Tips for teachers – what to notice and how to respond

Your support will be most effective when you work as part of a team to wrap support around the student – with their parents, other supports at school (SENCO, LSC and pastoral care), specialist services provided by the Ministry, support from other government and community agencies. Work as a team to identify any children of concern. Check in with other support services who were involved with the child and their whānau prior to lockdown. Problem solve and build a plan.

Most students

Will have a wide range of reactions. Common reactions are fears and anxiety about friends and learning and/or the virus. Reactions will generally change and ease over time. Wide range of reactions.

Common reactions are excitement about being back, maybe some worries about friends and learning and/or about the virus.

Worries will generally change and ease over time.


Prioritise wellbeing.

Welcome students, parents and whānau back to school. Together, you can reclaim the school, the class, establish old routines, and communicate any new routines. Include and facilitate peer support.

Children will have had a range of learning opportunities at home. Children will have gained some skills and may need to practice other skills. Know that children will progressively regain any skills they may have lost.

Incorporate whanaungatanga exercises into your routines e.g. a treasure hunt (find someone who has a birthday in June), this will help build connection and belonging and can be part of a daily ritual. If the school has a karakia or school waiata, include that in to the daily routine.

Further resources – COVID-19 and wellbeing(external link) 


Some students

You or parents and whānau may see behaviour that is concerning.


Communicate clearly and consistently about any changes and reasons for the changes

Being safe and supporting daily routines helps children’s return to school

Nurture these protective factors:

  • sense of safety and security - I am safe
  • self-worth - I am respected and valued
  • social connection - I am wanted and needed; I can listen and be heard
  • self-efficacy - I can do things to look after myself, and others
  • sense of purpose, hope, and meaning - going to school is worthwhile.


Students who are showing signs of ongoing distress or who were unable to access the learning resources or supports they needed

Student demonstrating behaviour that is out of character and prolonged beyond the initial period of distress.


Children and their families may have had reduced access to support services during alert levels 3 and 4.

Some children will have experienced stress such as limited access to online learning, exposure to harmful online content, online bullying, inaccurate messaging about the pandemic, witnessing family violence.

Work as a team to support positive behaviours to help engagement, participation and learning. Access the Teaching for Positive Behaviour resource:

Support Material – Positive Behaviour 4 Learning(external link)

Be patient and take time to listen to the child. Avoid making assumptions about how they may be feeling. Acknowledge any feelings they may have but gently move them on to another activity - especially calming ones such as relaxation exercises, listening to a story or quiet music. Sparklers has a range of fun activities to try:

Sparklers - helping tamariki when times are tough(external link)

When talking with children about their individual experiences, avoid putting children on the spot. Invite them to share when they are ready. Provide a safe space for students to express their experiences through art, social activities and hands-on projects.

Modelling positive reactions will support their confidence.

Connect with parents and whānau – see tips for talking with parents and whānau

Work with LSCs, SENCO, RTLB, Learning Support specialists and your pastoral care team to provide additional support including access to community services. 


Students who were disengaged prior to alert levels 3 and 4

May not return to school or are frequently absent.


Ensure ongoing communication with parents.

Work with the person responsible for attendance at your school and your local Attendance Service provider.

Some families may need additional help to settle their children back into school. Check in with families when students haven’t returned to school. Teachers with an established relationship with the family can build trust quickly. Some teachers are more confident than others to provide this support and reassurance. 


Family member has died during alert levels 3 or 4               

Wide range of behaviour is possible.

Losing a loved one during COVID-19 will have been distressing.

Do what you can to re-establish a sense of connectedness with the student and their peers. Seek pastoral care and other support agencies if needed.

Find further information here from the Mental Health Foundation:

Getting Through Together – Mental Health Foundation(external link)


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