Jennifer Cleary brings creativity and a hands-on approach to Summer School teaching.
Last spring, Professor Jennifer Cleary spent a lot of time talking about social media. In a theater course on Ensemble Production, her students collaborated to produce an original performance piece called iShow. The production gave students the chance to reflect creatively on the way social media shapes their lives. Professor Cleary facilitated the production, helping students learn about ensemble production while asking real questions about their daily experiences.
This interplay between life and education, between the passions that move us, the questions that drive our everyday lives, and the learning we pursue in the classroom motivates all of Professor Cleary’s teaching. She recently developed a course in Creative Pedagogy for students in the Brandeis Education Department, exploring creativity in education to help budding educators imagine new possibilities in and out of the classroom. Her course, Playing for Change, pushes Brandeis theater students to find ways to use theater to drive social change and foster community-building in the real world. Students leave Professor Cleary’s classes better prepared to participate in a changing society.
A regular instructor for the Rabb Summer School, Professor Cleary draws on more than a dozen years of teaching experience at Brandeis. With a diverse background in performance, theater, experiential learning, and more, she offers Rabb Summer School students an exciting opportunity to explore public speaking almost every summer. Look for her course THA 15b: Public Speaking: The Art of Oral Communication when summer course lists arrive in the spring.
When we asked Professor Cleary about what makes teaching Rabb Summer School student special, she called it one of her “most enjoyable teaching experiences!” Some think of the summer session, she explained, as laid-back experience, where the “relaxing nature of shorts and flip flops makes learning watered down.” “In fact,” she said “it’s quite the opposite.”
Professor Cleary with her adorable dog Zooey
Because the summer sessions are compressed, Professor Cleary’s students do a lot of work in their five-week course. “It can be hard when it comes to public speaking,” she explained, “because it’s something people can be enormously afraid of, and it can take time to overcome those fears.” But this intensive effort allows the classes to become “invested in the work and in each other” in a way that the regular semester schedule sometimes prevents. Above all, she explains, “It is the smaller class for me in summer, which I love, because the community we build is vital to the progress made in the work.”