The Third Teacher

third teacher
I’d been hearing over and over again from pretty much everyone that I absolutely needed to read The Third Teacher.   I received it as a birthday gift back in Februrary, but didn’t get around to reading it until this summer.  At first, it took me a bit to get used to the design of the book.  There’s a lot of different typefaces, pages of nothing but quotes, and articles that get interrupted by shorter pieces.  But once I was able to get into the flow of the book, I loved it!  It was such a wonderful reaffirmation for me on the importance of creating physical spaces that are conducive to learning, of taking care of the health of our students through things like clean air and good food, of creating opportunities for students to be exposed to nature.

Here’s some of my favorite take-aways and quotes from the book:

“Make it new – look at your space with 21st century eyes: Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just for what we knew about learning in the past?” – p 57

Over and over, The Third Teacher emphasizes that our learning spaces need to change to reflect the way that students learn today.  Rows and rows of desks set up as a lecture theater are not helping our students to learn and grow.  We need to be willing to invest time and money to create spaces where students can develop the skills they will need to become productive citizens: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, inquisitivenss.

“An environment rich in evocative objects – whether it’s a classroom or a museum – triggers active learning by letting students pick what to engage with.” – p 67

“Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating, and making things with their hands.” p 175

I love this concept of creating museum-like spaces in school.  So many of my students are hands-on, kinesthetic learners.  Having physical objects that they can touch and explore will help them to discover and grow.  This is part of why I’m creating a Makerspace at my school.

“A learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime will engage different kinds of learners and teachers.” – p 89

Yes!  This is why I have loathed the heavy wooden tables and chairs that came with my library, and why we’re getting new furniture (in a few weeks!) to create flexible collaborative spaces.

“Children need comfort just as much at school as they do at home.  Give them a soft, quiet, and cozy area to play in by themselves or with a few friends.” – p 133

This is one of those areas I need to work on.  My library is very active, and it can get loud sometimes.  Most of my kids are fine with this, but there are some who really crave a quiet, calm space.  I’m working on ideas to set off a little corner of the library that can serve this purpose.

“Every school is located in a particular place with its own features and natural history.  Call attention to a school’s site with design, construction, and signage.” p 147

My school is located right on the shore of the Hillsborough River.  We have science classes that learn about water quality by testing river water.  Our PE classes have a fishing unit that includes catch and release programs.  What other ways can we take advantage of this amazing natural resource?  How can I bring some of that in to the library?

This book has given me a lot of ideas and resources for future grants and projects I’d like to see happen at my school.  I want to collaborate with some science classes to study air quality and see how we can improve our school’s air quality with purifiers and indoor plants.  My PTSA has been talking about creating an outdoor classroom, which has so much potential.  I’d love to see the quality of the food made available to students improve as well, but that one will be harder to accomplish, being in the 9th largest school district in the country.


Diana Rendina, MLIS, is a middle school media specialist/teacher librarian in Tampa, FL. She is the creator of the blog RenovatedLearning.com & is also a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves (to be published August 2017). She is also the author of the forthcoming ISTE book, Reimagining Library Spaces.

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