Showcasing My Students
Or, Life in the Fishbowl
Integrating U. S. History with Educational Technology
Deborah T. Aufdenspring
New Technology High School
That's our room on the left, glassed in for observation.
With all of the visitors and media attention, our students sometimes
feel like they go to school in a fishbowl.
Nonetheless. I'd like to expose them to even more scrutiny by placing some
of their work here on this page. (Other student work that dealt with analyzing
music videos, haiku and history and the Congressional
Committee visit is available on those respective web pages.)
Note: Due to platform and application conflicts, this collection
of student work isn't quite ready yet. There is only one project (minus
its pictures) below.
Sorry. Come back for more soon.
The Assignment: Students were to write a series of letters between a
mother and her son during the World War I period. The letters had to be
historically based, with factual material included. Below is such a series.
A Series Of Letters
American Soldier And His Mother
During World War I
Written by: Vivien S. Chua & Jennifer L. Chu
History / English Class 3 - 4
January 7, 1997
Hope you and the rest of the family haven't forgotten about me already.
How are things doing back home? Is President Wilson mentioning anything
about getting us out of here? The only news I heard was that someone assassinated
the Archduke of Austria. Someone said that a Serbian did it, but details
are sketchy around here. I'm starting to miss you and everyone else back
home. My home now is in the trenches. Instead of smelling the scent of your
delicious home cooking (which I miss incredibly), I smell nothing but smoke
from the bombs they've been throwing around here. Don't worry, Ma, the bombs
haven't reached us yet. Sometimes they set them off, and they can be smelled
and heard for miles. I'm just praying that the bombs don't accidentally
land in my trench. Those damn Germans...
I'm with 6 of my other buddies in the trenches, and let me tell you, all
I can see in the front or back of me is nothing but mud and dirt. When I
look to the right or to the left of me, I just see my fellow soldier boys
and a long channel that stretches all the way to the next continent if it
wanted to. To tell you the truth, Ma, I'm pretty scared. The trench looks
and feels like a soldier's burial ground. It makes me feel uneasy at times
thinking that one day a bomb will be aimed at us, and the dirt that flies
through the air afterwards will bury me in that trench. I've never felt
so much fear in my life. To think, your son is in a situation where he could
be.... I don't want to say. I know I shouldn't think about that, but it's
a reality I might have to face, being on the front lines and all. I don't
want to worry you with all this nonsense, Ma, so we can get off the subject.
Just so you know, there's a lot of ammunition laying around. My superior
officers have supplied us with guns, gas masks, and all types of artillery
you wouldn't even imagine. All this metal talk is making me feel weighed
down. I mean, really, Ma. Having to wear these huge vests that hold grenades,
guns, and other weaponry can really wear a soldier out. Well, what am I
complaining about? I was trained to do this; it shouldn't be a problem.
Besides, you would think it would've been a waste for you and Dad to enlist
me. We've been taught not to panic and think about the worst that could
possibly happen. It's helped somewhat, but sometimes I can't help thinking
Sorry to say this, Ma, but I have to go. The Sergeant is coming and he might
put me in a position where I wouldn't want to be.... Write back soon. Say
"Hi," to everyone for me and tell them I send my love. Take care
and don't worry!
*Included is a picture I took of my friends here. We spend a lot of time
together in the trenches.
Your little soldier boy
To my beloved Son,
Today, I just received the letter you sent to me a week ago How is my sweet
one doing? I, along with the rest of the family are so delighted to hear
from you, knowing that you are well. Don't you ever think we will forget
you... you're one of us. We will always love you and we deeply miss your
presence back here at home. You know it's so hard for me to have my babies
over there in war, where things are so dangerous. I just can't wait until
the day you are safely back into my care. You love my cookies, huh? When
you get back home, I promise there will be a bucket full of my cookies waiting
Everything back home is different with the war going on. It is different
with most of the men gone off to fight. At this moment, I haven't heard
or read that President Wilson is mentioning anything about getting you out
of that place. I wish he would hurry up and bring you home to me. I also
heard, from Aunt Rosa, that the Archduke of Austria and Hungary was assassinated
by a Serbian. Have you heard of Herbert Hoover? Well, he is the food administrator
and he is using slogans to urge us housewives to conserve food. I hear there
is a shortage of food supplies over seas. Some of the silly sounding slogans
are: "Food will win the war", "Use all leftovers", and
"Serve just enough." Most of the people here are trying to cooperate
and do anything we can to help end the war... the sooner the better.
The thought of my son practically living in those trenches with bombs flying
overhead makes me more worried. Even though we enlisted you, I still didn't
want you to go. Your father persuaded me, thinking it would be better that
you fight for our country. I knew if we didn't enlist you, you would still
be over there and we would be in the same situation. The military would've
probably drafted you, just as they did your younger brother. I recently
heard from him; thank God he is doing well. I worry and miss you both so
much it hurts.
You scared? Weighed down? Whatever you are feeling is only natural. No matter
what, your Father and I are so proud of you! And don't you forget that!!
If you could only see me, Son, you would think I looked terrible... my face
is soaked with tears... tears of pride for my sons. Remember, your dear
mother misses you. I will write to you again very soon, and I hope you will
do the same. Promise me you'll be careful.. Your sisters send their love.
You are in our prayers. We love you!
Your Loving Mother
To my beloved Son,
I miss you terribly! You won't believe the shocking news I heard today which
made me worry about you even more. This morning, I was having tea with my
friend (she, too, has two sons in the war). This is when she told me the
horrible news; she had just received a telegram from an officer telling
that her eldest son had died in the Battle of Verun. I am not exactly sure
of how he died because my friend was so distressed. I couldn't help thinking
of you and your brother. I don't know what I would do if...if the worst
happens to one of you, or both. I broke down crying trying to be strong
and comfort my friend. I know you haven't wrote back to me yet, but I just
needed to speak to you. All the time I try to think positive, but at times
I can't help myself. I just pray every night that God will protect you out
there, keeping you alive. I always hear that many men are losing their lives
out there. They are so young...you and your brother are so young. You are
only eighteen and your brother is only sixteen. Be careful and please respond
back as soon as possible to reassure me that you are fine. Everyone sends
their love to you and everyone misses you, even your dog.
Your Loving Mother
I just wrote you to tell you that I'm alive and well here in Verdun. Just
now another great battle was in our midst, and we lost some men out there.
Some of my front line buddies I used to be stationed with were a target.
Ma, how long do you think this will go on? All this fighting and bombing
is getting the US. nowhere. Just answer me this: why are we here? Why is
your son involved with this? Why am I so scared of dying and getting my
body blown to bits? I think my fear is getting the best of me. I could really
use one of those lullabies you would sing to me when I was little...To tell
you the truth, all I do now is look back on the past, back to when I didn't
have to worry about jeopardizing my own life. There is so much I could be
doing now if I wasn't in this war. I could be waxing that Model T that Dad
had promised to get me. Id shine that baby all day, with the sun's rays
touching my back. But it's not like that at all. Instead, I have to listen
to orders and yelling from the drill sergeant. The only things I would be
shining would be my shoes or my gun. Well, what can you do?
I'm really sorry I started off with a negative thought, Ma. Lately, all
I can feel around me is fear. There is no love to keep me going. The only
love I receive here is the love from you and the family back home sending
it to me, with dried teardrops on the letter. That's the only thing I've
got going for me. That's the only encouragement I have to keep me alert
of what's going on. Let me tell you, it helps a lot. When I'm out there
on the field, only so much goes through my mind. I could only wish that
I was just out there playing, holding a toy rifle and playing with little
Johnny in the front yard. Fear practically surrounds me now, Ma. At times,
I don't know how to cope with that fear. Whether it's the fear of not making
it, jumping a little short, or slow in ducking down, I feel it. My hands
shake and the rest of me quivers in fear every day I go out there. It's
so difficult to be out here sometimes, but you taught me to be strong and
fight. I'll do my best to fulfill that and make you and Dad proud of me.
How are things back home doing? Have we elected yet another new president
that's just there to sit back in his chair and listen to what's going on
here on the other side of the world? I'm sorry for sounding so frustrated.
If only that Serbian hadn't killed the archduke...There were so many prisoners
captured along the way. I swear, Ma, I couldn't get any closer to being
captured by the Germans. Did I forget to mention that? Well, I just got
lucky because I crawled out of the spotlight before anyone could notice
me. (These war stories are beginning to come along.) I ducked, I covered,
and did everything I could to stay out of the trouble zone. I'm so thankful
I'm alive to be able to be writing you this letter.
Well, Ma, it was nice hearing from you again. Keep the sending the letters
and the love because it's been a charm for me. I hope I'm home soon before
you know it. Then again, who knows with all the up and down outcomes of
this game that power plays. I forgot to tell you in the last letter--- please
tell the dog I say, "Hi." Explain to him the situation I'm in.
Coming from you, he'll understand. Thank you for always being there, Ma.
Your little soldier boy
To my beloved Son,
Thank you for responding to my last letter so quickly. I am full of joy
to hear that you are alive and well. I thought that the Battle of Verdun
was going to be the worst after I received the tragic news from my friend
about her son. I am sorry about the last letter . I just wrote it because
I was so worried about you. It made me feel better and closer to you. Besides
it is the only way for me to communicate to you since I can not talk to
you in person. So you tell me that the Allies did pretty well in the Battle
of Verdun and the outcome was in our favor. I am just glad that you weren't
hurt. I am sorry to hear about your buddies that died fighting. I know it
must be hard for you to deal with the loss of your friends. I send my condolences.
Considering the situation, I hope that you are handling things well. I wish
I could be there for you in person rather that on paper.
I am not sure of when this war will end. I hear that the Germans and their
allies are not giving up easily. I hope that the war will end soon so that
everything will go back to the way things were before with both of my sons
back home under my roof. What I hope for probably won't happen and in reality
I believe the war will go on for a couple of years.
You are off in war because you are fighting for our country. The Germans
had sunk a ship that killed all people including Americans. It is only natural
that you are scared of dying. I know you are strong and you know if it were
me over there, I would be going out of my mind by now. Don't worry about
the emotions you are feeling... other soldiers are probably feeling the
same way. You know all the things that you want to do, you can still do
them all when you come back home. I am sorry I can't really do anything
about all the ordering and yelling from your drill sergeant. Just try to
pretend that it is me or you Father telling you to clean your room or take
charge of the farm for awhile. I know it's hard for you to be so far away
from all the things you love. It is hard for the both of us. I miss you
so much and there isn't a minute that goes by that I Don't think of you.
Here at home, we got to go through McAdoo, Hoover, and Creel's patriotism
campaigns. I joined the Women's Council of Defense that was formed by women
of Geneva, Illinois. The purpose of this group is to conserve food for the
war effort. I know that the Allies need a lot of food to feed all those
brave soldiers. The whole United States sends crops for the Allies overseas.
Mostly everyday I, along with your sisters and many other women, help to
plow fields and take care of the farms. Agriculture has to stay alive so
that you and all the soldier will have some food. I never really realized
how hard it is to run our farm. I don't know how you men did it. Your sisters
would rather be playing with their dolls, but they help anyway hoping that
it will help get you and your brother back home sooner. Some other women
help out producing ammunition along with some other stuff for the war at
the Burgess-Norton Company. Many companies cooperated with the government's
war effort. It is kind of strange that the companies are growing and increasing
I am glad you read my letters and write back. It makes me feel closer to
you. Be careful, okay. I will keep sending the letters to you and you do
the same. I love you and you are in my prayers. I love you! Your sisters
Your Loving Mother
The worst that could possibly happen has happened to me. I'm in a hospital
where I have to stay for some days or weeks. I accidentally inhaled poisonous
gas fumes that made me extremely nauseous and I ended up vomiting all over
the place. Don't panic, Ma. I'm slowly recuperating from this. From time
to time, a little undigested food comes out here and there, but I'm all
right. The doctor says I need to rest for now.
I can't tell you how happy I am to be in here, Mother. Just think, I won't
have to be in the front lines for a while. You're probably wondering how
this happened to me, so I'll tell you. (Here goes another story to tell
the folks back home.) We were fighting in Ypres. Both sides were firing
their guns and throwing these bombs that we hadn't even heard of yet, until
a few brigades of men started checking into the hospital (and that's including
yours truly). All of a sudden, the hospital filled with all these men with
the same symptoms, so we're practically occupying all of the hospital bed
space. I wish you could visit me here, but you shouldn't fly all the way
over here. I really miss all of you. I knew all that talking negative about
me was getting me nowhere, but it landed me here, all in one piece. isn't
that reassuring to know?
The leader of the brigade came in earlier to give me a status check on the
war so far. We've lost a lot of men on the Allied side. Score one point
for the Central Powers! Frankly, I'm not too thrilled at the idea, considering
they are the one's that put me here. Aren't I just fortunate, Ma, to not
have caught those trench diseases while I was down there? I guess I was
just lucky. I could've been chewed on by rats or would've lost my hair and
my head in a second because there were so many lice. I could've been scratching
my head so hard, it would've practically fallen off. One of the guys on
the front line suffered from dysentery and he's in here being treated for
it at almost every hour. I asked my doctor what happened, and he said that
the poor guy had parasites in his system. He also said he is in excruciating
pain and the other doctors are trying to cure it.
Ma, I have to make this letter short because I'm not feeling too well with
all this talk about pain and parasites. Keep in touch and remember to send
the "Hello" and "I Miss You greetings to everyone. I'll be
back on the field or at home before you know it. Goodbye for now.
*Here are some pictures of my friends eating the food that is shipped over
here from the United States.
Your little soldier boy
To my beloved Son,
It took you longer than usual to respond back to my letters. I was so worried
that something had happened to my little darling. When I finally received
your last letter, I was so delighted until I read what you had to say. Reading
through your letter in tears, I couldn't believe that my baby got hurt and
is in the hospital. I hope that you are not suffering that much from inhaling
all those poisonous gas fumes. I wish I was there to take care of you myself.
I figure that the doctors there have so many other patients that they don't
spend much time taking care of you. Remember when you were a little boy
and you got sick? I would make you better with my soup. You loved my cooking!
I just hate it that you are lying in the hospital sick, but glad that your
condition is improving. I told you to be more careful! Where was your gas
mask that you are supposed to have? In a way, I think that it is good that
you are spending time in the hospital because it means you are alive and
like you said, you wouldn't be fighting in the front lines for a while.
Hearing your bad news made me panic and become even more worried about you.
I'm thankful that you are in one piece and alive! You say you were fighting
in Ypres when you inhaled the poisonous gas. It was a silent bomb, right?
Or there must have been so much noise made by all the guns being fired.
Thank goodness you did not get even more sick by catching one of those diseases
you were talking about, especially with the parasites. I hate to see or
hear that you are in pain. Do whatever your doctor tells you to do so that
you could get a full recovery. Try to stay healthy and eat all the food
you can (you are too skinny). I miss you and love you very much. I will
pray that you will get better and stay alive. Your sisters and your dog
send their love. I didn't tell your sisters of your condition in great detail
because I didn't want them to worry even more than they already are.
I, too, have heard that the Allies have lost many men, but I think that
the Central Powers have a greater number of casualties. Well, get some rest
to regain your strength. I wish I could write longer to you, but I have
to attend to the farm work before it gets too dark. Write back soon. Remember
I love you!
*I included a picture of your dog. Hope it will cheer you up!
Your Loving Mother
Return to your previous page by clicking your browser's "Back"
go to Next Page, or
go to the Site Index, or
Return to Ms. A's Class Home Page