Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dear Student VII

Dear Student,

Good morning! How are you? Can you believe we only have about five weeks left to this semester? That's right, only five weeks left, and if you pass, you'll be done with the Anatomy and Physiology series. You might even be ready for the nursing or dental school track in the fall. Where did the time go?

I can tell you where it didn't go. It didn't go into studying. How do I know? Well, let me tell you a little story that will serve to explain everything.

Way back in the fall of last year, when we immersed ourselves in the first course of the Anatomy and Physiology series, we stumbled upon Chapter 4: Tissues. Now Chapter 4 is full of facts and interesting information on all of the tissues in the body, and it requires you, the student, to look at different histological slides.

I know what you're going to say. You hate slides. I know this because you said it every day I saw you and asked you to study the slides (thanks for the bad attitude, by the way). But there was a reason I asked you to study those slides: they held information you needed to know. So, we went over all the differences (and similarities) we could find in the four main types of tissues as seen on the histological slides. We talked about the cells, and how many layers a tissue might have, and we named all the tissues and cells as well.

For example, when we spoke about epithelial tissue, we talked about how the tissue can be named according to the shape of the epithelial cells (squamous, cuboidal, or columnar) and how many layers existed (single=simple and many=stratified).

We went on to look at different slides of epithelial tissue, including simple columnar epithelial, which is found in the respiratory and digestive tracts. In fact, I remember pointing out the picture to you, last fall, of the jejunum (part of the small intestine--an organ of the digestive tract). It looked a little bit like this:

I didn't have a picture on hand, so I went here to find one.

That's a great picture, by the way, because you can really see the simple columnar epithelial cells standing next to one another as well as the little white ovals (called goblet cells--we're getting to them) that are interspersed throughout.

And because structure and function go hand in hand (it is Anatomy AND Physiology after all), we also discussed the role of the different cell types found in those tissues. So we chatted about the simple columnar cells and the goblet cells and discussed what function they perform.

Do you remember what the goblet cell does? Do you? Think long and hard before you answer that question: it might be a trick one. Because I know that you don't know the function of the goblet cell considering I asked you yesterday what the goblet cell made and you couldn't remember.

I'm sure you're ready to defend yourself by saying that technically we introduced goblet cells last semester and you're not sure why you have to remember anything from last semester.

Cry me a river, student! This subject, like many, builds as we progress through the course. So yes, what you learned from last semester is quite important to understanding what you'll learn on the last day of this class. Furthermore, may I remind you that we saw goblet cells in the not-so-distant (i.e. a month ago) past? As in, back in Chapter 22, the respiratory system.

Why yes we did! (You're supposed to say that, by the way.) We studied a cross section of the trachea and I remember distinctly pointing out (among other structures and details) the goblet cells to you. So just for kicks, let's look at a picture of the trachea, too, and see if we can find those suckers.

Check here for this picture.
Oh look! There they are again! And this time, we have a nice arrow to point them out to us. And what did I say goblet cells do? Yeah, maybe I haven't said in this letter, but I will now: they secrete mucus.

Okay, so back to yesterday, when we're swimming through the digestive tract and we've stopped at the jejunum (remember, part of the small intestine). We take a look at the microscopic anatomy of the mucosa and I say, "Blah, blah, blah, goblet cells. What are those for?"

You looked at me like I'd uttered a string of expletives in the face of your grandma or something, and nothing but silence ensued. I tried again. "Goblet cells? Anyone?" But the veil of quietude remained intact.

And that's when I let the truth fly: "This is why I want to get out of teaching. This moment when you cannot tell me any of the information I try so hard to help you learn."

Despite the non-use of any expletives or derogatory statements, jaws dropped and a few people twittered. I heard an "aww..." from the back of the class, and everyone straightened their spines against the chairs. It took a pity statement from me to get you to pay a wee bit of attention, which of course, I'm glad for, because at that point, I once again stated what the goblet cell does. Say it with me now: the goblet cell secretes mucus.

(For those of you who don't know, mucus secretion in the respiratory and digestive tracts is crucial for proper functioning of both the systems. And I don't mean the mucus produced from the mucosal lining of the nose.)

At this point, you might be asking why on this earth I'm writing this letter in the first place. I'm asking myself that as I key these words in and I think I'm writing to tell you this: you've won.

You've taken so much out of me over the last 13 or so years, most notably time and energy I can never get back. You've shown up to class but haven't really shown up. You've pretended to listen and to study and made me think that maybe, just maybe you actually care about what I'm teaching you. But yesterday, I realized that you just don't care and I don't think you even realize that your apathy is a problem.

And so it's time for me to move on to a place where I'll find different, maybe greener, pastures. I'll freshen up my CV and plaster my friends' inboxes with it and hope that someone can help me find a job that proves to be a bit more rewarding or at least less depressing. Because I cannot show up to class everyday knowing that everything I've tried to do is for naught.

Let me leave you with one last thought though. When the Final Jeopardy category is Anatomy and Physiology and the answer reads: "These cells are scattered among other cells in the epithelium of many organs, especially in the intestinal and respiratory tracts," I want you to shout out to the masses, "WHAT ARE GOBLET CELLS?" and think of me fondly.

All the best,

Your teacher


T said...

Um, it would be, "What are goblet cells?" Oh who are we kidding, they wouldn't know the answer to ask the correct question.

Christina said...

You are so right!