by Meghan Lawson, Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning
West Clermont Schools
The Third Teacher: Learning Environments
Our world continues to change — and rapidly. Schools are no different, yet there are some essential elements in education that stand the test of time.
Relationships. The incredible influence of a good teacher. Our need as human beings to belong, to feel known, seen, celebrated, valued, and connected to ourselves, our purpose, our community.
At West Clermont, we are deeply committed to creating environments that center the humanity of the people in our schools and simultaneously prepare our students to be lifelong learners who are agile and can adapt and flourish in an ever changing world and workforce.
So, while the role of teacher remains more important than ever, the way teaching, classroom experiences, and classroom environments look will continue to look very different from what many of us experienced.
Many refer to the learning environment as the “third teacher.” Who are the first and second teachers? First teachers are the adults who are a part of our students’ lives before they enter K-12 schooling. Much formative and essential learning occurs before our students ever walk through the doors of our buildings. Second teachers are the hard working adults who educate children once they are enrolled in our schools.
Often, when we think of the word environment, we think of furniture, spaces, lighting, classroom walls, the way we arrange the furniture. It’s true that all of these components make up an environment. And with intentionality, these components can enhance learning experiences and grow student skills just as a third teacher would.
At West Clermont, we are passionate about ensuring our learning environments extend beyond the walls of the classroom. We believe in “anytime, anywhere” learning. We want students to have access to community members, businesses, and field experts to make learning come alive. We believe that connecting with our community and coming alongside community members to solve real problems gives students a purpose for learning. It makes learning relevant, authentic, and meaningful.
When we are community-connected with learning, not only does this give students opportunities to learn more about what excites them and what fields they may one day desire to enter, but it also means that more hearts and minds are working together to improve our community and places of work. Our students don’t have to wait until they are adults to make a difference. They can make a difference now. This is inspiring for all of us.
West Clermont is excited to partner with Community Share which in simple terms is a human library. It’s a place where we can make our many connections to each other visible, so we can leverage those connections for the greater good of our schools and community. Community Share is a place where people across our community, inside and outside of our schools, can connect with each other at varying levels about various topics of interest. This starts quite simply with people being interested in being connected and creating profiles. Educators can create requests for partnerships. Maybe they want to invite an expert to speak to their class. Maybe they want experts to give students authentic feedback on their work. Perhaps they want to partner with a community member to solve a challenge together. Perhaps there are student workers who could participate in internships and externships at local businesses. Maybe students would enjoy volunteering at a local animal shelter.
The possibilities are endless and are not limited to school to community connections. Community members can also connect with each other in this space.
The third teacher is all of us. When we grow our relationships and connections to one another, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.