Today on the podcast I interview Taylor Nichols, a special education co-teacher in Indiana. During this interview, she shares practical strategies and advice for an inclusion class. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Taylor.
Tell me about your teaching story or journey into teaching and education.
I was fortunate enough to have two teachers who truly impacted my life and directed me towards my career. Mrs. Dilk and Mr. Townsend. Mrs. Dilk was a home economics teacher. For whatever reason Mrs. Dilk happened to follow my class from elementary to middle to high school. I took her classes every chance I had. She was the type of teacher who felt like your mother. You knew you could go to her with anything and she would fully support you and direct you towards a positive pathway. When I was in an extremely toxic relationship, I was taking her class interpersonal relationships. She knew what I was going through and not once did she say anything negative to me, but while discussing topics in class would look at me discretely letting me know that she knew, that this information was for me, and that there was help out there. Her loving heart for students touched me and I knew from her that I wanted to play that role in changing someone's life.
When I was in high school, I had two teachers who I still hold very near and dear to my heart. Mr. Townsend and Mrs. Dilk. Mr. Townsend was my English teacher for one year and I remember him sitting at the front of the room, playing his guitar, singing songs about grammar. I had never had a teacher do something so fun in the classroom, displaying their hobby, engaging students. I soaked it in. I was able to work as Mr. Townsend's teaching assistant during my second year of college while he taught an inclusion class and it was eye-opening. This is when I knew I was on the right career path and knew I was here to make a difference in the lives of teenagers.
Share your teaching story
I am a co-teacher. My job is to go in math and English with my special needs students and share the classroom with the other teacher. We must teach TOGETHER, and I think this is extremely important. This teaching strategy not only provides inclusion for my students who can then get the support they need while still being with their friends and general education classmates, but it shows the students a daily model of how to work with someone.
Every day these teachers and I model a skill by simply sharing the room, ideas, students, and responsibilities. These are skills a vast amount of our students today lack and it encourages me to strive to be my best so that they have that positive role model in their life. I want my students to see that positivity between adults and the positivity we can share between adults and students.
Share a favorite teaching moment.
One of my favorite teaching moments this year was when my students and I were talking about disabilities, their disabilities, and how to advocate for themselves when I can’t be there. Later that day another student made a negative comment to them, and they advocated for themselves. They said, “I’m not stupid, I have a disability and I struggle in math, but at least I’m trying and doing my best!”
U: Unite your PLN - Every quest is better with a friend to two. Learn how to gather your questing buddies. They can help you along the way, provide you with encouragement, and challenge you to the best educator you can be!
When I was in the education program there were only two other special education majors and twelve elementary majors. It seemed to me if I was going to survive, I’d need to cling to those who were going to be doing assignments that mirrored mine. The three of us in Special ed teachers stuck together like paper and glue the entire two years of the program. I truly would not have made it through the program without them. There was a time where I thought I wasn’t going to make it and they are what pulled me through, reminding me what I had worked so hard for. We challenged each other to see who would get the highest grades on tests and assignments but never left one another behind while doing so. We studied together, sat in classes for 12-hour days together, ate nearly every meal together. They’re still my teacher besties even though we’re all in different schools.
What is the best advice about teaching you received and how did you incorporate it into your teaching?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself with your students. I am always honest with and show my true self to my students. We can’t expect them to be comfortable and honest with us if we aren’t comfortable and honest with them first.
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