Reimagining Learning Spaces: The Third Teacher

A few years ago, I started to rethink my classroom space. I wondered, What does this room say about me as a teacher, or my students as learners? Is the space working in the best ways in can? Although I don’t think I realized it then, I now know that those questions stemmed, in part, from being in my own children’s classrooms.

As a parent with three boys in elementary school, I am always amazed on back-to-school nights. Every classroom is bright and cheerful. The moment I walk in, I know that this is a place where children are valued—where their voices are heard and their spirits nurtured. Every space in the room is meaningful. Inspirational quotes line the walls alongside student work. Other spaces feature word walls, classroom jobs, anchor charts, learning stations, reading nooks, a class pet, and cozy chairs.

Although you certainly don’t need to be a parent to be a good teacher, in my personal experience, seeing school through my children’s eyes shifted my thinking in subtle but significant ways. When I became a parent, I became a better teacher. For one, I became more compassionate; when I think about the 15- and 17-year-olds sitting in my classroom, I see them not only as my students but also as someone else’s children. When I make instructional decisions, I can’t help wonder, Would I want this for my own boys?  

Which brings me back to my classroom. When I got my first classroom many years ago, I couldn’t wait to decorate it. I bought all sorts of posters—posters that featured the books we would be reading, wise and pithy sayings, and famous art and artists. I covered the walls with colorful non-fade bulletin board paper and arranged the desks in neat groups of four. Over the years, my classroom has been through various iterations, but for the most part, the key pieces—decorative posters and desk quads—stayed the same. If you walked into my classroom, you would have found it to be a generally pleasant place to spend 43 minutes.

But pleasant isn’t enough.

Having a pleasant place to be is a nice but it’s not enough. What’s a pleasant place to be if isn’t an inspiring place to learn? And what’s an inspiring place to learn if it isn’t personalized to the learner?

And so here’s  peak into my classroom today. To learn more about how I got here, click here to continue reading at, where this post was first published.