Franklin High School: Blood Drive Day (November 18, 2010)

Chris Henderson was kind enough to allow me to observe two of his classes this past Thursday:  a 3rd period science survey, and 4th period physics class.  It was another beautiful but chilly fall day in Seattle as I drove to Franklin.  Arriving a little early to room 314, I got a chance to talk to Joseph Day whose classroom is next door.  Mr. Day teaches a science survey course, and enriches the activities in that class by using a combination of his own “early morning high energy” and equipment which he has access to via connections in his prior career in molecular biology.  I don’t believe I had ever held a micro-pipette before, thanks Mr. Day!

According to the bell times for FHS, 3rd period starts at 10:15am, however, it was a good 15 minutes before students were settled and working.  Mr. Henderson’s science survey course had about 22 students that day (18 males, 4 females).  Most of the students are 10th grade or above and are having academic difficulty.  They are taking the course to help improve failing or near-failing grades.  Mr. Henderson admits it is a tough class, but it helps to have Leon Baker the IA (instructional aide) in that class during that hour.  During the hour Mr. Baker and Mr. Henderson circulated through the room answering questions.  I observed a few students doing the ticker tape measurements, and the handout, as well as reading books for other classes, texting (surreptitiously), and socializing.

Room 314 is a fairly typical science classroom, some posters of Einstein, some computers with Vernier CBL peripherals, a whiteboard up front, projector and screen, calculators, and the remnants of the lab which the students are currently working on, “Inclined Rail Motion”.  Students sat in groups of 4 or 5 at waist-high lab tables.  The door to the classroom locks when it is closed.

Between periods I got to talk to Chris a little more.  He has been teaching at FHS for 11 years in the science department.  He is a native of Hawaii.  His storage room has boxes on upper shelves still labelled “Lippitt physics”.  When a student in 4th period brought her ukulele, Chris played just enough to suggest that he probably could play pretty well, but alas, the bell rang!

Students filing in for period 4 were very excited to think that I might be a substitute teacher.  Their hopes were dashed when Mr. Henderson appeared from the back room to get the class started.  This class had 20 students that day (13 male, 7 femaie).

Classroom drama on this day was provided by Brianna who had just given blood prior to coming to class.  As Mr. Henderson was taking roll, she had to leave in a rush, worried that her wound had become infected.  Her departure was disruptive enough, but her return was even more so when Mr. Henderson asked for a hall pass, and she explained for all to hear why she had to have a drink in class (there is normally no food allowed), exclaimed that she (of course) had to go to the bathroom, detailed how much blood she had given, then described how she had almost passed out on the stairs walking up to the third floor, and that it seemed hot in the classroom.  As I looked around I noticed at least 2-3 other students with bandages on their arms, who had also given blood, but were content to “suffer in silence.”

I was able to overhear during this class a little more context around what difficulties the students were having.  There were being asked on the handout to draw a smooth curve so that they could better approximate instantaneous velocity.  Evidently that was confusing, and then secant to the curve versus tangent I think was tripping some people up.  Occasionally Chris would go to the board or take a portable white board to the students table and do some 1-1 instruction.

Overall the independent work model seemed to work, students were able to help each other or get help from the teacher when they needed it.  As I thought about graphing difficulties, I wondered if there couldn’t be better cooperation between math teachers and physics teachers to really solidify concepts like slopes, tangents, plotting different transformations of variables to make straight lines, increasing/decreasing slopes, negative versus positive slope.  But I guess it is the physics course that really drives home the interpretations of those slopes, i.e. acceleration, deceleration, moving forwards, moving backwards.

I should regularly post some general information about Franklin.  Here’s a graphic of the Attendance Area for FHS.

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