1000th Blog Post, or Randomly Meeting a Student Bound for the Stars

Besides being preoccupied by a few publishing projects and the upcoming Science Fiction Research Association conference in Poland, I have been wondering what I should write about for my 1000th blog post on dynamicsubspace.net. Luckily, the topic presented itself earlier this evening when Y and I were at the local mall.

After dinner, Y asked if we could go look for a light sweater, so we hit the local mall and its several relevant stores looking for options. When we stopped by American Eagle Outfitters, Y tried on several things and she eventually settled on a couple of nice sweaters in white and black.

When we walked up to the counter, I thought that the lone female cashier looked familiar, but I wasn’t completely sure. Was she one of my former students? Her hair was slightly different as were her glasses, too. She appeared more mature than most of my freshmen students, but if she were a former student, several years might have passed. I did, however, remember her light freckles. Almost sure, but not quite, I didn’t say anything in case I had misjudged the margin of error.

Y and I said “hi” when we stepped up to her side of the counter, and she gave me an evaluative look and asked, “did you teach at Kent State?”

In that instant, she had broke the ice, and I was glad to know that she was a former student and that it was okay to talk about school. She reported that she was doing well and that she was one year away from graduation.

I remembered that she was one of my first College Writing I students, who I taught with a class theme of “space exploration” [look back at my syllabus here]. We read a number of non-fiction and fiction works relating to the human exploration of outer space, and the students wrote a number of essays evaluating and researching topics that we discussed based on their readings.

She smiled when I asked if she had been in the “space” class. She told me that it had been one of her favorite classes at Kent State, and she enjoyed the readings a lot.

Then, she told me that her mother back home had found her copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the science fiction novels that I asked the students to read. Not only did she like the novel, but she also desperately wanted her boyfriend to read it and she wanted him to see the movie, too. Knowing that I had turned a student on to one of my favorite (and earliest read–right after I had gotten to know Asimov and Bradbury) authors and novels. I consider this a great triumph, because I have not yet had an opportunity to teach a straight science fiction class.

After saying our goodbyes, Y and I made our way out of the mall and back to our car. We tried to snap a picture with my iPhone of the two of us with the sun setting in the background. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough, but I did get an arms-length shot of the two of us in the expansive parking lot.

Driving home, I was happy to know that I had made a good impression on at least one student through my teaching science fiction. Since my “space exploration” writing class, I have tried other things with “cyborgs” and “cognitive science,” but I am particularly fond of that first foray into student composition aboard a rocket ship found in the imagination. I am also glad that that rocket ship continues on with at least one student manning the controls.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Posted in Pedagogy, Personal, Science Fiction
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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