About Ruben Abrahams Brosbe

Ruben Brosbe is a 3rd grade teacher in Harlem, New York City. He is passionate about social justice oriented project based learning, and finds that young people make the best activists. He is a co-founder of Teach Resistance, an online community for social justice and anti-bias elementary educators. He is also the founder and host of Teachable Moments, a live storytelling event featuring stories by former and current educators.
On March 23rd, New York City’s 75,000 teachers and 1 million-plus students embarked on a “Herculean” challenge: remote learning. It has been a difficult experience so far, and one that has shed fresh light on gaping inequities in our city’s school system. Many of my students had no access to the internet for the first week of remote learning. Personally I felt torn between competing impulses. On the one hand, I feel obligated to provide some semblance of academic stability. On the other is a feeling of dread that this is no time for business as usual.

Suffice it to say, this has been a stressful couple of weeks for this teacher. So today I decided to look on the bright side of remote teaching.

1.Unlimited bathroom breaks

When you’re paying extra attention to staying hydrated, this is an important perk. During the regular school day, I had to learn to control my bladder to superhuman degrees. More recently I’ve taught with a co-teacher which has provided some relief. But still, I have to give some thought to when I can excuse myself from the classroom. Teaching third-graders, there can often be a number of small raised hands standing between me and the bathroom at a given time.

2. Peaceful lunches

This is where I put the caveat that I am not a parent (although the bathroom breaks probably already gave it away). In any case, never before in my 11 years of teaching have I had 50 full minutes for lunch. It’s amazing what happens to your nervous and digestive systems when you’re not shoving food into your mouth in between dropping off kids, making copies, picking up kids, and following up on that incident that took place during P.E. I enjoy cooking too, so my remote teaching lunches have provided a chance to try some tasty dishes. Cooking has also been a nice mental break on top of the strange new experience of sitting and breathing while I eat my lunch.

3. Fewer interruptions

Tell me if you recognize this scene:

TEACHER: Friends, I’m so excited, because today we’re going to learn abou-


TEACHER: Hello? (No reply) Okay, where were we? Today we’re going to learn —

LOUDSPEAKER: Please pardon the interruption. Teachers, this afternoon’s professional development will be in room 218, not 214. Please arrive promptly at 2:45 pm.

TEACHER: (Takes a deep breath) Okay, so today we’re going to be learning —


4. No Lost Preps

Preps are kind of an abstract concept these days. Like Mondays. But there were days at school too when they felt more theoretical than real. When I’m remote teaching the P.E. teacher can’t call out sick and the art teacher can’t take kindergarten on a field trip. There’s no random assembly or coverage to provide last minute. My “prep” whatever that means now, is sacred and inviolable.

5. Casual Fridays (and Mondays, Tuesdays…) Are Extra Casual

I have seen a lot of people on social media lately extol the virtues of routine. Getting dressed is apparently a key part of our collective mental health. I don’t disagree with this in principle. I have been getting dressed still. But I hope I’m not the only one who’s worrying a little less about my wardrobe. On top of that, my third graders and I have designated Fridays, “Pajama Friday.” So, I have to honor that. There’s enough to worry about in the world right now. I’m grateful that I’m not allowing my work attire to be one of them.

There’s a lot to feel stressed about at this moment. As teachers, we care about our kids and we care about doing our jobs well. For me, remote teaching has caused a lot of anxiety on both these fronts. And making this adjustment in the midst of a global pandemic? Most days I can hardly wrap my head around what’s actually happening.

With this in mind, I feel like it’s necessary to take a deep breath and savor a few of the benefits the change to remote teaching offers.

Remote Teaching

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