What makes a class interesting? For students that is an important question; if a class is not interesting, students get bored and learning stops being fun. In order to guard against boredom, AP English teacher Ms. Thompson had a special idea. She had her first period class read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a book about O’Brien’s experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam war. Thompson knew that the Vietnam war is an interesting subject, but also an issue that is hard to understand for a twenty first century student.
“It is just hard for me to imagine how it was to be there as a soldier in this time,” said senior Aileen Rong.
Therefore, to help her students understand the realities of the Vietnam War, Ms. Thompson invited a veteran to come to her class this morning and speak with the students about his personal experiences in the Vietnam War. The students had the chance to ask the veteran, Peter Bie, everything they were interested in or they did not understand about the war.
“We talked with him about PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – and how it is to be stationed not just in a war territory, but also somewhere where you have no knowledge about language, culture, or geography,” said Aileen. “He explained to us how his family and friends reacted towards him going to this war, the sense of camaraderie they had there and that he still has the feeling that he left a part of him in Vietnam. It was very interesting and helped me a lot to understand the book.”
Ms. Thompson explained the reason for her invitation: “I just wanted the students to get a better personal connection to the Vietnam war and the book – and the best way to do that is if they hear first-hand experiences.”
All in all this was a very interesting morning for the AP English students, which not only helped them to understand the book better but also motivated them to be more engaged in their class.