I’ve been talking a lot lately about my experiences during my University classes that earned me a Masters Degree in Education. Although it was a couple of years ago now, it was a time that I think about often. I am one of those teachers who really love to read about the field of education, and enjoy learning new things for the classroom. I mostly read about Reggio Emilia and the project approach (that is also what my research focused on during my schooling), but during my Masters, I heard lectures from professors and fellow colleagues in the program, about concepts that I had never heard of before. One of those, is about being a guest-host on the school landscape. What the heck does that mean? I know, I wondered too! This was presented from probably one of the greatest professors and teachers that I have ever crossed paths with, Debbie Pushor. She’s truly has an amazing soul and spirit. An incredible person and I was very fortunate to be a part of the Early Childhood cohort that she ran in the College of Education.
So what is a guest-host and what does that mean in the field of education? Well let me fill you in!! Before beginning the class, I had no prior concept of the notion of being a guest host. When I have thought to break it down, I understand the concept of being a guest within the school I feel this primarily for the fact that I teach in a neighbourhood that I was not and am still not familiar with, which I’m sure many of you can relate to. However, I have always felt while teaching, that I am a host each day that a parent steps into my classroom. Especially when I think of events that take in our school each year such as meet the teacher night, Kindergarten orientation, or parent teacher interviews.
I believe that when I began teaching I was unsure of my role as a guest host within my classroom and mostly thought of myself as a host to my parents. However, I felt that each time parents came to my classroom I did not like the feeling that I got within myself. I do not like to think of myself as the superior and parents as “the other.” I have always believed that parents and families shape their child’s learning and hold an important role in education. I have met my beliefs with many arguments from other teachers that do not want parents “intruding” in the staff room or standing outside of my classroom and “impeding” my ability to teach, as they saw it.
I hold specific beliefs about how families should be accepted into the school community, that aligns with the concept of being a guest host within the school landscape. We as teachers are guests within the community. This is not OUR building, but the community’s. Therefore, parents should be valued within that community setting and it is not our place as teachers to push those parents out.
Incorporating families within the context of the school community creates a rich learning environment for students. “The concept of family funds of knowledge has influenced my thinking about connecting schools and home more than perhaps any other educational effort.” (Allen, 2007, p.42) In order to use the family funds of knowledge to their full potential, we must engage families within the context of the classroom and as I like to say, invite, invite, invite! Being a guest host ensures that parents will feel welcome and want to become a part of the learning that takes place.
Know as a teacher that there are times to be a guest and times to be a host. As an educator we need to ensure that we can engage in both roles intermittedly when required, in order to create a learning environment that engages our students AND families. So, invite parents and families to be a part of your classroom. Engage them in the elements of your classroom environment as a host, but understand that they have that right to be there. They earned that right as a community member and a parent of the child in your classroom. Know that this building, this space is also theirs. It is their child’s. And in this way, you are a guest there. As teachers, we have such a great opportunity to spend time in different communities during our teaching career (in my division it is rare that a teacher remains in a school for more than 5-10 years). Get to know these communities and the families that inhabit them, trust me, you will be thankful you did and will be a better teacher for it.