This week's featured teacher is Caitlin Johnson. While Caitlin used to teach English at Turtle Mountain Community College, she is currently a PhD student in NDSU's School of Education. Caitlin was also the workshop leader for the Turtle Mountain Teen Art and Writing Workshop this year. For this week's feature, Caitlin responded to the following questions:
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading For Indigenous Eyes Only by Dr. Michael Yellowbird. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Yellowbird. He is on my graduate committee and is incredibly insightful on indigenous views, research, and decolonization.
Why do you read?
I believe it’s important to read to shed light on different areas of knowledge I may not have been previously exposed to and give me more perspective about the world. I also like to read because I find it so relaxing. It’s nice to just cozy up in a warm blanket with a good book.
How do you encourage your students to read?
Since I started my doctoral program, I have only been teaching in the summers. During the year, I do one-on-one sessions and presentations with my non-profit. I tell my students in both forums to read what you know and what interests you. If you don’t like what you’re reading, you’re not going to want to finish what you started. We are motivated readers when we read what we personally enjoy—that changes from person to person. I also encourage them to read their own writing. When you read what you wrote out loud, you often hear your tone and grammatical mistakes are easier to pick up.
What do you write outside the classroom?
I write all the time. Journaling is my go-to stress management technique. I don’t particularly have one set medium. I recently published a set of poems and photography in NDSU Northern Eclecta. I often submit public interest pieces to other forums. Recently, I have been forming children’s social stories as part of my non-profit, ND AuSome Narratives Educational Program. I work with parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and, more recently, teachers on the incorporation of oral narrative education to target speech and vocabulary needs, which are often an area of weakness with children who have ASD. Social stories can help with a variety of different interests and needs of children. It’s a writing project that both my four year old son and I rather enjoy together.
Do any of your writing philosophies/interests translate to your teaching?
Yes, I often think of my own interests and philosophies when considering teaching methods. I often tell my students that if a writing project isn’t something I would want to do, then I don’t force them to do it. I let them pick their topics. Interest is key in finding the motivation to write.
Who encouraged you to be a teacher?
I honestly had never foreseen myself teaching. After graduating with my B.S. English degree, I had a difficult time finding a job and ended up accepting a grant-funded job tutoring at the Turtle Mountain Community College. It was there that I found my calling. I was able to connect with my students and make writing enjoyable to them. When my students would graduate and credit me as a person who helped get them there, it was the most rewarding feeling in the world. I started teaching the remedial classes in English shortly after my first year of tutoring.
Who currently inspires you?
The person who inspires me the most in this world is my four year old son, Sage Michael. He has inspired the majority of the creative writing that I’ve produced in the past few years. He inspired me to start my own non-profit business, and gave me the motivation to go back to school. Being the single mother to such an amazing little person has motivated me to look at the world differently.