Teaching in the Cloud: Adam Bessie Delivers 2023 DVC Faculty Lecture


“Going Remote: A Teacher’s Journey” by Adam Bessie and Peter Glanting

English Professor Adam Bessie gave this year’s DVC Faculty Lecture on April 27 in the Community Conference Center, where he spoke to a large and enthusiastic crowd featuring past and present students, professors, and even Bessie’s own family, who zoomed in for the event.

Bessie presented his new book, Going Remote: A Teacher’s Journey, a graphic novel that he produced along with illustrator Peter Glanting about his experience teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book encourages readers to think about what it means to feel “remote” and how communities could be rebuilt after the pandemic—a central theme of the lecture.

“You can be really imaginative, even if you’re writing about real events,” Bessie told The Inquirer in an interview earlier this spring. 

He explained how he drew inspiration for his work from the comic books he read in his childhood. As a kid, Bessie would go to a comic book shop near his parents’ business where he bought classic superhero comics.

He lost interest in graphic novels as he grew older, but “rediscovered” them when he became a teacher. In 2011, he began writing comics that would eventually be published by outlets such as The New Yorker, like his comic “Philosophers at Theme Parks,” and “Teachers Who Moonlight,” which appeared in The Atlantic.

He started to write his first book, Going Remote, during the week the lockdown started, in March 2020.

“I said, ‘I know I need to write something because things are going to change,’” Bessie said.

Finally, at the distinguished annual faculty lecture, he had the opportunity to show his work in front of his colleagues and students.

His lecture focused on reviving DVC’s student community now that teaching has become more hybrid than in-person.

In ironic, almost comedic timing, a Zoom notification on Bessie’s laptop prevented him from starting the presentation. Once ready, he opened the lecture with a conversation about whether or not teachers will still be needed in the future amid the rise of artificial intelligence.

“ChatGPT told me I’m not gonna lose my job,” said Bessie, drawing early laughs from the audience.

Then he launched into his primary theme: the future of community college and what it means to be teaching at one.

“This system [community college] isn’t just a place to clock in,” Bessie said. He briefly mentioned his father, who attended community college and virtually attended the lecture.

Bessie transitioned into talking about the central aspect of a community college: community. More specifically, he talked about the prolonged psychological challenge of having to teach online without the classroom.

“How do you make the ‘power in the room’ without a room?” said Bessie. “All I know is the classroom. That’s it.”

While presenting excerpts from his book, Bessie reflected on his experiences with specific students who suddenly “disappeared” from his online classes; in the pandemic, many of his brightest students either underperformed or dropped out of classes entirely.

Behind a screen, Bessie felt as if he wasn’t doing much teaching.

“I felt like an IT guy more than an English teacher,” he said. “I started to think, ‘What the heck is my job now?’”

As part of DVC’s CARE team, which aids students suffering from mental health crises, Bessie found himself having to help students more with their well-being than their education.

Despite the dire content of his lecture, Bessie kept the energy in the room positive by pausing in between sections to allow the audience to draw their own comics. 

Wrapping up his lecture, Bessie highlighted the importance of using human-driven versus statistic-driven models in teaching. In other words, he said, teaching students should be about helping them become the best versions of themselves—not judging them based on a grade or percentage.

“Community creates individuality,” said Bessie.

His book, Going Remote, can be found in the DVC Bookstore.