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

Day 2 of Alice Madness!

Day 2 of Alice in Wonderland Jr. Madness has just finished! We had another very productive day.  We had the rare opportunity to take a trip to the University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees library where they are holding an exhibit : Alice in the Looking Glass: Illustrations and Artists Books from 1865-2012.(Open now until August 16) Since we are going to the exhibit in shifts; actors, costumers, property builders, set builders, advertising and marketers and theatre techs, by tomorrow, will have completed the opportunity to become a Theatre Dramaturge. (One who researches theatre.) The Collector, Mrs. Jeanne Harper, explained to the kids why she was so interested in the book and what her collection means to her.  Her collection was extensive and she was so pleased that the kids were able to visit! What great timing!!

I have given the students the task to answer the following questions:

1) Actors: By looking at these illustrations- what can you use to help your character development- how would you hold your body? Is there something you saw that can help you on stage?

2) Costumers/Make Up: Are there any elements that you would possibly add to an existing costume to make the character seem more like one of the examples you saw in one of the Illustrations? Would it be interesting hair style or Make up choice?

3) Properties: Were there any elements that you thought were interesting? And how would you put them on the stage….

4) Set: What pieces would you put in if we had to design all over again!  (Don’t worry we won’t!  But I am interested in what you would do if you could!)

5) Tech: What lighting design would you choose?  Technical theatre is creative too!  Think about it!

6) Advertising: How would you advertise the show? Based upon what you saw today, is there something that you would like to do to the bulletin board outside the theatre to draw more people in?

6) Everyone:  How did you like the visit?  Would you re-read the book if you haven’t already?

What was thrilling for me was to see the kids make connections with what they saw in the exhibit to what they were doing on stage. And now my students are fully engaged in the process of theatre! WOOT!  I can’t wait to read their comments: which should be in the comment section of this blog post.

After our visit, we did another run through, worked with our props and our builders are starting to bring the bare stage alive! The drop was hung and additional trees and mushroom painted. Props crew got the boat painted and built. The bulletin board outside was sketched and painted and the tech crew got mics on and ran lighting cues.As the Mad Hatter Says in our show… ” I want you to LIVE! I Command you to LIIIIVVVE!!”  Alice in Wonderland is starting to come alive!

Day 1 complete!

How did day one fair? Quite successfully I may say!  Day 1 equated to students and faculty members worked on completing costumes, props, bulletin boards, set pieces and hung black lights for one of our scenes and our drop arrived! Actors ran through various scenes and worked some of the props that have been created. There was a lot of re-spacing.  Things change in the space now that some of the set is now being installed, so re-spacing is a necessity! It was a VERY busy, busy day but a lot was accomplished! It is all starting to come together! It is only going to get better and better as the days go on!


Can Theatre Arts Create a Successful 21st Century Student?

In education, the big buzz and focus is how to create the 21st century student. Teachers are asked to teach students who will be prepared. As a theatre arts specialist, I have to ask myself the following questions: what is a 21st century student? How do I create curriculum to satisfy the needs of my students while still maintaining the needs of the school and program?

Theatre arts are a prime example of how a 21st century student can succeed. If you think of all of the parts that put on a “show,” musical or not, students hone in on their critical thinking skills in a creative way. Educational professionals talk about how the two programs of STEM and STEAM are the new wave of education and wonder how we can put these programs into schools. If the school has a theatre arts program, they have not only a STEM programs their school already but they have STEAM where the arts element is added in.

Science is incorporated by interpreting how light and sound travel, at what rate and frequency to determine how to create the perfect lighting design to make the set come alive or to avoid interference and feedback with a sound system.  (The common core education standards must have figured this out, because now lighting and sound design are now part of the Core in Arts Education)

Technology is incorporated with the usage of programming the lighting board so that the lights go on when they need too during the show.  How and when do they program the soundboard, so that kids are heard effectively?  Students are learning digital design by formatting the playbill and posters that will be put out into the community.  Sometimes kids get creative with the sets and create stop motion animation as part of the set.

Engineering takes on many different forms in Theatric Arts. The definition of engineering is “the art of science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure science as in construction” ( Students take into the account of what they have learned in the sciences and in mathematics and science and apply them to the scope of the show.  Engineering applies to creating props, set, sound and lighting design, costumes and character.

Art in Theatre arts is a very broad term. In all categories creation is going on.  Students want to make their contribution to the process a success therefore students put forth a great deal of effort.  It is great to see their pride in their work once they have completed their task.

Mathematics is taken into account when designing and building a set, creating costumes- what angle do I need to cut this and to what scale? How do I put it together?

All of these skills are done by using practical applications that students DO. It isn’t about sitting in a classroom. It is about doing. Now throw in some history: when was the play written, what do we need to do to make this play/musical historically correct? When students are “on the stage” they must research character.

As I watch our entire Middle School work on our annual musical, I see these all of these elements work together. They have no idea that a STEAM curriculum is at work.  They are learning by doing, they are collaborating with each other, they are “getting their hands dirty” and they are having fun in the process.

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