The Corona Classroom

The personal items and learning packets prepared for Rantoul students.
Educating doesn’t look the same for all during a pandemic. Two teachers tell us how they’re instructing students without a classroom.

Teaching hasn’t stopped just because the schools are closed.

Many institutions have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the education system. As a result, teachers have had to find creative ways to teach their students.

Erin McCarthy is a third-grade homeroom teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. McCarthy would typically spend the majority of the day with her homeroom students when they weren’t traveling to other classrooms. While McCarthy has been teaching for 20 years, she did not feel prepared for a situation like this.

“I have several students who have parents that work in the healthcare field or work in other professions where they’re still going to work,” McCarthy says. “They’re having to come home and self-quarantine where the children are unable to hug them when they come home. So I feel like no….definitely not something that I had ever imagined happening in my lifetime.” 

-Erin Mccarthy

Annabelle Daily is a fifth-grade teacher. After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she’s in her first year of teaching. Right now she’s teaching fifth graders all subjects at Rantoul City Schools. A majority of the work she and her students would do on a normal school day is broken up by rotating groups. “One group will be working with me while another group is working on the computer while another group is working with somebody else or on something else as a group,” Daily says.

“We keep it interesting, there’s a lot of different things that we can do throughout the day,” Daily says. “So I’m used to a pretty packed day, and it’s pretty weird having nothing going on all day and just sitting at home.” 

Annabelle Daily in her regular classroom

ANNABELLE DAILY IN HER REGULAR CLASSROOM.

McCarthy’s school is fortunate to have the technology available for the students to use. In quarantine, they’re using Zoom to host whole group or small group class gatherings. In addition to that, McCarthy’s district also videotapes lessons that are available for the students to access.

Daily’s district would like to be able to do e-learning, but not all students have access to the same technology as others. Instead, on April 6th, they had families pick up “remote learning packets” by having the parents drive up, tell a volunteer their child’s name, and the volunteer would bring them a folder with 3 weeks worth of work.  Then on April 27th, they will have a second distribution day where parents can also pick up personal items from desks and lockers. Rantoul also has the same system for meal distribution every Monday. 

“I miss them, and I miss us being together and learning together and it’s going to be hard for all of them I know, but they’ll learn,” Daily says.  “They’ll always look back on this and learn that sometimes you have to sacrifice things that you like and things that you want to do, like going out or going to school and seeing your friends and you have to make sacrifices for other people and for the country.” 

Annabelle daily

Daily remains optimistic that everything’s going to be okay. She knows that her students are determined, smart and if they keep working hard and doing their best they’ll still be successful. They’ll all grow and learn from this. Daily also hopes that students will take this opportunity to help out at home, be there for their parents, help their younger siblings, and be responsible. 


Erin McCarthy hard at work teaching

McCarthy expressed one positive she’s experienced from this situation: a greater appreciation for things that are perhaps taken for granted. McCarthy hopes to be able to hang on until she’s able to see her students and colleagues again. Because that’s the biggest piece, the face-to-face interaction. 

“I think this is an opportunity to reflect on those things and make some better choices,”  McCarthy said.

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