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RIDE supports several blogs throughout our website where Rhode Islanders and RIDE staff share their thoughts.

On this page, we have collected all of the blogs on our site - many of which share posts from Rhode Island educators other than RIDE staff. Blogs are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Commissioner's Corner: Commissioner Wagner's blog posts and messages to the Rhode Island community.
  • District Teacher of the Year (DTOY): Posts from the Rhode Island District Teachers of the Year, past and present, who share about instructional successes and challenges they encounter in Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Equitable Access to Excellent Educators: Rhode Island educators and RIDE staff explore factors and perspectives on the importance of ensuring that all students are taught by high quality educators.
  • Leadership: Reflections and insights from RIDE’s Leadership Fellow and other district and school leaders on the challenges and opportunities of being a school leader.
  • Rhode Island Poet Laureate: Reflections and poetry focused on teaching, learning, and the experience of education from Tina Cane, Rhode Island Poet Laureate.
  • Rhode Island Science Education (R.I.S.E.): A communication blog to update stakeholders in education and in the community on important developments, events and accomplishments in science education in Rhode Island.
  • Student Voice: Because student voice is an essential component of our discussion on education, RIDE will post essays written by students from around Rhode Island.

Click on a category below to filter by a particular blog:

Pennies in the bank

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 10/13/2017
Tina Cane,
Poet Laureate of Rhode Island

If a poet can be a rock star, Kaveh Akbar is one. Or at least, he’s a rising star in the poetry world.

His new book, Calling A Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017) is a fierce and gorgeous
collection of poems around addiction and recovery and love. I’ve been able to witness Kaveh’s
success via social media posts and was recently moved to read this one, accompanied by a photo
of a man in a sports jacket and glasses, speaking at a podium:

Last night at my reading, Marianne Boruch secretly arranged for my high school English teacher Steve Henn to be
brought in to do my introduction. It was a complete surprise to me. I'd idly mentioned to her over dinner weeks
ago how he turned me onto poetry as a teenager, how for years he would spend hours and hours outside of
school reading my terrible poems and finding ways to respond, at length, with encouragement and grace.
Everything I have in my life today is because of poetry, and everything I have in poetry started with Steve Henn.
Last night Steve and Marianne (and everyone who came out) gave me one of the great nights of my poetry life.

That man was indeed Kaveh’s high school English teacher. What a joy for both of them, I thought, to
be reunited for the occasion of a much-celebrated literary debut. And, as always, when I sit down to
write my contribution to this field memo space, it reminds me of the impact teachers have on the lives
of young people. While it is rare and wonderful for a teacher to be sought out and recognized for his
or her effect on a student’s life, the effect is much more common than the recognition. I wonder how
often teachers remember this – as they stay long after the meeting to prepare for a special project, or
spend money out of pocket on goodies for a holiday celebration. If not, they should be reminded that
they shape young lives every day in seemingly insignificant and unrecognized ways. Not everyone
grows up to be a nationally celebrated young poet like Kaveh Akbar, but if his book had never been
published, Steve Henn’s attentiveness and generosity would still have made a difference in Kaveh’s
life. As any teacher knows, success takes many forms.

Like most of us, I’ve had some memorable teachers who impacted my life. Margaret Edwards,
a professor with whom I took a contemporary poetry course, has remained a friend ever since. Not
long after college, during one of my visits to her Vermont farmhouse, I was whining about the
hardships of writing poetry. Margaret was the only person who would have – and who could have – said,
in her formidable southern drawl, “Just shut up and write.” “Um, okay,” I said. And write I did.
Margaret doesn’t suffer foolishness and she showed me, by example, how so often that is a choice.

Another important person was my 5th grade teacher, Carmen Edgerly. She was strict and beautiful, wore
Levi’s and clogs and lived in a loft in 1978 downtown New York. When my classmates and I found
out that Carmen was forty, we were horrified. How could she be so old yet so cool? How was she still
teaching every day – ancient as she was? After the shock wore off, we decided being elderly made
Carmen cooler, which made us love her even more.

Ms. Edgerly impacted me – not because she and I were particularly close or that she saw and nurtured in
me some hidden potential. It’s that one day she waited after school and walked with me, eastward
down 11th St., towards the East Village where I lived. I remember she said, “Hi,” and kept pace with
me with me in silence for a minute or two. Then she asked, “Is everything alright at home?” “Yes,”
I said, even though it was, I suppose, plain to see that things were not alright. The predictable ending to
this scene is that I confided to Ms. Edgerly that my family was falling apart and that my life felt chaotic.
But I didn’t say anything. And she didn’t press me. She let me go on my way, the weight of
everything unsaid heavy in the air between us. But I saw that Ms. Edgerly knew the truth and that
cared enough to ask. By asking she let me know that she would be there, if I ever found the words.

And it made a difference to be seen. Perhaps, even more of a difference than my decades-long friendship with Margaret.

So, all of this to say that Kaveh Akbar was lucky to have Steve Henn as his teacher. And that Steve Henn
was lucky to have been made aware of his impact and to be publicly thanked for it. It does not usually
happen this way. Carmen has no idea that her simply asking me a question left such an impression. If she
even remembers me, she certainly would not remember clip-clopping alongside me in her wooden clogs
past Gene’s Restaurant and the tiny, walled cemetery that day. Ms. Edgerly has probably shared a
thousand moments like that one and there’s probably a thousand former students who remember them.
Teaching, like parenting, like poetry, is hard work and sometimes the investment seems one-sided.

It’s like my father once said to me, as I struggled to get my kids in the car, “Pennies in the bank,” by
which he meant: little bits add up. And when I think about my children, it’s often the smallest things
they most remember.

Read some of Kaveh Akbar’s work at:
The New Yorker and at poets.org, where you can also sign up for a poem-a-day in your email box.

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