Rebecca Rendsburg, English
When I was a kid, I had a doll I named "Ace," after the Doctor's assistant on the British science fiction show,
Doctor Who, that I watched with my father. As a pre-teen, I fell so much in love with Madeline L'Engle's
A Wrinkle in Time series that I made a song out of the titles for each novel. In middle school, I discovered the
Tolkien novels my father owned but had never read. I devoured them, imagining myself on adventures with Frodo
and Aragorn - braving the evils of Middle Earth and eventually sailing into the West with the elves. While my father
couldn't bond with me over Bilbo's journeying, we could find common ground in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In high school, I felt that Orson Scott Card's Ender Wiggin understood me in ways no one else did and continued on to f
inish both his series, Bean's series, and read Card's Alvin Maker novels. In college, my education - beyond my actual studies - was discovering Harry Potter after everyone else had already read it and cultivating an appreciation for Joss Whedon and Hayao Miyazaki.
I became a teacher of English because I loved reading and talking about books. I could see no better way to spend my life than to help others feel the way I felt about Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. When I interviewed to teach at Brooklyn Tech, I was asked what course I would teach if I could. Without a moment's hesitation, I said science fiction and fantasy. It seemed a natural course not only for me to teach, but for Tech kids to study. I was eventually told that there had, once upon a time, been a Science-Fiction/Fantasy senior elective but that it was long dead. The original teacher was gone and the course had gone with him. After three years of teaching at Tech, seeing how much more engaged my students were when they could read something "fun" - like a dystopian text,
I gathered the courage to try to make my dreams a reality. The first year the course ran, there were three classes of Science-Fiction/Fantasy but we had enough students for at least five. Last year, we ran six classes and had many disappointed students. This year, we are running eight classes and had the student demand to fill ten.
I love teaching literature but there is something incredibly special about teaching books you are emotionally invested in. I wake up in the morning and know that I get to spend my entire day analyzing books I hold dear to me, and doing it with people who feel similarly. The joy of teaching the science-fiction/fantasy elective is that the students want to be there; and they want to be there for the exact same reason I want to teach the class: the books. The students and I understand each other on a different level and our analysis becomes more informed, more in depth, because of it. I have seen students crowd around a book a illustrations from the original printings of the novel and discuss the connections between these illustrations and Peter Jackson's portrayal of the novel in his films. I have seen students lead a discussion on whether or not Bilbo's portrayal has anything to do with Tolkien's anti-industrial leanings and Christian beliefs. I have seen students bring in their own worn copies of novels, instead of borrowing books from the school, to show off to their friends how well-loved their books are.
I have had students tell me that Science-Fiction/Fantasy is the highlight of their day. It is also mine.