The message stays with us because the music and lyrics are memorable. Precious provides images that we can carry in our minds. Unlike text, where we must use our imagination to create pictures of characters and scenes, film does that for us. Anyone who has seen Precious surely finds it difficult to forget the images of violence and despair. The Things They Carried is part memoir. Author O'Brien has written other books about Vietnam, but this one is much more personal. It is the work with which most of us can most identify because there are a variety of character types and one is bound to resonate with the reader, reminding him of himself, perhaps, or someone he knows. O'Brien wrote the book in part as self-therapy. He carries the weight of what happened to him and his fellow soldiers in Vietnam.
The Burdens Teachers Carry
As teachers, we carry some physical burdens. These can include piles of textbooks and papers that travel back and forth between home and school in preparation of lesson materials for students. Teachers may also carry laptops, hamster cages, or supplies for a special art project.
Teachers carry many other burdens as well. The greatest of these might be responsibility. Teachers are charged with the task of educating children and that in itself is an enormous responsibility. Teachers often find that they are cast in other roles as well, roles which have additional sets of responsibilities. Teachers may be required, at least part of the day, to be friends, confidantes, counselors, nurses and even surrogate parents. Students have needs that go beyond the academic, and teachers must be prepared to shoulder these responsibilities. They may find that they share the weight of their students' emotional burdens as in, for example, an instance where they must report child abuse. Teachers have their own emotional and psychological burdens, too. They wonder whether they are doing enough for their students. They may feel some guilt about neglecting their own needs or the needs of their loved ones because they are devoting so much time and energy to their students. Teachers may also face financial burdens, as they struggle to pay back their own student loans and as they spend money out-of-pocket for things they want for the classroom.
Although parts of the Things They Carried are grim, the book should remind teachers that, like some of the soldiers, their career is their choice. As such, they agree to shoulder the responsibilities inherent in accepting a place in the profession. Precious should serve to remind teachers that, while they have burdens of their own, they need to be mindful that some of their students might have burdens that are much greater. Teachers may not always know what goes on in the lives of their students. Teachers can draw inspiration from the social worker, teacher, and the nurse, all of whom try to ease the burdens Precious carries. Finally, teachers can draw inspiration from the song by the Hollies. The song is the most hopeful of the three works of art. The lyrics say, in effect, that we are all in this life together. If we can help someone, it is imperative that we try to do so. We must not see it as burden so much as an opportunity to help someone else. If we are able to carry someone, then we are already shouldering the burden. It is not too heavy.
Daniels, L. (Director). (2009). Precious [Film]. Santa Monica, CA: Lionsgate Entertainment.
O'Brien, T. (1990). The Things They Carried. Kindle edition.
Precious. The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 30, 2011,from http://www.imdb.com
Songfacts. (n.d.) "He ain't heavy, he's my brother." Retrieved January 29, 2011, from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1905
Steinberg, J. (2002). A town of their own: Boystown, Nebraska. National Geographic online.
Retrieved January 28, 2011, from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0211
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
(B. Scott and B. Russell)
The road is long-With many a winding turn-That leads us to who knows where-Who knows when-but I'm strong-Strong enough to carry him-He ain't heavy, he's my brother
So on we go-His welfare is of my concern-No burden is he to bear-We'll get there-for I know-He would not encumber me-He ain't heavy, he's my brother
If I'm laden at all-I'm laden with sadness-That everyone's heart-Isn't filled with the gladness-of love for one another
It's a long, long road-From which there is no return-While we're on the way to there-Why not share -- and the load-Doesn't weigh me down at all-He ain't heavy, he's my brother
He's my brother-He ain't heavy, he's my brother...