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School as visitors

22 Aug 2020 12:49 PM | Angela White (Administrator)

This post from a New Zealand educator has resonated with me during these times of isolation and distance learning for schools and has reflected what some students and teachers are saying about the change to online learning:


Here is a translation:

"Schools have gone from

hosts to visitors.

We are the visitors in the

homes of young people.

We are literally entering

their homes daily.

If we are visitors

we should act like it.

We take the lead from families

and work to maintain

the life force of the family."

When using online learning, there is a subtle difference for schools which I think is summed up in this quote so eloquently.  

When engaging in face to face learning, schools are the 'place' that students come to, they are essentially the 'hosts' for facilitating learning.  The school is their 'place' and when a well developed school culture is in place, all students and staff and parents feel a sense of belonging at the school and ownership of the facility.  The school buildings are the venue and the school staff are the 'hosts' for learning.  Staff behave like hosts, offering the best environment they can and providing opportunities to engage in learning.

When schools start providing learning online, this dynamic changes and the teachers who are facilitating online learning with their students become the 'visitors' in their students homes.  

I'm not sure if all schools acknowledge this difference and I wonder if school staff spent some time considering this move from 'host' to 'visitor' what it would mean for their programs and delivery.  A school leader could run a staff meeting that asks the following questions:

* if we are the visitors in students homes, what would be the most respectful way we could start the lesson?

* if parents and/or extended family are also in the home while we are delivering learning, how do we acknowledge them as we are guests in their home?

* how do our expectations of students change for online learning; are there different expectations of a host and a visitor?

I think there is value in schools exploring  these concepts and at the least considering that there could be some subtle differences.  

In the interests of maintaining student wellbeing, positive relationships with students and creating the most effective learning opportunities we can is it worth exploring this idea with your school?

There could be a silver lining here... schools who engage with their parent community and acknowledge their new role as visitors in their homes might find online learning to be an unexpected opportunity to further strengthen respectful relationships.

I'd love to hear from any schools who have had these conversations with staff and/or parents, please send an email if you'd be happy to share your experiences. 

Written by: Angela White, Executive Officer


Apologies for not providing a link to the author Heemi McDonald.  If anyone can provide a link to their work or more detail about the quote please let me know so I can update with an acknowledgement.


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