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Where possible, allow teachers to work from home


December 10, 2020 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief


I have recently returned to working from home after a brief stint back at the office. 

Last spring, for a variety of reasons, I worked from my kitchen table. It wasn’t great. Last week, I set up an office in the den: too busy with young kids. Now I’m in the basement. Quieter, but my toes are cold. 

Finding a good space to work that is safe, comfortable and productive is important, but it’s not easy. 

I would much rather be working in my office, but we need to follow the health guidance. On the webpage outlining recently enhanced public health measures it says, “Employers to allow working from home.” Sounds pretty clear. 

Expanding that heading, it contin¬ues: “Working from home should be considered, where possible.” OK, less clear. 

One of my complaints about our province’s overall response to COVID has been mealy-mouthed guidelines that often cause more confusion than clarity. 

Mixed adherence to guidelines, and as a result, high case counts, are therefore not surprising. 

Working from home is not easy or convenient, but my employer and I understand that having me do so helps reduce the spread of COVID. I wish school divisions realized this. 

While grade 7–12 students have been sent to learn from home, many school divisions are still requiring their teachers to report to schools, despite teachers proving last spring that, if necessary, they can deliver online learning from home. It is not ideal, but it is possible. 

Some school divisions have even led teachers to believe that this was at the direction of the minister of education, which is not true. The ministry has left that decision up to school boards. 

It would have been better if ministry officials reiterated what is said by the guidelines: allow employees to work from home, if possible. Instead they left it up to boards without even a clear recommendation. I think that was wrong, but school boards should still be doing the right thing. 

I appreciate that some teachers may prefer to be present in schools and some may be required to be in school. Some teachers, like those in K–9 or K–12 schools, may be needed on certain days for supervision or for assignments with K–6 students, and some may be needed more often, particularly because some in-school learning will continue to support students with diverse learning needs. And I appreciate that some K–6 teachers would really like to be at home as well. 

But on the specific question of grade 7–12 teachers who are able and want to work from home — let them! Superintendents and school boards should treat teachers as professionals and allow them to use their discretion to work from home if it works for the teacher. 

Furthermore, it is essential that all teachers be afforded this option for the first week after the new year when all students, including the children of teachers, will be learning from home. 

Leaving the discretion up to the teacher would be much more respectful of teacher professionalism instead of a blanket policy that, frankly, comes across as mistrust. 

But most importantly, doing so would better honour the directives of the chief medical officer of health and would reduce the spread of COVID-19. This helps keep all teachers, students and the community safer. ❚ 

I welcome your comments. Contact me at

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