Calico.  Going round in journalling circles will add a bit of interest to a lot of text.  And the paper I've got is a neutral colour, and I want to experiment using lots of pops of colour over it.  I want to take the best of both worlds and create my new page.

I'm looking forward to making this page!  Also, it was fun to go back and take bits from two layouts I like and coalesce them into one page I hope I might love.

Kisses xxx

P.S. In the end I draped the paperclip chain around my noticeboard in the office.  You can only see a bit of it as most of it is coiled into a jar.  But it looks pretty and nobody else's desk has one.  And scrapbookers can always find a use for stationary.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

10 on the 10th: Ten Texting Memories

This month for Ten on the Tenth, I wanted to find a way of reviewing my 2011.  And rather than trawl my photos or blog, I thought I'd take a slightly different approach.  And so I bring you Ten Texting Memories.

Or, more accurately, a selection of texting memories.  Because it turns out the texts I have received say more about me than I thought they would.  So I've included a selection of 11 for 2011 here that say a bit about me and the things I enjoy.  

Having these thoughts collected here means I can refer back to them and think of a good way to scrap this kind of journalling. And I was pretty ruthless as I started with a list of 20 or so; when it comes to scrapping, I'd like to include more.

I'll have a ponder.

In in between, I've shown a few sneak peaks of projects I've made for my new scrapbooking class Just One Sketch.  It's only £5 to join, all proceeds go to charity to support my fundraising, and we start on Sunday 15th January (although you can sign up any time :D)

Alle menschen, alle menschen, alle menschen.... Alle Menschen :)
These are the only words my brother and I know to Beethoven's ninth symphony, the Choral.  So we sing them with gusto, even when there are other words.

Well if you position yourself underneath the spout, nobody else will be able to jump in!
My colleague's solution for what to do on my maths course if there was only one urn of tea for everyone to share.  I need more than that.

Gutted.  Didn't get them :(
Olympics tickets.  Nope, not a one.  In the first or second round.  But this seems to have been the experience of the majority.  Still, nice to have such a major fail in text form!

Can you bring worcester sauce or shall I buy some?
I love worcester sauce and at university, I indoctrinated all my friends into the cult.  Now they can't cook without it and I am called upon to supply it on demand.  Apparently.

I think school's open but Gee asked if the maths office could be barricaded so u might need to treat it like an assault course!
What review of the year would be complete without a reference to the dreaded Masters?  I left my memory stick with the most recent draft in the office at school.  When I went to collect it, the door to the office had indeed been barricaded and taped over.  It was an adventure.

I'm here, watching the river.
This message made me feel like a cool and collected young professional Londoner.  I swanned into town after work and met up with my friend on the Thames' South bank before we headed to the National Theatre.

Packing my flag, not signalling distress.  So excited!
Getting ready for the Last Night of the Proms, and making sure our union flags were the right way up.  An improvement on the previous year, it must be noted.

V. excited about cocktails and knitting tomorrow! 
As was I!  Crafting and cocktails = perfect night.

At the gate.  Hurry up they only have one garlic mushrooms left!
Sometimes as a Friday treat after work, we head for the pub after school and have tea and garlic mushrooms.  No it doesn't make sense.  Yes they are more delicious than you can imagine.  And in my defence, I was being conscientious and getting everything done before heading for the pub.  Plus I knew they were lying to me.

Your pep talk & mascot did wonders & they got 137 pts coming 3rd.
Our Year 12 maths challenge team had to leave for their next round challenge during my lesson.  I gave an impromptu and, if I say so, rather rousing speech about winning at all costs, and presented them with a mascot of an elastic band and a polystyrene cup which I found on the desk.  It nearly worked.

Remember to bring your crumpets next week.  One toaster bought!
The triumphant acquisition of the maths department toaster.  £4.  We were told we couldn't have a microwave, so we decided that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission (advice from my Year 9 class) and set up the toaster.  Now the office smells delicious and we can have crumpets.  That's really all you need in winter.

So what do your texts say about you?  Do you keep cute ones?  Ones that make you giggle?  Or do you do a similar thing on Twitter?  I enjoyed this, and I recommend giving it a go, as it's recording someone else's words, not your own.  It's fun to swap things about sometimes.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I'm a bit slow on the crafting front for the blog at the mo as I'm working on pages for the class.  Plus I have gone to the theatre twice in a very decadent fashion to see the Nutcracker at Covent Garden and Noises Off at the Old Vic.  Both TERRIFIC.

P.P.S. You can find more Ten on the Tenths on Shimelle's blog.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Storytelling Sunday (and a little Sneak)

***Throughout this post, there are a couple of sneak peaks at some of the projects for my brand new scrapbooking class Just One Sketch.  More info at the end of the post!***

One of my resolutions for 2011 was to write down more of the little stories at school.  I LOVE being a teacher.  It makes me laugh every day.  Even on the rubbish days.  And I like to jot down those little conversations that I have with the students because I like to look back and remember them.  And laugh again.  I'm going to continue with this resolution in 2012, partly because it's been fun and partly because I cherish secret ambitions of publishing a memoir of school stories one day.  Gervase Phinn eat your heart out.

So today's stories for Sian's Storytelling Sunday have nothing really in common, except that they all contain fruit at some point.  And apparently we should all strive to eat lots of fruit because it's good for us.  So here goes.  Concerning Fruit:

Apples and Bananas for the 6th Form

I sauntered over to two of my sixth formers doing that thing where they pretend to concentrate but were actually carrying on a muttered conversation over their books.  They were feigning rather well - they'd got the books at the right page, the right way up, and one had even managed to apply pen to paper.  But I am not deterred by such things.  I intended to admonish them.  Assume stern face. (I am not very good at stern face)

"So!  What are we talking about over here?"

They looked at each other.

"Proverbs, miss"

This was a sufficiently unusual response so I abandoned my attempts at stern face.

"Any in particular?"

"Not really"

"Y'know what always gets me about proverbs? They're so contradictory.  Like many hands make light work, but too many cooks spoil the broth.  How are supposed to gauge the appropriate number of kitchen staff?  And then there's carpe diem, seize the day, which contradicts where angels fear to tread, fools rush in"

"And look before you leap, miss"


I perched on the table, in full, hand-waving-around flow.  Other students shunned their pens, their educations, their futures, and joined in with the chat.  I surveyed my audience.

"In fact, I propose a new proverb.  You must all start saying it immediately at parties so it catches on,  It goes like this:  For every proverb, there is an equal and opposite proverb."

They thought about this.


"Don't even think about telling me that no one says proverbs at parties.  You're obviously just going to the wrong kind of parties."

He grinned.  "I'm really not miss."

"Then what's the problem?"

"Your proverb would also have an opposite.  So no proverbs would have an opposite".

"That's, like, a paradox, innit miss?"

"Ah!  A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox!" Silence.  Bemused silence. I peered at them. "Doesn't anyone know the song?"


"From Pirates?"

They looked blank.

"Of the Caribbean miss?"

I scowled at him.  "Heck, no!  How can you not know?  You're definitely all going to the wrong kinds of parties.  Gilbert and Sullivan!  They write operettas?"  Not a spark of recognition among them. "They wrote an operetta about Pirates called Pirates of Penzance when this chap was born on 29th February so when he thinks he's 21 and he can free himself from a life of piracy he's actually only 4 or something so he can't and then there's a song about how amusing the whole thing is....  Actually, ironically, it's not all that paradoxical.  But my proverb is.  So stick that in your pipes and..... well, don't smoke it because that would be bad for your health and I can't possibly condone smoking but if you can find a non-carcinogenic, non-addictive, non-health-risk substitute for tobacco and you take up pipe smoking and you're careful with matches, then you could put that in your pipe and smoke it."

I concluded, triumphantly.  I seemed to have derrailed some of my audience during my soliloquy (I am a loss to the stage, I tell you), but I think the point was sufficiently well made.

Or I thought it was.

"What is she talking about?"  This was delivered in less than an undertone by one of the original two malefactors to his friend.

"She doesn't want us to smoke"  I nodded sagely.  "She was going to say put that in your pipe and smoke it".


A sudden inspiration struck me. "How'd you like them apples?"


"That's a better phrase than the smoking one.  Apples are healthy.  It says so in the proverb: An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

"It's bananas now miss"

I was somewhat taken aback.  "What?  Since when?"

"Like, a year ago, they changed it to bananas 'cause apples don't really have many health benefits or something."

"So we'll all get lots of potassium, but no proverb?  This is silly gents.  I think it's time we abandoned proverbs to the heathens in the English department.  Or humanities.  Lets get back to maths."


Lemons for the Year 10s

I flourished my pen.  I do a rather good pen flourish.  Or at least I thought I did until one of my precocious Year 7s told me that he'd kept a tally of how many times I'd twirled my pen in the air and dropped it.  I regret teaching them how to tally.  But I pulled off this pen flourish as we tottered to the end of the worked example.  Quadratics can be a bit of a challenge, but my Year 10s had manned up to a man, and seemed to be on board.

"Easy peasy lemon...juice"  I announced, pleased with their progress.

"Lemon juice?"

I directed a glare towards the miscreant.

"There's no need to repeat it in that mocking tone young man.  Lemon juice is wonderful in a sponge cake.  Y'know, like a Victoria sponge but with lemon curd instead of jam and a touch of lemon in the buttercream and maybe a couple of strands of lemon zest on was you that interrupted wasn't it?"

"Yes, miss"

"No, it was me" The student next to him cheerfully volunteered.

"Was it?  And you let me lecture about cake to the wrong person?"

"No actually, it was him, not me."  

Exasperated: "Then why did you lie and say it was you?  This isn't Spartacus you know."


"Put you hand up if you've heard of Spartacus"

A smattering of reluctant hands were raised.  I sighed.

"Right.  In the film there are all these Romans, or something - actually I haven't seen it all the way through so they might be Greeks or anyone really, but there's all these chaps from a couple of thousand years ago and one of them is called Spartacus and he's about to be arrested by these other guys, but when they ask which one is Spartacus, all the men stand up one by one and say "I'm Spartacus" so that they don't know who to arrest.  And then I think they all die.  Not that cheerful really when you come to think about it."

I casually flicked my pen in the air, dropped it and dived under my desk after it.

"Where was I?"

"Lemon juice, miss"

"Right, thank you.  So this is easy peasy lemon Spartacus.  This shall be our new motto for when we work hard to overcome a problem in mathematics.  Whenever you see a quadratic equation you can think to yourself "Aha!  Easy Peasy Lemon Spartacus" and charge it with your ferocious maths and quick wits.  We should all have a bit more Spartacus in our souls."

"I thought you said they all died, miss?"

"It is highly statistically unlikely that you will die answering a maths problem in my lesson.  So let's get on with some work."

The students bent over their books.  Except for one, eyeing the large projector mounted on the ceiling directly above his head with some suspicion.  I raised my eyebrows at him.

"I never thought I die here before, miss".


Kisses xxx

P.S. My new scrapbooking class Just One Sketch opens today as the class blog goes live with an introductory task.  It's not too late to join the fun!  Registration stays open permanently and we don't officially begin until Sunday 15th January.  Just One Sketch is a design class based around using a sketch, it costs only £5 and all the proceeds go to support my fundraising for GirlGuiding UK!  So why not start with year with a scrappy treat to yourself - sign up and join in!  More information can be found here.

P.P.S. More wonderful stories can be found on Sian's blog From High in the Sky.  Many thanks to Sian for starting such a lovely tradition and keeping it going in 2012 :D

P.P.P.S. Easy peasy lemon Spartacus caught on, believe it or not.  My proverb did not.  And I didn't even ask them to say easy peasy lemon Spartacus at parties.