Perkins' Pieces #2

Open doors to more than a diploma: Read, Write & Inquire

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Would it have been worthwhile? (The answer to both questions is simply YES.) In this edition of Pieces, I will lay out some INSIGHT from Eliot and Einstein, push our INQUIRY a little bit deeper, and once again my main goal is to provide you with ENCOURAGEMENT to fuel your fire for teaching and learning!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: You all are intelligent, kind, and INSPIRING role models for our students. They are so lucky to have you. Don't be afraid to disturb their universe (or even your own) will be worthwhile, even when you do not always see the results in black and white. T.S. Eliot knew to never presume anything to be so simple, and we must remember Prufrock on those gray days.

We must harness the energy of the kinds of people who inspired us when we first embarked on this crazy journey: the cagebusting, hair-on-fire, standing-and-delivering teachers who unleash potential within so-called dangerous minds!

We must never be afraid to risk asking deeper questions of ourselves and of our children.

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A piece on beginning with the end in mind:

There is great value in reflecting on where our students have been but also where they are headed. When we can keep all things in perspective (including disparaging data), we can stay positive for the complex journey we face as educators.

These are sample assignments from a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill this year. Notice there is little to no scaffolding for these writing prompts:

For Early Modern European History (the readings are all from the Renaissance time period):

Response Papers: The response papers should be 1 typed page (12 point font; double spaced; 1 word on the second page) in length and are your reactions to the reading for that day. Each student must turn in six (6) response papers before week 12. I, or your TA, may ask you to focus on a specific passage or address a particular question but you will usually be free to choose what to write it on. In that case, you are advised to focus the paper on an issue rather than try summarizing the entire text. You may select a passage, idea or claim that intrigues you. It might be something you agree with (and explain why) or with which you disagree (and explain why); it could be a passage you don’t completely understand and would like to try to puzzle out. If an idea strikes you as strange or offensive, you are welcome to write about that too. Your approach should not be judgmental; it should try to understand the author’s perspective. For example try to avoid writing your response in this way: “Calvin is a true dictator. To ban drinking is one thing, but why prohibit dancing, playing games, and wedding parties? I think he’s just silly.” Rather try framing it like this: “The harshness of Calvin’s rules surprised me. I understand that the Protestant revolution was a reaction to the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, but why not stop at reforming the Papacy and clergy? Why do Calvin’s rules have to extend to the entire population and make people’s lives miserable? What was his goal? Perhaps he believed that the corruption of the Church had penetrated all of society and that thoroughly reforming society was the only way to change the Church...” Your TA will give you feedback on the response papers but they will not be given a letter grade, just a check mark with +/-. What this means is that the response papers are your chance to freely experiment with your writing and ideas, without worrying about how it will affect your grade. Just by turning them all (6) in you can earn an A for that part of the course!

For Writing Across the Disciplines:

Feeder 1.1: Genre Analysis of Popular Science Writing Length: 350-450 words
Submission Format: Upload to Sakai
Before you can begin to write your own blog post, you need to confront popular science writing in its natural environment: the popular science blog. Select three of Ed Yong’s blog entries and write a genre analysis of the rhetorical and formal features of the science blog genre.
You will be working with blog entries from Ed Yong’s science blog, NOT EXACTLY ROCKET SCIENCE. You can also select any other science blog, such as Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline, or UNC’s very own popular science magazine, Carolina Scientific.


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A piece of INSIGHT

Excerpt from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?


"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Einstein


Let's make Eliot and Einstein proud. Let's be daring enough to ask some new questions of ourselves and our students. So, ask yourself: "Am I insane, or am I daring?" (I'm a little of both, but on a good day, I strive for daring.)

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Below are some resources I've gathered in light of my recent school visits and talks with teachers. I have been in every secondary ELA classroom in LCS (grades 6-12), and I know you are all working very hard for our students. Thank you for all you do, truly. Please do not hesitate to make an appointment with me or email me if you would like to talk further in person regarding lesson planning, students, honing your craft, disturbing the universe, etc. I will be seeing each of you between instructional rounds in your classrooms, PLCs, or staff meetings.


Unit Planning Frame and Daily Lesson Plan Template

Standards/ELA Curriculum by grade level can be found here:

Looking for an online lesson planning platform?

Folder of Resources with Calendars and Basics for Planning

Literacy Instruction for Future Readiness

Research base on the call for Text Complexity:

What is WICOR?

Not so Itty Bitty Book of Common Instructional Framework from NCNS (aka goldmine of protocols for engaging students - WICOR, just a horse of a different color):

Seven Keys to Effective Feedback:

On Middle School Students:

High School Resource to End all Student Resources - Shmoop:

Free SAT and ACT online prep for grammar, writing, reading, etc:

How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1
Curriculum Resources

(much updated since the first edition of Pieces)


(not just for English teachers)


It happens one piece at a time.

More than a Diploma Infographic

Our District Transfer Goals (Top Five Skills for 21st Century Grads):

1. Can demonstrate effective and creative written and oral communication in various formats appropriate for purpose and audience.

2. Can, without significant scaffolding, comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines, and then construct arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information. Likewise, students are able independently to discern a speaker’s key points, request clarification, and ask relevant questions.

3. Can solve real-world problems by applying various strategies.

4. Are self-directed learners who can self-evaluate using different perspectives.

5. Are responsible/respectful leaders/citizens who can empathize in various situations.

About Joanna Perkins

Here's a piece on me: I am AVID and teach like a pirate, if you know what that means. I taught English/Humanities (many years in the New York City public schools in Harlem, a juvenile prison in the Bronx, and a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn as well as several years in Sanford, NC as an English Teacher and AVID Teacher/Coordinator at SLHS). I've taught inclusion, AP, and just about anything in between, grades 6-12. I am a sometimes teacher and lifelong student. This I believe: all means all.