Tag Archives: FHS

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.

Franklin High School: Silent Sustained Reading (November 10, 2010)

Thanks to B Lippitt, I was able to make contact with some science faculty at Franklin High School.  This past Wednesday (11/10/2010), I was able to attend a couple of classes there, and sit in as ninth grade teachers of various subjects had their lunch break.  What follows are some observations from my visit.

It was a sunlit and cool fall morning as I drove south on Rainier Avenue to Franklin High School.  I parked on Mount Baker Avenue, beneath a maple that was adorning its surroundings with brown leaves. 

After registering in the office, I walked up to Richard Swarts’ Introductory Physical Science classroom.  There were about 28 students in the class, and it was quiet!  Wednesday is Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) day at Franklin high school, especially for the ninth graders who were in this course.  The focus on SSR one day per week is an attempt to remedy low reading scores on standardized tests.  They do an intake exam at the beginning of the year and hope to see improved scores by the end of the year.  The use of SSR to create a community of readers and reap resultant benefits on standardized tests is an evidence-based practice (Gardiner, 2007).  I don’t know how long Franklin has been doing SSR, nor any details in their implementation of the concept other than what I saw.

I observed the end of one class, and after lunch got to observe the beginning of another class.  Both classes were doing SSR.  The first class was very quiet, and there seemed to be a lot of reading going on.  Evidently students could read any book that they wanted to, and if they had forgotten to bring a book, there was a collection of other books at the back of the room for students to use during their time in class.  At the end of this class Richard dove into a new unit on matter and transitions.  He took the class through pages 60-64 of the Introduction Physical Science (IPS) textbook, and even pointed out an illustration that was erroneous.

The beginning of the second class was probably typically chaotic with students taking their places, finishing up conversations, and trying to select a book from the back of the room that they could use.  Eventually the class did settle down and  were busy reading as I left.

Between the first and second class some 9th grade teachers meet in the science room to share lunch together.  Topics around lunch were:

  • Why in the world do you want to switch careers from Microsoft to teaching?
  • I wish I had more time for grading.
  • I wish I had less students per class
  • I wish administration knew about our real challenge, X.
  • Student Y has been suspended.
  • Students U, V, W, are already back in school after that fight?

Although Richard regrets that my opportunity to observe a class was something so atypical as SSR, I did feel like lunchtime conversation was typical.  Of course, that does not mean that the topics over lunch were trivial, on the contrary, they are fundamental and central to teaching today.  Therefore, I am looking forward to a few more visits to FHS, and getting a feel for other classes that I might observe.


Gardiner, S. (2007). Librarians Provide Strongest Support for Sustained Silent Reading. Library Media Connection, 25(5), 16-18. Retrieved from ERIC database.

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