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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:

"The Message"

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 11/17/2017
Tina Cane,
Rhode Island Poet Laureate

It’s almost Thanksgiving and I am as unprepared as you feel. Maybe more so,
as already I am trying to remember where I’ve hidden the stocking stuffers I’ve
been hoarding since summer. If you’ve been in a classroom in the last few weeks—
as I know you have—you’ll confirm that, where school is concerned, Thanksgiving
is non-stop Pilgrims and gratitude. Plus, some discussion of how the Pilgrims
would have perished without the help of Native Americans. For my good friend,
a Navajo poet, seasonal gratitude proves elusive each year. Still, like him, and like
most of us, I try to be thankful every day for, even in dark times, perspective
makes room for gratitude. And the Pilgrims are truly fascinating with their zeal
and courage to flee “the bossy king,” as some students in Saylesville so aptly
phrased it earlier this week. An ocean voyage into the unknown is no small feat.
And freedom of all kinds is always paramount.

Right now though, I am experiencing gratitude/ turkey-hand/ shopping list/ overload.
I really just want to curl up with the pile of books by my bed and read. But often when
I pick up a book, I am reminded of how two of my three children have given up reading.
As a writer, this breaks my heart. As a teacher, it worries me. As a mother, it drives me
nuts. The hundreds of books lining the shelves in my office, and stacked in small towers
on the floor, attest to my belief that reading is a value. My children know this. And
yet they refuse to read. I try not to press hard to avoid creating a backlash--like what
happened with Doritos. But it nags at me daily.

As books gather dust beneath my children’s beds, I must remember when,
for a few years, I myself refused to read. Somewhere between the ages of 10-13, I lost
interest in books for reasons still unknown to me. My father, in particular, harangued
me which only made matters worse. When I turned fourteen, he gave me a copy
of West With the Night by Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic
in 1938. I reluctantly read it and was riveted. When I finished, I turned to Isak
Dineson’s Out of Africa and then to Flames Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley—all works
by women in far-flung places, leading extraordinary lives. The farther the better, it
seemed. What said my father said turned out to be true: that reading was like

With all this in mind, I rejoiced when the poet Sebastian Matthews sent me his recording
for Poetry Dose, my podcast with Atticus Allen, in which Sebastian reads and discusses
his excellent poem, “Master of None.” For the School Dose portion, Matthews talks about
how the old-school rap classic, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious
woke him up to poetry. He credits the advent of rap for sparking his interest in
“the power of poetry as news, as commentary, as protest." This was a revelation to me,
since Sebastian is the son of writers—his father was the renowned poet William Matthews,
and his mother, Marie Harris. And yet, as their child, he remained for a long time unmoved
by the presence of poetry in his midst.

As a kid growing up in New York City, “The Message” was also an important cultural
moment for me. It marked the beginning of rap’s footing in the larger popular
culture. Thinking back, I am sure that the dozens of raps I knew by heart as a teenager
heightened my awareness of language. How could they not have? But Sebastian’s
anecdote reminded me that we all come to things in our own time and that the
catalyst may not be the one we expect. Just as every catchy song has a hook,
songs themselves can be hooks. I like to imagine Sebastian’s Poetry Dose episode being
played to high schools students, as they begin to connect the music they love to their own
creative impulses. I like to imagine that teachers will use Sebastian’s commentary about
poetry and “The Message” to examine distinctions between traditions, to mix things up,
and to disrupt expectations of where inspiration can be found. I also like to imagine my
own children picking up books or putting pen to paper, prompted by a song, a film
or a photo, even Doritosanything that will open them up and connect them to their

Thanksgiving has a history with many sides, but there’s no denying that the Pilgrims’
journey reflects passion--religious and otherwise. Expansive thinking and a yearning
to remain free is what set the Pilgrims on their path. There is poetry in that.
By which I mean a “message.” Meaning the Mayflower is only one way to travel.
And no one need set forth until she is ready.

Tina Cane,
Poet Laureate of Rhode Island

Listen to: Sebastian Matthews on Poetry Dose
Subscribe to: poem-a-day
Ride the bus and look for Poetry in Motion, RI: This month Joy Harjo’s “Remember”

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