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John Caddy
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John Caddy as Teacher


I have taught for most of my life. Now, as I enter my twilight years, teaching has become even more important. Many aging people realize ever more strongly that all they have achieved has been collaborative and communal. Elders traditionally “give back” to the community, which is the motivation for Morning Earth.

Teaching is the process of creating situations in which others learn. It is not a process of a full cup trying to fill an empty cup. All humans have an enormous capacity to learn. After almost forty years of helping people, especially kids, create art, I know beyond question that people arrive in the world equipped with the ability to make poetry, and the other arts as well. Creativity is innate, and can be released in a person even after years of being suppressed by defective education and a culture of hopelessness.

I began teaching as an English teacher and student teacher supervisor at University High School at the University of MN. This made me an instructor at the University. For eight years I taught English 8-12, and simultaneously taught classes in how to teach. My favorite was “Being in the Classroom”, a course on classroom relationships. From 1968-73 I was the advisor for all English, Speech and Theater Education students at the University.

During my years at U-High, a group of good people began the Minnesota Poets-in-the-Schools (PITS) Program. I was one of these founders, four young poets, Seymour Yesner, Minneapolis Schools English Specialist, and Molly LaBerge, arts volunteer from the St. Paul Council of Arts & Sciences. We began as a reading program in high schools, and quickly morphed into a writing program K-12. In a few years, PITS became Community Programs in the Arts & Sciences, COMPASled by Molly LaBerge. In the curious dance of acronyms in America, PITS became the COMPAS program WITS, Writers in the Schools, which eventually resulted in the inclusive WAITS, Writers and Artists in the Schools.

From 1968 through 1996, I taught over 750 poetry residencies in Minnesota Schools, writing poems with well over 75,000 kids and over a thousand teachers.

I originated and taught for five years the poetry class of the Twin Cities Institute for Talented Youth in the later 60s. Kids at that time were especially open to the arts; it was joyous.


My favorite poetry award, from Jesse Richards, grade 2.



This work with children helped me learn hope again after Viet Nam. Creating with others is a good way to heal.

In the early 70s some friends and I, weary of the war and idiocy, left the University of Minnesota and began Sundog Center in northern MN. Sundog was an early residential center for environmental education. It was at Sundog that I began to explore the power of combining earth study with making art. During this time I had the pleasure of teaching teachers about wilderness writing with Sigurd Olson and Tom Bacig in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. In 1974, I directed at Sundog the first MN Youth Conservation Corps camp.

Because of back problems, I left Sundog in 1978 and returned to Minneapolis. For a time I taught only residencies, but in 1984 I began teaching teachers for Hamline University Graduate School, part-time. For several years I taught the writing class for Hamline University’s Advanced Placement Institute. Throughout the 80s, I taught many in-service staff development courses for suburban school districts.
In the 90s I continued my residency work and began to do environmental education again in summer workshops for teachers at Wolf Ridge Center in northern Minnesota. In the early 90s I had the pleasure of co-teaching at Hamline with educational reformer Herbert Kohl. Later I did a residency with Herb for the PEN American Center with in Puntas Arenas, California.

The annual Metro Young Authors Conference, sponsored by Metro ECSU, brings kids 5-8 together from urban and suburban schools for sessions with authors, storytellers, and other word artists. It goes on for five days, with different kids each day. I taught in the program for 14 years until 2005.

Self Expressing Earth (SEE) was my program at the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University. Begun in 1994, The goal of SEE was to foster environmental education through the process of making art in several art forms. Originally a residency program at COMPAS, at Hamline SEE was reinvented as a Web-based Distance-Learning Program. Schools subscribed, SEE provided extensive teaching materials and online interactive discussion with myself and guest artist-nauralists.

SEE also began a seven-year series of enormously successful summer workshops for teaching artists, naturalists, and classroom teachers. Funded by the Perpich Center for Arts Education, and sponsored by COMPAS, then Hamline, these workshops were week-long immersions in both arts and ecology, taught in residential environmental education camps in the forests of Minnesota.

SEE was a success, especially in California, but we gradually realized that such a program would not support itself by subscriptions. The SEE website became essentially a teacher-resource site, and SEE became dormant in 2000.

Teaching is sometimes recognized. In 1997, I was honored to receive the Sally Ordway Irving Award for Arts Education, presented by First Banks and the Ordway theatre in St. Paul.


  Beginning in 1998, a SEE subscription included a daily poem celebrating a gift from Earth, which I wrote each morning and emailed to subscribers. For me, this became a practice, and a daily devotion. When SEE went dormant, my Earth Journal continued. I mailed to a gradually growing list of teachers, friends, acquaintances and increasingly, to strangers who had heard of my list. Newspaper and magazine articles began to bring more subscribers to this free list, which reached about six hundred subscribers as Morning Earth began.  

Copyright © 2005 Morning Earth