The Re-Invention of Jeannie Clinton

Jeannie Clinton's blog is about documenting what one goes through when change happens. Jeannie is a teaching artist who brings Theatre down to is Core. Don't let reality dictate your dreams. Make your dreams a reality!

The power of connection 

To all of those teachers who are returning back to school- here is your inspiration for the day. This powerful video will remind you why you are there in the first place. Yea teaching a subject, making sure that you have you curriculum in place for the year is important too but… Connection is a powerful thing. And I am not talking about technology. Sure technology is here, it is here to stay, and it keeps changing. BUT the connection you make with people and your interaction with them is here too. And that is NOT changing. Genuine interaction (good or bad), develops a connection that will stick with you and that all parties will remember. Think about it: do you remember an adult/teacher who believed in you so much that they put up with everything? Who was that person? Is there a specific instance that made you think of that person? Was that instance good or bad (positive or negative)? You will remember. I have so many. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my music and theatre teachers. They shaped me as I was carving out my place in the world. That is the power of connection. 

Watch the TEDX talks education video.  Put your comments below. Share who was that person for you. 

And will someone do me a favor, those who teach the higher grades (Middle and High school) purchase extra deodorant for both genders and keep them in your desk. If there is a student who forgot to wear it one day: pull them in your office- so they are not humiliated- and give it to them and tell them to use it. (I used to do this) She is right- kids can be mean and it isn’t isn’t fun to teach kids who smell bad. 

Have a great day! 

What am I talking about?

Well, In the past two or three weeks I have been taking mixed martial arts. I am working through a big change and it is really stressing me out. Last week, in my morning class, One of my former students was in the class and I had to spar with her. She just received her high ranking red belt last night, so she really knows what she is doing. I joked with her and asked her to be easy on me then she stated- “Do you remember when I had to walk around with books on my head in theatre class? Payback!” Oh geez… Yes, I made my students do crazy things like that to help with character building and posture, but now it is payback? Oh boy. I didn’t want to hurt her, and yes she is a high belt rank and training to be a fighter, but I taught this kid in school! Throwing punches and kicks is not appropriate to a student- wait- I am not her classroom teacher anymore. I started off okay, going through the moves when it happened.

She said, “You can do better than this- do it! You got this! Don’t hold back!”


I am being schooled by my former student. She is very knowledgeable, and very kind and those words came out of my mouth not more than 4 months ago and now she is saying that to me. It was a game changer. She is the expert and she is confident and strong. She instructed me how I instructed her, except I am not as confident as I used to be.

Just wow.

Then fast forward to Wednesday night.

Long story short- Wednesday nights are Pokemon club-night at a local anime store. My 9 year old likes to go. Usually we just drop him off because another one of his friends parents is there, but this time, I wanted to check it out. Great place, buzzing with 8-13 year old energy, playing a favorite game. Them it happened again- I look up and there is someone I recognize. I ask the other parent who that was and she said “That is SMASH. The leader of the club.” I told her, “No, that is a kid I taught from Middle school through High school!”

I had no idea.

I walked up to him and it was a great mini reunion. He said he had been doing this for a couple of years now. College didn’t suit him, he works at a call center as his day time job and in the evenings he does this. He told me if I had any questions to ask he isn’t called the professor of Pokemon there for nothing.

Wow. Again mind blown.

Then a couple more former students walk in the door (now an 8th grader and a junior” (Pokemon is ageless).

8th grader says, “Do you know how to play Mrs. C?”
“Grab a deck and let’s play. I will teach you.”

That is what happened. The 8th grader grabs a deck and teaches me how to play. At first he went so fast. When I asked him to slow down because I just couldn’t keep up , he did. He answered my questions and he was excited to teach me something. He was compassionate. Explained things well. He was the expert. And I won my first battle. (No, he didn’t let me win either.)

The professor was readily available to answer many of my questions on how to practice. And gave me lots of suggestions on how to improve my game.

I became the student and two different kids became my teacher.


Another student, who graduated a few years ago, just yesterday said she would help me on this blog since she has her own blog on how to make food. She is the expert.

Being schooled again.

I guess the bottom line is this- I seriously don’t think these kids- and they are really good kids- would help me learn new things if, when I was their teacher in the classroom, I didn’t teach them something, if their experience with me wasn’t positive, and if I didn’t teach them with respect. They knew me and they went out of their way to teach me. I was willing and open to learn. It wasn’t how I did it. It was just that I did it. I felt so honored and proud that they taught me something. And I realized that in a small way I made a difference in their life. (This realization that I made a difference in kids lives is something that I am still working on. My self esteem and confidence as an educator is not as strong as it used to be.)

The take away: Being arrogant and a know it all is not the answer. Sharing with respect is. Especially if you want kids to have empathy and compassion. You are going to have to set the example. And they DO pay attention, BIG TIME. I certainly don’t know it all- I mean who really does?

Reinventing my blog and myself

Yep- as part of my reinvention process, I am reinventing my blog too. I will post whatever process I am going through, along with things I create, snip its of performances, and thoughts here. I will keep my political views to myself, since talking about politics stress me out. I don’t claim to be a writer. I am not going to make a fuss about grammar. I am not going to be on the Grammar Police.  I write like I talk- which is sometimes backwards. (Sorry about that former my English teacher colleagues.) So deal. This is mid-life at its best. What do I hope to get out of this? I hope I can still teach and be an inspiration to those who are going through change- loss of job, moving to a new job, moving to a new city or moving to a new school or going to college, trying out for that speical role, getting back to the work force etc. (You get the idea.) the idea here is to be as positive and real as possible.  Follow my blog and my journey to make my dreams- whatever they may be- to come true.

Being grateful is…

Sitting on my porch, watching the sunrise (through my clean windows) and thinking of everything that I am grateful for and thinking of the list in my head of a thousand things that need to be done today which are all grand opportunities and I am grateful. Take the time to look at the sky, smell the flowers, and be grateful and thankful for all of the tasks you have given today.

Finding the light.

This came to me today: When you want to see the light, you have to stop and grab the windex, and take time clean off the windows. That way all of the light, not just some, can shine through. Now the rest will make sense!
I haven’t watched the sunrise in a couple of months now- and I had forgotten how special it is. You know that expression “every cloud has a silver lining?” Well you can actually see it when the sun comes up. No matter of the cloud is dark and grey, or white and pillowy, when the sun rises and hits them just right- the silver lining glitters and outlines the shape of each cloud. Especially when the sky is so blue- it makes for the perfect backdrop. The cool thing about this is no matter where you are, no matter how rich or poor, no matter what gender you are or aren’t, no matter what God or ultimate being you believe in, we all get to experience this. It is a new day, with new challenges. I feel emotionally lighter today. Enjoy what the day will bring for you my friends. And know that every one gets a do over. What you do with it is your choice.

Gaining Perspective

We have just covered the Birmingham Church bombing in Music 8 Class.  In this class we talk about protest music.  We listened to this amazing piece by Adolphus Hailstork called “American Guernica”.  He wrote the piece about the Birmingham church bombing.  A perfect example of Program music.–abc-news-topstories.html

Remembering the Wonderland Adventure

The weekend went by in a whirlwind. Here we are on Wednesday and the kids are almost settled back into their routine of going back to “classical” school work.   As I sit here and reflect about the past week, I find myself missing the Authentic approach that we have just come from.  Our entire middle school was engulfed in a process that had EVERY student experiencing an authentic learning experience. It was such a wonderful experience for me to see how each student have grown into the roles that they chose to do.  Many of them have never had the chance to build anything and now they have become set builders. Others have never created, built, and organized props and they became property masters.  Students who helped with costumes became costumers. Kids in the booth- became are theatre technicians. Students assigned to the front of the house now have marketing experience. Assistants have became assistant directors and kids on stage you have became actors during this process. It blows my mind that these kids BECAME what they chose to do.  It really doesn’t matter that it was only for a short time.  They had an amazing out of “classroom” experience.  That is what counts….

Day 5: Time to Leap!

It is the opening of the show. There is a huge buzz of excitment around Allendale Columbia Middle School. The amount of energy that the kids have today could power all of Rochester. Set and props crew are feeling more and more confident as they practice their set changes. Quick changes are going a little more smoothly this morning and the Tech crew is working to make sure that music cues are being played on time and that mics are turned on. The actors are learning their track (knowing when they go on and off) with confidence. The Marketing crew are getting programs ready for this evenings performance.

Our dress rehearsal went off without too many glitches. The set changes got a little hung up especially with the Mad Hatter Table in the second act…but it is all about practice. They will get it! There are many visual elements that have come to life. The kids now know how each and every one of them is responsible for bringing this story to life!
It is time to take the leap tonight! The kids are coming along for the ride- and boy is it THRILLING!!



Day 4: Go down the rabbit hole?

DAY 4: Yesterday the time at Allendale Columbia just flew by! We did a complete dress rehearsal with makeup and costumes.  It was important that we did this so we could figure out timing.  On our final dress rehearsal, I would like things to be more relaxed rather that frantic as it has been in the past.  Our makeup crew, who is also our costume crew, got everything together, our tech crew got the mics on the kids and we began our sound checks.  While that was going on, I met with the prop and set crews just to make sure they had their run sheets completed.  With the help of a stage manager and theatre colleague at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse/Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.  She  taught me how to and what  formal paperwork that is needed.  I took that knowledge to the crews and  explained to the crews that they needed to complete a similar or create their own run sheet.  A very basic one was given for them to fill out.  Costumes and actors had to figure out the art of the “Quick Change” and it all started to come together.

The afternoon was filled with completing the complete run and then running it again with set changes.  But we did it!  The kids were VERY excited by the end of the show.

As their teacher and director, I realized today WHY blogging is so important. It isn’t about bragging about what you did in your classroom. It is about REFLECTING about what you did and inviting others to reflect on what they read or about their own experiences. I see a whole lot of teaching still going on during the process this week.  It may not be about learning about what is in a text book about a specific subject… but it is in there. These are truly getting an authentic learning experience and so am I!

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