Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spell Check Fail

I teach my students that spell check is their friend, but they still have to proofread, because spell check won't show you words that are spelled correctly, but aren't the word you're trying to use.

In the past, I would have shared this kind of thing on Facebook, but as I am friends with many of my students, this no longer feels appropriate. Since I don't advertise this blog to anyone, this feels like it's still an okay place to keep a record of my students' most awesome mistakes.

While grading papers today, I came across this sentence...

"Now, I'm learning hoe to cock, so I don't eat fast food."

Oh my...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Drinking and Condoms - What to Say?

After over 5 years of teaching international students, there's not a lot of things that can embarrass me in class. I've had a student discussing the shape of China yell over his classmates that it is "shaped like a cock" (meaning rooster, of course...what else could it possibly mean?), another student created an advertisement for a fictitious eraser company named "Cheap Rubbers", I've given advice on birth control and safe dating practices, discussed drugs and drinking, breastfeeding and childbirth. While not a lot embarasses me anymore, they are still a few things that I'm not sure how to respond to.

For example, what do you say when a student tells you he spent all weekend drinking and doesn't remember anything? That back in his country he drank every night? Do you mention that he might have a drinking problem?

Or, what do you say when you notice a student has a condom (in a bright pink package, no less) attached to one of the zippers on the outside of his backpack. Do you ask if he knows what it is and that it's probably not appropriate to carry it in such a manner?

Generally, as I did today with these two examples, I keep my mouth shut. My students are, after all, adults, and their choices are their choices. I will happily offer advice if asked, but otherwise, it is not my place to dive into their personal lives, other than how it relates to learning English and my classroom environment.

Teaching is an ever changing, and ever challanging job. No two days are ever the same...and some days, like today, are stranger than others...that's for sure!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It's Baby Gift Season

So many baby little time. This time, it's two of my husband's co-workers who both found out recently that they're having boys.

Co-worker #1 told us that they were doing a grey/orange/teal theme for the nursery...and that was it. She was very secretive about the baby's name (and even first initial) so I opted for a picture in the lovey. I love this! I based it on the fabric I found for the burp clothes. Elephants! Love 'em! The ear is a flap, and there is one on both sides - so fun!

 And a cute hat was needed, of course...

Here's every together. Congratulations on your soon-to-be baby boy, Shen-Yi!

Co-worker #2 was just as secretive as #1. Okay, people, I'm not trying to steal your baby's name or nursery theme...I just want to make you a gift! Here's what I came up with for him (using the same fabric for the burp clothes).

A lovey and a hat...

And everything all together. Congratulations on your soon-to-be baby boy, Dave!

I'm still working on my best friend, Sarah's peacock themed baby shower. Here's a little hat I made for little Miss Elladie. Looking forward to the shower...if only my computer with all the files for the things I had made for it hadn't crashed...oh well, Computer Engineer Husband will soon fix it! (I hope...)

New Bag

I saw this bag online and fell in love!
Boho Leather Messenger Bag with Crochet Doily and Antique Key - Medium - Made To Order

I mean, really, how could you not? I checked out the seller's website, Urban Heirlooms, and while I was in love with the bag, I was not in love with the price. Before I could shell out that kind of money, I had to try to make my own version. Now, I have no idea how to work with leather, so I opted for leather-look vinyl for mine. (I also have no experience working with vinyl, but it seemed less daunting than leather.) I thought for about half a second about crocheting my own doily, and then decided to spend $2 and buy one. I'm not a huge fan of brass, so I decided to use nickel.

Here is what I came up with. I kind of made it up as I went, so there is no pattern. I definitely learned a few things along the way, so my next one will be even better!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Classroom

I dislike the classroom I'm teaching in this quarter. It's a lecture hall with 68 seats (well, minus 3 of the actual seats). I have 22 students (when they all show up). The computer, document camera, white board, podium, teacher's desk and projector screen are in the front of the room. I dislike being far away from my students, so I'm constantly walking around this huge island of technology. The floor is sloped, so I'm always standing at an angle (my calves are getting pretty toned, though...bonus!). There are no windows and nothing on the walls. It is next to the construction site for the school's new health sciences building...jackhammers, men yelling, things crashing. Not great with my shy international students who often barely speak above a whisper. There is a lounge area outside the classroom with bathrooms and vending machines, which draws groups students looking to hang out (rather loudly) for a bit between classes. It is definitely not ideal my class.

One thing I really enjoy about my classroom, though, is that because it's not a do I put this politely...umm, desirable class, there is no class after mine. After my students leave, I am free to hang out there for as long as I want. Well, for an hour anyway, until I have to go pick up my son. I use that time to grade, to plan, to write about what we did in class that day on the class blog, and like today, to blog here.

Today, other than the banging around at the construction site, it's quiet. I am caught up on grading (and ignoring the papers my students just handed in). I went grocery shopping yesterday, so I'm just sitting here, reflecting on my classroom.

Sometimes, as I did earlier today, I take a moment and go around the classroom, praying for each of my students as I pass their chairs. After a particulary rough class, I'll sit on the floor behind my computer with my back against the wall (with or without gentle head banging), and try to let the last two hours roll off my back. As a teacher, you can't take a lot of things personally - you can't please everyone, and there will be students that just don't like have to remember that that is okay. On test days, after all my students have finished their tests and have left, I turn on some music and dance a little while I grade. Nothing crazy (random people do walk in at times), just a little toe tapping and swaying.

For everything my classroom isn't, I try to enjoy what it is - a quiet place where I can transition from teacher to Ashley before I have to transition again to Mama. A slice of me time, between my two beloved jobs. For that, classroom, I thank you. For everything else, we'll make it work!

Monday, May 6, 2013

29th Year Blanket as Journal Project

I am horrible at keeping a journal. I love buying them, but I never write in them. Every year, I try to start one, and every year I write faithfully for a week or two, get busy, forget about it...and then a month goes by, and then two, and then it seems pointless to start again.

However, I think I have thought of something that will work for me. Instead of writing in a journal, I will crochet a row on my blanket. I have purchased 11 skeins of yarn in the blue and green family. Green has always been a favorite color, and I have been very into aquas and teals lately. I'm also considering tossing in a couple coral colors as well for a bit of a pop.

My plan is to crochet a single row at a time (every day, every other day, when the mood strikes) in the color that most speaks to me in how I'm feeling at that moment. My original plan was to assign a different emotion to each color, but I realized that I'm pretty even-keeled and my emotions don't change all that much. This seemed like a better way to go about it. Each day (rather, each time I sit down to crochet), I make a note in my phone about what color I chose and why. Here are some examples from the last three days:

11:17pm on May 4, 2013: Officially 29...feeling peaceful and content with life. Celestial Blue - ocean and tropical blue skies.

May 5: Cinco de Mayo, hot weather, dinner with family. Sage - Mexican patterned tiles.

May 6: Tied with Phoenix for hottest major city at 87 degrees, major headache. White - hot!

Simple, easy, quick. As I crochet, I think about the day and the emotions I'm feeling. I pray about things that happened. I remember to be grateful for the good things in life. I relax.

As for the pattern, I have chosen a ripple pattern from this book in a stitch called "feather and fan". It's a lot of counting to three, but it is an easy pattern once you get started. I've already found one mistake (I didn't add enough increases to one of the "hills"), and the perfectionist in me is hating it, but imperfection is part of life, and I have decided to keep it in there as a reminder that it's okay to not be perfect. I just fudged around with the stitches in the next row to make it work.

My hope is that when I am done with this blanket, I will have a visual representation of my 29th year. I won't have to try to express my private thoughts through words, and I won't have to worry about people finding and reading them. Instead, I can express them through stitches, which to the world at large will look like a simple ripple blanket, but to me will represent the events, and emotions of the last year of my 20's. 
Care to join me on this journey?
Note: If I were to do one row for each of the next 362 days, that would be a mighty long blanket, so I am considering the possibility of making two, three or even four blankets, depending upon how dedicated I stay throughout the year. I will keep you updated.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Today is my 29th birthday.

In my head, I'm still 24...but my driver's license says that as of today, I am 29. I have one year left until I am officially old. (No offense to any of you over the age of 30, but I remember very clearly being little and thinking that once I was 30, I would be old.)

So far in life, I have accomplished everything I wanted to do by the age I said I wanted to do it. I wanted to finish my BA at 22 - check! Get married at 24 - check! Have my first kid at 26 - check! The only other thing I always said is that I wanted to be done having kids by the time I was 30, and since most likely we are done (barring a major surprise), that one will most likely be a check as well.

At 29, I'm pretty content with my life. I have a great family, a cute house, a job that I love, and I've traveled to lots of amazing places. Sure, there are things I'm striving for in the future - a house on the water, a few more countries that are begging for a visit (needy places), and a book hanging out in the back of my mind - but all in all, I'm happy with the life I've been graced with.

There is one thing I've never done though, and it has become my goal for my 29th year. I want to crochet a blanket, one big enough for my to wrap myself in. I've crocheted small baby blankets, made throw sized quilts, and edged many fleece blankets, but I've never put my time and effort into crocheting a full sized blanket. Over the next 356 days, that will change!

There are many possible blanket patterns all over the internet. I have spent some time (read: hours) trying to decide what kind of blanket I want - ripple? granny square? color block? - and I think I've finally decided how I want to create my 29th Year Blanket. I haven't seen anything quite like what I'm going to do, and I find that very exciting!

I will be buying the yarn tomorrow (sale + extra 20% teacher appreciation coupon = yay!), and I will share more about my idea with you then. For now, I'm off to enjoy a birthday afternoon nap!

Happy birthday to me!