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Education and Acting: An Introduction

I am very torn about this. I hate the word blog; it will forever be tainted in my mind as a medium through which a thirty-something uses to warn her friends about the "dangers" of vaccinations (which I won't get into today), but nevertheless, here I am. I am going to use this first essay as an autobiographical update of sorts, so all of you can understand who I am and why I'm doing this. The format will change into more of an "op-ed" style after this post, which is what I'm really excited about.

I turned 21 this month and am what most would consider an "official" adult. I have an outline for the next three years of my life (in Excel format). In high school I was fairly carefree; post-high school, however, I have become the epitome of a Type A personality. The more detailed and color-coded the chart, the better.

When I was in high school, I was unsure of which career I wanted to do. In ninth grade, the idea of becoming an educator was simmering in my mind's back burner, but I assumed it was a passing fad. I knew if I decided to pursue education, I would end up choosing Theatre, English, and Spanish. I was not encouraged by any educators to enter their field, as they could see the amount of change that would be happening. They told me to run to a different profession. On top of that, there was also the, "to make money or not to make money" dilemma, which is a very valid question that should be considered when choosing a career. During eleventh grade, however, I had a life changing experience in a junior English class. For the first time, I fell in love with English. I had always liked English, but "love" is a strong word. My teacher, Lane Rosencrans, pushed me harder than I thought possible, resulting in what was my most challenging, but most rewarding course to date.

In twelfth grade, I had the opportunity of working with Lane five days a week in one of her English classes. I saw the good, the bad, and the really ugly side of education. I ultimately realized my heart was in English Education and that no amount of persuasion or warning would sway me from it.

But clearly you're on my acting page, so you may be wondering how acting fits into all of this. I have been performing on stage since I was seven years old. I quickly fell in love with performing. I was involved primarily in theatre (with some voiceover and independent films scattered in the mix), but my first film opportunity came to town with the ABC TV show, "Nashville," in fall of 2012. My friend told me about an open casting call for extras taking place during July, so I asked off for work and stood in a line filled with hundreds of people who all knew this would be their big break. The company asked me to come in for a scene the next week, but upon finding out I was a minor they told me they must wait until I'm eighteen to use me. So a few days after my birthday, I got the call and went in to film my first episode.

I was at the Bluebird Cafe sound stage, which was an exact replica of the Bluebird Cafe. This replica copied every detail down to the types of light bulbs used and the cracks on the wall. I was nervously sitting in the holding area when the assistant director pulled me from my table and walked me around to the back entrance of the sound stage. I was a little disappointed, because I figured walking around to the back would not get me anywhere close to the "action." However, the assistant director took me to the stage door, placed a chair right next to the stage, and he told me that would be my mark. I was facing the Bluebird audience and could not believe my placement. Charles "Chip" Esten (pictured with me) walked in and sat next to me, guitar in tow, and shook my hand and introduced himself to me. After a few takes, Chip grabbed a sweet tea to help his voice, but he suddenly heard the AD call "rolling," and frantically began looking for a place to hide his drink. I offered to hide it for him, and Chip said, "Oh thank you Clay!" handed me his drink, and immediately went into action. I have probably worked with Chip a dozen times since then, and he is my favorite performer to work with. He is kind, caring, and will always make time for other people. I once saw him ask Hayden Panettiere if she would autograph something given to him for a wounded veteran (which she of course did).

Since my scene in the Bluebird, I have worked in fourteen episodes and all four seasons of the show. Through meeting people on the show, I found out about other opportunities nearby, which resulted in me spending a week in January 2014 filming, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay in Atlanta, Georgia. The casting company behind Mockingjay emailed me in May 2015 about doing their new film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant. I was originally going to be taking classes in Knoxville all summer to graduate early, but had recently decided instead to simply take two classes this summer, online. So with my schedule wide open, I emailed them back, and got a call within minutes asking me how soon I could come down to Atlanta for a wardrobe fitting. I spent roughly a month filming the movie, and had one of the best experiences of my life. I might even end up having lines in the final cut (if the movie is edited in my favor). I went home from Allegiant and filmed some scenes for "Master of None" (Aziz Ansari's new Netflix show), and I worked a few days on "Nashville."

So what's the deal with education?? As much as I love acting, education is where I want to be. I want my students to know there is more to English than a mandated end of course exam. It might not be realistic to say I hope every one of my students leaves with a passion for literature, but I do hope they will leave with an appreciation of literature and English. As a teacher, my job will not be complete until every young writer finds his or her voice. In the past year I have also become motivated to teach ESL, too, because the United States is inundated with English language learners. The most popular birth country among ESL students is the United States. As more families immigrate to the U.S., I want the students from those families to have the same opportunities as a student whose native language is English. I want the skills to work with the ESL students and I will fight tooth and nail ensuring the ESL students have a chance to succeed. Acting will always be there, but English for Secondary Education is where I feel I’m being called.

Education will be an interesting journey, but one I can't wait to share with all of you.


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