COVID-19: Working from home


All schools have been asked to prepare for changes in alert levels. Use these structures and platforms to work with your students during this time. Remember you are not expected to be an expert at distance teaching. Use the skills that you already possess.

See below for strategies to keep your workload manageable.


Reasonable expectations – some examples of good practice

As the needs of every school community are different it’s important that there are a range of ways to support teachers and learners when teaching and learning remotely. Here are some examples of practice that could work for you too:

The use of Relief Teachers:

-Teachers provide the content and Relief teacher leads a portion of the online lessons each week / day

- Relief teacher is employed full time to a class to lighten workload in both content creation and delivery.

- Relief teachers employed to run and mark assessments or assignments.  

Length of ‘class’

  • 30 minute question and answer sessions
  • 15 minute check in sessions every other day

Planning and Teaching

  • Co -teaching in departments
  • Planning in a team shared content
  • Merge online ‘classes’ to avoid replication of content and work
  • Focus on the core learnings, stengthen the basics. 

Time management

  • Having clear times when teachers are available
  • Adjusting the ‘timetable’ so teachers and students are not ‘online’ 5 hrs a day.

Teaching from home

Communicating with your students

Set clear expectations of how and when you will be available to communicate with students.


  • As much as possible, stick to the means of communication that you usually use, e.g. school email or Google Classroom.
  • We strong advise against giving out your personal cell phone number or using social media platforms that are not set up by your school.


Make sure to have clear boundaries set around the amount of time you are interacting with your students. When you are available will vary depending on your personal circumstances, but some possible options include:

  • Having "timetabled hours" for each class
  • Trying to be available to answer your students questions anytime during normal school hours
  • Telling your students to expect an answer within 24 hours

Maintaining teacher presence when distance teaching

If you have been predominantly a face-to-face teacher you will be used to connecting with students regularly in a multitude of ways: be that in the classroom - direct dialogue or eye contact or even just by physically being near them as they work. 

Just as with face-to-face teaching and learning, students learning remotely also like to know that you are there (even if they are not directly engaged with you). They also appreciate responses to their queries in a timely manner  Some ways you could be present are:

  • share a fun fact, motivating meme, subject-related puzzle or saying/proverb/whakatauki 
  • check in with a short pre-recorded audio or video (maybe at the start of each week) just about how things are for you, keep it positive and not too detailed or personal
  • share tips for staying well/organised – link them to your subject perhaps 

With all of these suggestions, don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once – you could try one new thing a week and use it across a number of classes as you get used to it. You might repeat those that seem to work for you as often as makes sense (there are no rules for this!).

When work comes in sometimes a simple response might be all that is required with an indication of when you can get back to them.

Types of lessons

When planning your lessons where possible set tasks that can be completed to varying degrees of success with more complex and additional tasks for the most able pupils. Or set more open-ended, independent work, but structure and guidance will still be needed. Tasks that require little or no access to technology are preferable in order to cater for everyone.

Feedback: Keeping the learning conversation going

You probably already have a range of things you consider when giving feedback to your students on their work.  Supporting them to continue with what they are doing well and giving them some advice on what they could do next are key.

Hattie and Timperley sum it by saying that the purpose of feedback is to “reduce the gap between where the student is and where he or she is meant to be”.  Some useful questions to ask/answer by the teacher and/or student are:

  • Where am I going? (What are the goals?)
  • How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?), and
  • Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

You might find it helpful to talk to your students about these three questions in relation to their learning. Perhaps provide them in a format that can be printed off so they can help provide a focus for the learning at all times.

We’ll provide more advice and suggestions for other things that might help when giving feedback over the coming weeks.

Teacher safety

Make sure you are aware of your school’s online policies. If you disagree with any of them then by all means try and get them changed, but do not disregard them.

Do not communicate with students using your personal email or personal social media account.

Video conferences

Live streaming poses risks to the teacher (and the lesson) and these must be weighed up before proceeding. One downside of live streaming is that it relies on students being available when you are.

Going live has the potential for unforeseen circumstances to arise - from connectivity issues to someone in your household walking in on the lesson.

There are also more sinister risks such as lessons being recorded, edited and shared.

PPTA advice is to use school online platforms only, not personal ones.

If live streaming is part of this then it should be covered by your school's policies. If live streaming (or video conferencing) is not specifically addressed in your school's policies then we advise against this form of online teaching.

Here is advice that some of our members have shared:

  • When engaging in video chat it is important that the purpose is clear.
  • Some say limit video conferencing to a small group (6 or fewer), others stress live streaming should not be done with a student on their own.
  • Make sure that only items that you would like to appear are visible when screen sharing.
  • Shut down any group chat in which an unknown person joins, or if any form of cyber safety breach occurs.
  • Email and confirm that students are ready for a group chat before inviting them.
  • Make sure that you are in a neutral space when video conferencing.
  • Be aware that students can record your screen without your knowledge. This should be covered in school policies/ student agreements. It is safest to assume that anything you do could end up in the public domain.
  • Be the last person to leave a group chat/video, as it will continue without you when you leave.


Finally, if you have any concerns about live steaming do not use it. There are other ways (such as emails) to facilitate student learning during the lockdown.

Where can teachers go for assistance?

Ministry-facilitated PLD has been refocused to helping teachers to adapt to online teaching. If a school has a current PLD allocation, it can repurpose the existing hours to focus on support for distance learning. Schools can also request new PLD to support distance learning. To register interest, schools can email

It is also worth checking out:


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Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 08:21