Note: this post is part of a series about Noble’s preparation for the upcoming school year.
Donier Tyler has been in education for 12 years and started at Noble in 2011. First as a substitute teacher at various campuses, she then transitioned to DRW College Prep in 2013 to become the founding theatre arts teacher. Heading into her 8th school year at DRW, Donier has served as grade level chair for both 9th and 10th grades, been a member of the Noble-wide instructional hedgehog team, and taught a variety of theatre courses to almost every student to pass through DRW’s doors. From Intro to Theatre to World Theatre, Media and Theatre to Improvisational Theatre, and Honors Performance and Technical Theatre students are exposed to all aspects of theatre history, performance, and production; in addition to producing two to three shows a year.
We sat down with Donier to hear about her transition to remote learning for the spring and the plans for the DRW theatre program this fall.
DRW College Prep
MM: Thanks for making the time, what were you thinking when schools had to close in the spring?
DT: When we found out on March 13th that things would shut down, I was concerned first with the performance and crew that had started work in the spring. I felt really bad for the students who had been working so hard in preparation. Theatre is so in-person, it isn’t at a distance, it is really hard to feel that connectivity at a distance through Zoom. I really felt for my honors class and all the hard work they had put in – it was as if that experience was being lost.
As we moved a little further, it seemed like we were going to be shut down for a while. When I thought about my students I felt bad for my current 10th graders who are just getting started in theatre, I had a little bit of solace with my juniors and seniors who knew what things were going to look like a little in the course.
“You need to know those little things about students – their favorite color, their siblings’ names, their likes and dislikes, things about their life – every kid who comes through DRW knows Ms. Tyler, and when they come back to school to visit they come straight to my room because I made it my priority to know them for who they are- not just another student.”
MM: Once you got past the initial news, how did you think about adapting your instruction for the remote setting?
DT: My first priority was going back to my lesson plans and taking the most engaging lessons and switching them to a virtual format. I used Zoom’s settings to build little things, for example, I had all students blackout their screens, so 1-2 students could deliver lines as if they were on stage – as if they were performing for an “audience”. I tried to keep it organic and focus on the fun parts of the assignments to build greater engagement with the content and material.
MM: Can you share a moment that went really well from the spring?
DT: We held a virtual talent show in the spring, which took the place of the variety talent show which had been scheduled to happen just as the shelter in place began. Students submitted such great content – singing, original poems, dancing, and more. They brought family members into their digital acts. One student brought in their sister for a choreographed dance. We produced it as a slideshow and sent it out to staff and students. The show helped to bring everyone together with a bit of joy during what was otherwise a really challenging time.
Clips from the DRW Spring Talent Show
MM: And what are you looking to do differently or really focus on in the upcoming semester?
DT: My approach is engagement, I want to pull students in and keep them wanting to learn, wanting to speak with their peers, wanting to engage with their teachers. I am thinking about how I can build community in the synchronous learning settings, focusing on things they enjoy. I’m also making assignments where they have to interact with each other – I’ll be giving assignments that include in-class partner work, students may need to record videos or tik toks and then we can all view the content together during our synchronous time and enjoy it as a community. I want to keep them engaged and empowered.
MM: Any tools, tips, tricks or anything you’d like to share with fellow teachers (at Noble and beyond) as they are thinking about planning for the upcoming semester given your experience in the spring?
DT: The number one thing I always tell new teachers – you need to know your kids, you need to have relationships with them. If you don’t know them you aren’t going to be successful. You need to know those little things about students – their favorite color, their siblings’ names, their likes and dislikes, things about their life – every kid who comes through DRW knows Ms. Tyler, and when they come back to school to visit they come straight to my room because I made it my priority to know them for who they are- not just another student.
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