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.
To guard against boredom, San Marcos High School AP English teacher Susan Thompson had a special idea. She had her first-period class read Tim O'Brien's book, The Things They Carried, about O’Brien’s experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Thompson knew that the war was an interesting subject, but also an issue that is hard to understand for a 21st-century student.
“It is just hard for me to imagine how it was to be there as a soldier in this time,” senior Aileen Rong said.
To help her students understand the realities of the Vietnam War, Thompson invited a veteran to come to her class on a recent morning and speak with the students about his personal experiences in the 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,” Rong said.
“He explained to us how his family and friends reacted toward 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.”
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," she said. "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. The opportunity not only helped them to understand the book better but also motivated them to be more engaged in their class.
— Berit Kalus is a San Marcos High School student and staff writer of The King's Page. Connect with The King's Page on Facebook. Follow The King's Page on Twitter: @smkingspage. This article is republished with permission.