An Oakland Teacher Shares His Pandemic Experience in a Compelling New Graphic Novel

Bessie and illustrator Peter Glanting’s book documents the very recent past — one that each and every one of us just lived through — but Bessie’s perspective is particularly valuable. First, he is immunocompromised. He has been living with brain cancer for over a decade and his health hangs in the balance. Second, he is a teacher: a profession that was forced to adapt overnight to entirely new methods, and then expected to venture back into the world before most. Third, Bessie is a community college teacher specifically dedicated to working with financially challenged students.

The devastation and frustration Bessie feels to lose pupils because of the technological requirements of remote learning is palpable throughout Going Remote.

A page with nine small black and white panels depicting a teacher trying to talk to one of his students. He is talking to a muted black square.
Adam Bessie deals with the disconnections involved with remote teaching in ‘Going Remote: A Teacher’s Journey.’ (Seven Stories Press)

Bessie’s classroom, as depicted in the book, is lively, his students are engaged and jovial, and he’s the kind of teacher who moves chairs into circles every week. When he does this, he explains here, “There is an invisible force, an electrical current that flows through the room — through not just voices, but facial expressions, body language. An infectious energy.” The circles and group discussions in his classroom, Bessie writes, transform the space from “a random collection of students” into a real “community.” It’s clear that in the pandemic Bessie didn’t just lose a physical space, he lost the very thing that made him love his job the most.

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