Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lesson Lost

Monday, as second period was coming in to class, I got paged down to the office.  I got class started and then sent an I/M off to let them know that I had a class and couldn’t just walk out to see why I was needed.  An I/M came back informing me that a parent and several students were there and wanted to talk to me.  I sent back that my prep period started at 10:50 and that I would be happy to meet with them at that time.
At 10:30 another I/M box popped up on the computer letting me know that they were back and could I come to the office as soon as class was over.  Sure, no problem.
It was a student of mine, his mother, his cranky older sister and three or four younger siblings.  Cranky teen sister did most of the talking and wanted to know what I had done with the iPod I had taken from her brother in class several weeks ago.  I explained that I had brought it to the office and left it with a secretary, as was not only school, but also district, policy.  They went on to complain that he had just bought it, paid $200 for it and that they wanted to know where it was.  Again, I explained that I had turned it into the office, that there was paperwork logging it in there and that I had checked on it when first asked about it a couple weeks ago.  They insisted that it had never made it to the office and implied that I was lying and expected to replace it.  “Ah, that’s not going to happen, I did what I was supposed to.”  I told them.  This had been going on for over ten minutes and I was getting a little frustrated thinking about all the work I should have been doing rather than arguing with cranky older sister.  Finally I told them that as soon as the principal was free, we would go into her office and she could see the paperwork that showed I had fulfilled my responsibility.
We went in, the principal showed them the paperwork, and they still weren’t happy.  After another five or ten minutes of  arguing, the principal finally told them “Mr. Rossi did what he was supposed to, this has nothing more to do with him.” and then let me leave and get back to what I should have been doing.  The lesson lost:  Instead of pointing out to the student that maybe he shouldn’t be playing with his electronics in class (which, according to the paperwork, had been taken away in another class just 5 days earlier), maybe if he had been paying attention and trying a little he wouldn’t have flunked my class for the last two years.  Not to mention the fact that she pulled all her kids out of school for the day to traipse around complaining about something that, again by district policy, isn’t even supposed to be at school. 
I talked to the principal later and she told me that she heard cranky older sister tell my student “Don’t ever give any electronics to Mr. Rossi or the principal again, they’ll probably just steal it and you won’t get it back.”  Fine by me, the vice-principal agreed that if this student is caught with anything again, instead of trying to confiscate it, I’m just going to bring him down to the vice-principal’s office.  Problem solved.
I don’t know if it’s over yet, they have threatened to take it to the district.  But I’m not going to worry, I did what I was supposed to, the paperwork is there to prove that and the principal, vice-principal and school cop all have seen it.
Thank you for listening.  I feel much better now.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some pictures I took today

It snowed this morning, which means that the valley was incredibly crisp and clear.  So I just had to go out and get some pictures, and, as we all know, they are bound to end up here.  This first picture I took yesterday, when the cats were playing in the kitchen sink.  They’re still getting used to what is and isn’t out of bounds for them.  I’ve got them to understand that the dinner table is off limits, but we’re still working on the kitchen counters.  And I just couldn’t resist getting this picture of them.
The rest of the pictures were all taken from the east bench, this one is of downtown Salt Lake City.
The Capitol Building, which overlooks downtown.
The Oquirrh Mountains, on the west side of the valley, still covered in snow.
The Sugarhouse area of the city, just a couple blocks from my house.
Kennecott Copper’s Bingham Mine, the worlds largest open-pit mining operation.  Over the last 100 years they have literally moved (removed) a mountain.
The Salt Lake International Airport.
Another shot of downtown.  You can see the airport on the left hand side of the picture.
Looking directly west, you can see the shadow of a cloud over the city.
The “H” rock.  All over the western states schools paint, or some other way, put a letter representing their school on the sides of mountains.  This one is for Highland High, and on the north bench there is a huge concrete “U” for the University of Utah.  [More on the “H” rock here."]
Looking south, along the path I took to the rock where the pictures were taken.
This is pretty much the same shot as the last one, just zoomed in on Mt. Olympus and the residential area we call “The Cove”.
Zoomed out view of the north end of the Salt Lake valley.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

“Lawmakers repeal HB477”

Utah legislators got a lesson in humility today, and we can only hope they learned something from it.

When they ramrodded the the bill gutting Utah’s open government (GRAMA) laws through the process in less than 3 days, they even admitted doing it on a non-election year to stifle voter backlash.  I don’t care what the party is, being a one-party system like Utah has developed into just begs for governmental abuse, and on this our leaders didn’t let us down.  Over the last few years they have passed laws making it harder and harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot.  They have refused ethics legislation, despite the public outcry for it.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What they (hopefully) learned is that they, in fact, do not have absolute power.  The public uproar, justifiably fueled by the media, was intense and had no look of dwindling soon.  Despite all odds, turned in favor of the legislature by the legislature, a citizen initiative to repeal HB477 had cropped up already and was flourishing.  After the 2007 citizen referendum that eventually repealed the legislature’s school voucher puppy, I don’t think they were ready to let us slap them in the face again.  So they repealed HB477 in a special session called for by the Governor.  Yea for them.  Now, let’s just see if they can retain this sense of humility for more than 3 days.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thematic Photographic: He’s mad I tell you!

I’m in charge of Stage Crew at my school, and with our big musical coming the week before 3rd term grades are due, and the Talent Assembly the week right after the play, March has been somewhat mad for me.  So far I’ve spent every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this month at school until at least 4:30, a couple of times it was closer to 6.
So when I saw the Thematic Photographic theme for this week, I thought “Where do I start?”  Well, there wasn’t really a picture that exemplified the madness of getting things together for the play, so I just decided to pick one that I liked.  This is from the Havana scene, it’s a little blurry because I wanted to get the background, which is a photo I put together and is projected on the back wall.  The flash completely obliterated it, so I took this picture without a flash.  As it turns out, I really like the way this looks despite it’s blurryness.
In the same folder as the Guys and Dolls pictures, I found this one.  There’s still a decent amount of madness going on at home as the two cats and I get used to each other, and I caught Denny here taking a nap in the dish rack.
This is the reason I always keep a camera with me.  I was leaving the school the day of the play pretty early, I had to be back around 6:00 for it, and as I got towards the courtyard I heard music being played.  I got to the window and saw this scene before me; a student playing and the head custodian going on with his work.  I woulda kicked myself if I hadn’t had my camera with me.
And finally, total madness.  This is, of course, a doctored photo.  But the real madness is that this P.E. teacher let me take a picture of her with a toilet seat around her neck, with the intention that I was going to do something like this.  The toilet seat sits atop one of the cabinets in my classroom, left over from the end of the year carnival last year where students could win a prize for building a paper airplane and flying it through the seat about a yard away. (So worry not, it was never used and was still sanitary when she put it over her head.)
For more March Madness pictures from an eclectic group of bloggers, click on the banner below.

From the backs of Tests

Over the years of working with children in poverty I’ve been introduced to the idea that one big test at the end of a chapter is not the best way to go with these children.  I’ve adapted the ideas of people I’ve worked with, integrated a few of my own, and now am in the habit of giving small tests, usually covering a single concept.  Frankly, they have enough of the big tests with YPP in English, math and science, and of course the almighty, NCLB required, end of the year (CRT) tests.
So my tests are one-sided, half-sheets.  Which also gives the kids somewhere to draw as they wait for the rest of the class to get done.  I’ve gotten some interesting things drawn and written on the back.  Some I can make sense of, some I can’t.  And, of course, there are the pictures of me.  So, here are a sampling of these drawings from my latest couple of tests.  From time to time you may see more of them on here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wish I’d thought of this when I was in high school.

I got this from another teacher today and thought that even if it is made up, like a lot of e-mail stories, it’s still hilarious.

At a high school in Montana, a group of students played a prank - they  let three goats loose in the school.  But, before turning them loose, they painted numbers on the sides of  the goats: 1, 2, and 4.

School administrators spent most of the day looking for No. 3.

I’ve gotta respect the creativity of whoever dreamed this one up, even if they just dreamed up a story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I’m older than you think…

Petroglyphs don’t lie, and here’s one that looks like me.  At least according to the writing that accompanies it. It seems it was found in an obscure corner of Newspaper Rock, one that is really hard to see from the viewing area allotted to visitors.  The picture was taken by a parent of one of my students, who was a Ranger down at the monument for a couple of years.  The kid just transferred to our school a week or so ago, and her parent’s were shocked when the heard their daughter’s math teacher’s name.  They immediately started scanning their old photos until they finally found it and gave it to her to bring to school.
(Anyone buying this yet?  No?  If I B.S. some more will it help?  No?  Ok, so I fooled nobody.)
What is amazing is how much pencil on black Formica tables looks like a petroglyph when you just colorize it a nice burnt red color.  I found this on one of the front tables, you would think that black tables would discourage their artwork, but seems not.  Which is ok with me, pencil is easy to clean up and I’ve got a few good pictures out of it.  Some of them I won’t share here, but I did share with the administration.
Click here if you want to see what the original picture looks like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thematic Photographic: Neighborhood Transitions

This is the SW corner of 2100 South and 1100 East in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City, within walking distance of my house.  Up until 2006 it was a busy business corner, with an eclectic collection of a dozen or so small, local businesses.
A developer bought up the property, moved the businesses out of there and leveled the entire corner, promising a corner with open green, retail, office and residential spaces.  Then the Great Recession hit, the money dried up and the neighborhood was left with what has been named The Sugarhole.  Only now is there again talk about putting something there, although downsized from the original plan.
I give you “a neighborhood in transition”.  The first and third pictures were taken in 2007, the comparison ones were taken this week. As things progress, if and when, you will probably get to see the continuing transition.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thematic Photographic: Weather Transitions

I love watching the weather come across the valley.  I remember one time, as a teenager, watching a low flying storm gobble up the city as it moved east towards our house on the bench.  I was new at taking pictures, so none of them came out and I don’t even know where they are now.
So, I offer these more recent pictures of the weather transitioning across the Salt Lake valley.  Sometimes you can literally see the front moving in. If you want to see more Transition pictures, and hopefully join in with the fun, click on the Thematic Photographic banner below.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Did I do that?

Earlier this month I wrote about Utah’s HB477, the bill that made all our Legislator’s electronic communications private and exempted them from our own state GRAMA (Government Records Access Management Act) laws, even though they are sent and received on state owned (read: citizen owned) cell phones, computers and internet access.  It went from a blank paper, with nothing more than HB477 on it, to the Governor’s desk in less than 3 days, with no debate and no public input.  The Governor, a rubber stamp arm of the Utah GOP, signed it.

The public outcry was amazing.  The news media outcry was intense.  And, in my opinion, because the news media show no signs of letting the issue die before the next election, several legislator’s have done an about-face and admitted it was a mistake to vote for it.  One said he was actually blackmailed by the Republican leadership – threats to defeat any and all bills he introduced or co-sponsored, they wouldn’t even be allowed out of committee.  Another one fell short of claiming blackmail, but claimed he voted for it because he knew it would be harder for him to get bills introduced.  A couple other have come out and are calling for a recall vote.

It all reminds me of a fictional character from the 90’s sitcom “Family Matters”, Steve Urkle.  For those of you who never saw it, Steve was super-intelligent and a total klutz.  He was always destroying things, and his tag line comeback was always a oblivious sounding “Did I do that?”   Exactly what the illustrious lawmakers for the State of Utah are doing.  Ramrod an unethical and self-serving piece of legislation through, and when those pesky masses get all uppity and threaten their unbridled power, they look stunned and ask “Did we do that?”

Where were your cojones back before you knew your constituents would want them for your self-serving vote?

Friday, March 18, 2011



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Better late than never: Not always true.

When I bought my house it came with a barn looking thing in the back of the house that was the garage.  It was probably built in the 40’s or maybe even the 30’s, it had a dirt floor and nothing but wood shingles between the inside and the sky.  Or at least it used to, because by the time I got it most of the roof was gone.  My plan was to fix it up, keep the flavor of the old building but shore up the walls, pour concrete for the floor and put a solid roof on it.  I had stuff stored in it, but kept the cars out of it during the winters for fear of it collapsing onto them.
The second winter I was living there it fell down.  Forwards.  Onto the front end of my car.  Had a huge 2x4 resting on the hood, just a couple inches from the windshield.  Fortunately my homeowner’s insurance paid me enough to fix the car and buy a kit to build the new one myself (with a lot of help from family and friends.)
I couldn’t find any pictures of it before it fell down, but here’s the ones that show I was a little late in getting it repaired. If you’re interested in seeing other “Late” photographs, and maybe even entering your own, check out Carmi’s Thematic Photographic by clicking on the banner below.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gotta love British Humour

Courtesy of the BBC:

A couple of kids were doing “Daytime…Nighttime…Daytime…” before class the other day, and I just had to ask what that was all about.  Talk about discovering a gold mine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The hunting instinct is strong in this one, Obi-Wan.

He (Alan) spent about an hour at that window watching the birds in the trees outside it.  Before I got the camera out, he was perched on the chair back, looking like he would pounce right through the window at one of the birds.  I think this one will spend a lot of time outside when I finally introduce the two to it.