Monthly Archives: August 2013

Teachers can’t…

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Being the parent of a child going through GCSEs is stressful; being a teacher in charge of a GCSE course ain’t easy; combining the two? Yeah, quite a challenge! The last 2 years, in particular, have found me trying to navigate those treacherous waters that lie between a teacher-parent and their child on the exam treadmill, aiming to offer all the support, encouragement and wise words required of a parent without staining them with ‘professional’ judgements or insider knowledge that may (but occasionally may not) contradict that doled out by his teachers.
What IS the role of a teacher-parent? I suspect I’ve veered too much away from the teacher bit, boxing it up out of some kind of deference to the sacrosanct mother-son relationship, but would other parents do that? If you’re a translator or an artist or an IT bod, wouldn’t you pass on your knowledge and skills to your child? Doctors would help with science revision; curators would help with history. Why do I feel that, as a teacher, I am giving my child some kind of unfair advantage when I help him construct an essay, or guide him to use academic language? Is it unfair that he’s got a live-in personal tutor when his friends have to rely on their more limited resources? And when he gets great results, does he really get the credit for it or do his friends just shrug and say, ‘Well, what do you expect? His Mum’s a teacher’?
There lies the rub. I want my son to get all the credit for his achievements, to be seen to get good results on his own merit, but of course that pretends that all kids pass exams in a vacuum and of course that’s far from true. It’s a scary, and rarely-stated truth, but teachers can make or break a child’s success in their subject, and supportive, engaged parents can make all the difference. Flip that sentence around and that would be true, too!
No man – or woman – is an island, and at any one moment we are all playing out several different roles. I think I need to release the teacher from her box more often and share her more confidently with my son. She’s actually OK, not too much of a dragon, and I think my son might quite like her! He may even pick up a few helpful tips!

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The Joy of Chalk Paint

Proud to be cited by Little Brown Hare!

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A Bureau of My Own

“It is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people…Think of things in themselves.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I blame it all on Kirsty Allsop dominating the TV at dinner time, but last week I found myself elbow-deep in an upcycling project, to bring beauty to a writing bureau hidden at the back of a furniture warehouse. £45 of birthday money, and it was mine!
For ages I have craved a space I can call my own. Somewhere to write, read, make, think. Here it was. But the dour brown oak was heavy and outdated, and I’ve seen enough fix it programmes and read enough vintage craft books to know that a lick of paint could transform it into something spectacular.

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Usually, I dither and fret about colour combinations and cost to the point where nothing is done. Knowing myself too well, I decided to take inspiration from Google images, search ‘upcycled writing bureaus’ and see which colour combos worked best. I’d already imagined a French grey and, sure enough, there it was with the pen holder in cream. Huzzah! I had my colours.
After some more research on how to paint old furniture, I sugarsoaped it clean, then primed and undercoated the pen holder – this was to be painted in ecru eggshell that I had left over from painting the skirting boards in our house, and I just diluted it one part water to 4 parts paint to make it more like a wash.

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Quite by chance, I’d discovered chalk paint by Annie Sloan in a shop in Totnes. It looked perfect, and – again, after researching the net – it seemed too good to be true! No priming or undercoating; one coat and an hour to dry. As a woman who likes speedy results, I decided to see if it really did do what it says on the tin.

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It isn’t cheap, this paint, and clearly has a bit of a cult following with blog after blog dedicated to Annie Sloan products (and, usefully, cheaper substitutes!). I coughed up, knowing that I’ve got a LOT of boring pine in the house that needs freshening up so it wouldn’t go to waste.
At first, I felt a bit sick as the paint ‘chalked’ up with the brushstrokes and I began to regret covering over the beautiful markings of the oak. But I’d read that it’s best to paint with longer-than-usual brushstrokes in one direction, and with a paintbrush whose tips are just ‘kissed’ with water. Great advice and the paint began to glide on.
What I hadn’t really noticed until I started painting the bureau was that the wood was differently-textured in different places, and this affected how the paint covered the different surfaces. Depending on how ‘distressed’ a look I wanted determined whether I went with a second coat or not. I enjoyed getting to know my bureau like this. How often do we pore over such detail, and make such responsive decisions? It was an incredibly absorbing process, almost like a form of meditation.

I hummed and haa-ed over whether to spend another mini-fortune on Annie Sloan wax but by this point I felt I was in for a penny, in for a pound. I did experiment on a small area of the desk with an alternative – Luberon’s clear wax paste – but the Annie Sloan does bring out both the paint and the wood markings quite noticeably, and I do think it was worth it.

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I still want to cover the desk surface with more attractive material, but I already have a beautiful bureau I can now call my own.

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www.anniesloan.co.uk
www.thelilypadcottage.com
Great tips for using chalk paint

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On not being perfect

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If ever there was proof that teachers need their 6 week holiday in the summer, this must be it. We spend the rest of the year encouraging and convincing our students to try new things, learn new skills, just have a go, never say ‘I can’t.’ But how often do we put this into practice ourselves?
So far this summer, I have crocheted and lined a little bag, crafted a birthday card, made a cool necklace using pages from an old book –

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I have even started writing a novel, and now I have managed to upcycle an old oak writing bureau that I bought for £45 in a secondhand furniture shop.
I have this terrible condition which I think must be a symptom of a warped kind of perfectionism where I am so fearful of making a hash of anything I try to do that I just don’t do it. I come up with the idea, I research it for hours, I may even then embark on it, but the house just ends up full of unfinished projects. I think it’s because I know that they won’t live up to my expectations so it’s a way of delaying failure. The best thing that has happened to me this year is my acceptance that things don’t have to be perfect. That there is pleasure just in the doing, but I need to acknowledge that concluding and signing off are also critical. Applying that to the novel will be interesting!

A post on how I went about upcycling the writing bureau will follow soon with links to sites that I gleaned helpful information as well as inspiration from!
This is how it started – check in in a couple of days to see how it has ended up!

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