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Episode 44 | SCRIPT

by Kevin Patton

How Our Students Address Us


The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the LISTEN button provided.

American Association of AnatomistsThis searchable transcript is supported by the
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Episode 44

Episode 44 Transcript

How Our Students Address Us


Kevin Patton: The character Homer Simpson once said, “For once, maybe someone will call me ‘Sir’ without adding, ‘you’re making a scene.'”

Aileen: Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology with host Kevin Patton.

Right and Left, Oh My!

Kevin Patton: In this episode, I discuss anatomical right and left, semi-identical twins, a method for sorting student papers using stickers for student feedback, and how students address professors.

Kevin Patton: You’re listening to Episode 44. In the previous episode, Episode 43, I made a mistake. In my discussion of a case of situs inversus … that’s reversed organs … in a young man from the 1800s, I mixed up left and right. Yikes. Yeah, I did that. The appendix is on the right in situs solitus, which is the normal arrangement of organs. But in situs inversus, the appendix is on the left. And I mixed them up. Now, I corrected that in the audio file on May 10th, 2019. But that correction may not be heard in all available platforms, and you may have listened to Episode 43 before I made that correction. So, I wanted to make you aware of that. Listen closely and try to figure it out.

Kevin Patton: And this is exactly what I do in my class when I mix things up. And I do occasionally mix up my left and right. Ever since I was a little kid, I occasionally get off track with left and right. Just ask my high school driving instructor. When he’d tell me turn left, I’d turn right sometimes. I remember telling him one time just to lighten the mood a little bit, I said, “Oh yeah, it’s because I’m ambidextrous.” And I remember one of the other students piping up from the backseat saying, “What does that mean?” And rather than let me answer that, he piped in and said, “Oh, that means he can’t tell his left from his right.” And I guess that’s true in my case.

Kevin Patton: Anyway, another thing I want to mention that’s sort of related to that is I went back and noted this in the transcript. And I did want to call your attention to the fact that every episode and every preview episode all have transcripts. Those are sponsored by a grant from AAA, the American Association of Anatomists, and they’re really valuable for searching for things. So, I could find exactly where it was where I made that mistake, and that helped me get it corrected right away.

Kevin Patton: But it’s also a good search tool for you when you want go back and find a previous episode that mentioned some topic, or maybe there were several episodes where a particular topic came up. So, just scroll down to the bottom of any page at theAPprofessor.org, and there will be a little search bar there. And you can search within the site, and it’ll come up with those transcripts and you can find exactly where it is that that topic was located in an episode.

Kevin Patton: Also, I wanted to mention that Google has just recently released a new capability. They’re really getting into podcasts over at Google. And when you search in Google now for a particular topic, it may be able to find the episode just like I was mentioning in the search engine within theAPprofessor.org. Google might be able to do that if you just do a regular Google search without having to go to theAPprofessor.org. And that would be true of any podcast.

Kevin Patton: But Google is relying on their automatic transcription capability. And as many of you know who have ever used automatic transcription, it’s not always very accurate. And when you get to something like situs solitus or situs inversus or carbaminohemoglobin, which is one of my favorite words to say, as you know. Carbaminohemoglobin may be transliterated as something really crazy. So, that Google capability is not quite where it should be yet, but at least it’s out there and I wanted to make you aware of it.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton: This podcast is sponsored by HAPS, the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society, promoting excellence in teaching of human anatomy and physiology for over 30 years. Go visit HAPs at theAPprofessor.org/HAPS. That’s HAPS.

Kevin Patton: Hey, if you’re going to the 2019 HAPS Conference this week, I have a few reminders for you. Number one, don’t forget Episode 42, which is titled Kevin’s Unofficial Guide to the HAPS Conference. Another reminder is don’t forget the HAPS 2019 app, which you can download from your device’s app store. Start exploring it now if you haven’t already.

Kevin Patton: Another piece of advice. In the HAPS app, don’t forget to find my workshop. It’s workshop B505. That’s B505. It’s titled Running Concept Lists, A Simple Strategy to Identify, Connect, and Apply Core Concepts of Anatomy and Physiology. And that’s scheduled for Sunday, May 26th in Shiley Hall, room 319.

Kevin Patton: And also, maybe most importantly, don’t forget to get an official collectable free pin featuring The A&P Professor hip logo. It’s the hip pin. And you can put that on your lanyard, your conference badge, your hat, your backpack, or whatever favorite spot for pins you have. What you can do is just find me at the opening reception or out in the exhibit hall or wherever, but there is a limited supply, so make sure you get them early during the conference.

Semi-Identical Twins

Kevin Patton: A few months ago, news about a set of four-year-old twins, a boy and a girl from Brisbane, Australia, were confirmed to be semi-identical twins. That was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Now that’s only the second set of semi-identical twins that have been confirmed with DNA analysis. The first set was born in 2007. But wait. If they’re a boy and a girl, doesn’t that make them fraternal twins?

Kevin Patton: As you know, fraternal twins are just like any two siblings, each with a unique mix of genes from both mom and dad. In other words, it’s a mix of some of mom’s genes and some of dad’s genes, but ordinarily a different mix from mom for each offspring and a different mix from dad for each offspring. Which can produce a lot of genetic variation among siblings, right? Right.

Kevin Patton: Looking at it from a different angle, we could say that fraternal twins form when two different sperm from the same dad fertilize two separate ova from the same mom at the same time, and develop in the womb together. Now that’s in contrast to identical twins, which form when a single sperm from dad fertilizes one off mom’s ova, but then extremely early in development, the offspring cells separate to form two genetically identical individuals.

Kevin Patton: What makes these twins that were in the news story semi-identical is that they have the expected differences in the mix of genes from their dad, but on their mom’s side, they’re genetically identical. So, they’re semi-identical, half identical. So maternally they’re identical, but paternally they’re fraternal, that is two different sperm from dad both fertilize the same ovum from mom. And that fertilized ovum begins dividing, and the cells eventually split and develop into two individual offspring. Now in this case, the genetic match between the twins was 100% from maternal DNA, but only a 78% match between the two twins for paternal DNA. Now, going back to that first case from 2007, it was, again, 100% maternal DNA match, but in that case, only a 50% paternal DNA match.

Kevin Patton: Now I know what you’re thinking. At least I know what I’m thinking. How exactly did this occur? What’s the mechanism at the time of fertilization and in very early development that allows this to happen? Well, we don’t know for sure. But the current thinking is that if two sperm are somehow able to fertilize the same egg, the zygote will now have three sets of chromosomes, or at least some sort of odd combination. And when that happens, that just simply can’t develop normally, usually. But, in the very rare cases described, it happens. Two sperm fertilize the same egg. And by the way, when that happens it’s called dispermic fertilization.

Kevin Patton: So, when this dispermic fertilization occurred, three pronuclei formed in the ovum, one from mom that is from the ovum, one from sperm one from dad, and one from sperm two from dad. Then in each of those pronuclei they duplicated their chromosomes. So, now you have two sets of chromosomes.

Kevin Patton: Next, this really weird thing happens. A tripolar spindle apparatus forms. Now normally when we think of cell division, we picture, or we actually see, a spindle that is bipolar. That is, it has two poles, to ends to it. But a tripolar spindle is a triangular version of a spindle. Yes, it’s crazy, I’m telling you. It’s not what you would expect.

Kevin Patton: So, it’s going to act pretty much the same way as the regular bipolar spindle in that it’s going to start pulling chromosomes, the duplicated chromosomes, apart from one another and regrouping them. What it does is at one pole it’s going to pull some material chromosomes in with chromosomes from sperm one. At a second locus that is at a second corner of the triangle in the tripolar spindle apparatus, the other duplicated set of maternal chromosomes is pulled in with chromosomes from sperm two, And then at the third locus in the tripolar spindle apparatus, the remaining duplicated sets of chromosomes from sperm one and sperm two are pulled together, so that all that’s in that pronucleus are sperm chromosomes from two different sperm.

Kevin Patton: So, what we end up with with after this is all over is basically three daughter cells. One of them has half maternal and half first paternal genome. Another one has half maternal and half second paternal genome. And then at the blastocyst stage, these two cell populations separate similar to what we see in ordinary identical twinning. But what about that third genome, the one that is half first paternal and half second paternal genome? Well, those cells, they don’t do so well. They just don’t function as they should. And they’re out competed by the other cells, and I guess they just die off. So, that’s what we think is happening.

Kevin Patton: Now, I know that’s hard to visualize when I describe it verbally. But in the show notes and episode page, I have links to resources that show diagrams for this proposed mechanism, and those resources provide more details of what’s been observed. So, if you don’t see the show notes or links where you’re listening now, just go to theAPprofessor.org/podcast and find the page for Episode 44 and everything will be there.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton: A searchable transcript and captions for the audiogram of this episode are funded by AAA, The American Association of Anatomists at Anatomy.org. I’m a member. Why don’t you join me and become a member, too?

Sorting Student Papers

Kevin Patton: One of the things I love about watching what other teachers do or chatting with other teachers about what they do is learning some of these practical tips about how to make life easier, how to make things go a little more smoothly in the life of a professor. And I know one thing that can really bog us down sometimes is the whole process of grading, whether it’s grading exams or papers or any kind of assignment … especially if they’re papers that are being turned in, that is physical papers, so a written exam, whether it’s a scan sheet or an essay exam or whatever form that takes.

Kevin Patton: If it’s on paper, or any kind of a written term paper, any other kind of written assignment, lab report, something like that … it’s a matter of collecting them all, taking them to our office, letting them age appropriately like a fine wine, and then eventually getting to them and going through them and giving student feedback, assigning grades. And then there’s that step of putting them in the gradebook, recording them somehow. And that can take longer than it needs to.

Kevin Patton: It usually doesn’t take that long. I’ve had classes with as many as 300 students in the class. And when you time it, recording those grades really doesn’t take that long. But I don’t know. Maybe physicists should study this, physicists who study time. Something happens during that process of recording grades that makes the time go more slowly than any other time in the universe. And so, I want to shorten that time, and I’ve found a way to do that.

Kevin Patton: So, a little practical tip that may or may not be helpful to you is what I’ve done is get a few of those accordion style folding alphabetical file folders. I’ll have a link to some of them and a picture in the show notes and episode page so you can visualize what I’m talking about and go look at maybe a couple places where they’re selling them so that you can see what I mean. But you can pick these up at any office supply place or have your office supply person at your institution order one or two or three of them for you.

Kevin Patton: I usually have three of them, because I usually have three different versions of exams that I give out when I’m doing midterm and final exams. Those are the only written exams I give. I’ll post a little note on the front of the first folder that says Version A, and on the second folder Version B, and the third folder Version C. So, that’s helpful.

Kevin Patton: But what I’m really getting at is the fact that they have … I think they usually have like 21 slots, and they have the alphabet on them. So, it’s for filing things. So, what I have the students do is I have them when they turn in their papers or if they hand it to me and then I stack it up, I put it in the tab behind the letter that corresponds to their last name, because that’s how they’re sorted in my gradebook. If your last name ends in P like mine does, I’ll put it behind the P tab. If your last name ends in D, then it goes behind the D tab, and so on.

Kevin Patton: What ends up happening is by the time all the exams are turned in, they’ve all been automatically sorted alphabetically, almost. They’re a little bit off, but all the A’s are together, all the B’s are together, all the C’s are together and so on. No matter how I handle those afterwards, whether I keep them in the slots, or usually what I do is I pull them out of the slots, but keep them stacked in the same order. Now all the A’s are on the top. All the Z’s are on the bottom, and it’s all alphabetical in between.

Kevin Patton: So, I can go through and age them appropriately. I can give feedback. I can assign grades. And now when it’s time to record the grades, all the A’s are together. And yeah, they’re not in exact alphabetical order, but that doesn’t matter. When you have a long list of 300 students, if all the A’s are together, wow, does that save some time and frustration.

Kevin Patton: And my belief is that it improves accuracy, because there’s always those cases … It’s got to happen to you, too. It can’t be just me … where sometimes you transpose a grade for two students. And that’s much less likely to happen when I use this method than if it’s just a hodgepodge where one exam will be a B, a student who’s last name ends in B, and then the next one is a G, and the next one is another B, and the next one is an A, and the next one is a Z and so on. And I’m going up and down this list of 300 students and trying to navigate that.

Kevin Patton: So, it does, I think, improve accuracy as well. Try it and see, or maybe you have some even better way. And if you do, share it. Call in on the podcast hotline at 1-833-LION-DEN, or email us at podcast@theAPprofessor.org and let us know about it.

Kevin Patton: I have another one of those practical little teaching tricks that doesn’t take very much time or effort or expense, but can really make a big difference in terms of student engagement and student motivation. And it’s a way to add an element of gamification to just the way we normally do things in the classroom. And gamification, if you’re not familiar with it yet, is growing in popularity.

Kevin Patton: It’s kind of a buzzword in education, where we take learning activities and try to turn them into more of a game than maybe we’re used to doing. And by turning things into a game, that maybe introduces some kind of rewards like you would earn in a game, like you would earn points in a game and so on, or maybe even some competitiveness and so on. Then that may start using different parts of the brain, and make students start looking at things a little bit differently. And maybe it’ll help them learn. And even if it doesn’t help them learn, it can make the learning process a little more fun than it otherwise would be. So, that’s called gamification.

Kevin Patton: On a video game, you can earn coins or something. And sometimes you can trade those in for other things. Sometimes it’s just the idea that you’ve reached a certain level, or you’ve gained enough coins to reach a certain level. And that’s kind of what I’m talking about here. So, we’re going to apply that to student feedback, like let’s say on exams or on maybe a term paper, some other written assignment, lab report. It’s always good to give student feedback, right? Tell them what they’re doing right and why. Tell them what they’re doing wrong and how they can fix it. And then, of course, you assign a grade, which is a form of feedback as well.

Kevin Patton: And I always liked to put at least some personal note, some personalization in there, because I think that engages the student more. I know as a student myself, that really helped me pay more attention to what the teacher was trying to tell me, and pay more attention to what was going on in terms of my own performance rather than just looking at that number or that letter grade that was at the top of the paper.

Stickers? Really?

Kevin Patton: But I think if we do that in addition to putting stickers on the paper, that will add additional feedback value, because it sort of gamifies the process a little bit by letting students earn stickers. It doesn’t have to be some sort of formal system where certain stickers are worth so much and you can trade them in for a candy bar. I guess you can try that if you want, but that’s not what I do.

Kevin Patton: I just have a stack of stickers, and these are stickers like an elementary school teacher would use. And yes, this is something you would see in an elementary school. And if that’s a turnoff to you, if you are saying to yourself, I’m not going to do that, because I am a college teacher. I’m a university teacher, and we just don’t do it the way they do in grade school,” well, then you’re listening to the wrong podcast, because I’m all about using what works. And I tell you, this works.

Kevin Patton: I like getting stickers. My students, I found out, love getting stickers. I did this just by accident one time. It was around Halloween time. And there’s a tip for you, too. Look for anatomical stickers right after Halloween, or leading up to Halloween, too. You’ll get a lot of good deals on stickers that have skulls and various bones and some other anatomical parts, eyeballs and stuff like that. So, they’re anatomy related.

Kevin Patton: I don’t know. There was a bunch of skeleton stickers … I think I still have some of them somewhere … that were for sale for really cheap. And I thought, “I’m going to stick those on my student exam papers.” And so, at the midterm exam when I start giving them out, everybody who got an A or better on the midterm exam got a skeleton sticker on there. And I didn’t tell them this ahead of time or anything like that. And oh my gosh, you would think that I had just paid them a hundred dollars for getting an A or something. They just couldn’t believe it.

Kevin Patton: And some of them told me that they took it home and taped it up or used a magnet to put it on their refrigerator at home to show off to their family or their roommates. And I thought, “Wow. Really? This is having this effect?” And then the next time, I didn’t do that, and they were disappointed, like, “Oh, I wanted a sticker.” And so, I start doing stickers regularly.

Kevin Patton: And so you can use those premade stickers. Again, little tip. Halloween and holiday times are good times to find them. You can go online and find them anytime of year and find different kinds of stickers, but Halloween’s a good time to go sticker hunting, I’ve found. And they don’t have to tie in to the theme of anatomy or physiology. Just like a gold star or something can really be worthwhile. I know that if I had gotten a gold star on my dissertation, I’d be even more proud of it than I already am. I think that would be great. I would love getting a gold star on something, some work that I did.

Kevin Patton: Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it’s grade schoolish. But it still works. And that’s kind of what gamification is about. Like yeah, games are silly. Yeah, games are what kids do. But adults do it, too, and adults appreciate the same kind of things. And our brains have not lost that when we become adults.

Kevin Patton: And of course, you can make your own stickers, too. There’s all kinds of clip art available, and there are blank label sheets that you can get to put through your computer’s printer. And you might even come up with some that have like a catchphrase that you use in your course or that you use as an individual and so on that your students would be familiar with. And that might be even more valuable to them than a generic sticker.

Kevin Patton: And I’ve also found that another kind of sticker can be helpful for a different reasons. And sometimes when students are making a common error in like filling out their paperwork or accomplishing the assignment or whatever, I’ll have a little sticker that explains how to fix that or where they can go in the syllabus or other course resources to find how to do it the right way. And so, I don’t have to write that out every time.

Kevin Patton: I will put some handwritten notes, but I’ll have that little sticker there that gives them some more details, and that, hopefully, will be helpful to the student. So, just another practical little easy tip, or trick I should say, for getting students a little bit more engaged and a little bit more motivated, and just adding a little bit of spice, a little bit of fun to our class.

Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

Kevin Patton: Distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science and Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree. Check out this online graduate program at nycc.edu/hapi, that’s hapi, or just click the link in the show notes or episode page. Dr. Bill Germano, the Director of HAPI, will be at the HAPS Conference this week. So, if you’re going, stop by and tell him I told you to say hi, okay?

Featured: How Students Address Us

Kevin Patton: Back in Episode number 41 when I talking about getting students’ names pronounced correctly, I also mentioned the idea of maybe opening up the idea of allowing students the freedom to tell us what their preferred personal pronouns or gender pronouns are. And when my friend Mike Pascoe was listening to that episode, it sparked a conversation between us about how we are addressed as the professor of the course.

Kevin Patton: And he said that he had recently changed his approach after hearing a convincing argument from a senior medical educator at the university. And so, now he asks his learners to call him either Mike or Pascoe, which is his last name. And he says he does this to narrow the power differential between the instructor and learner. So, I want to talk a little bit about that other side of the coin, not student names, but the professors’ names or at least how we’re addressed.

Kevin Patton: Now, I use Kevin with my students and have for a long time for decades, going back to the beginning. Through time immemorial I have used my first name. Now, my goal in doing that is to set up a peer mentoring relationship. And I’ll get back to that in a couple of minutes. But I really want to start off by saying something that I often say in this podcast, something that you’re probably sick and tired of me saying in this podcast, and that is I don’t think there’s a single right way to handle this. There are pros and cons to all the options. And there are some important cultural issues that intersect with how we want our students to address us.

Kevin Patton: First of all, there’s the very obvious effect of the culture of an institution or department. Is it expected at your school or in your department that you be addressed in a certain way? And what are the consequences of you stepping outside of that norm? Now, I’m going to state the obvious, at least something that’s obvious to anyone who’s ever worked in a college or university or high school or middle school, and that is in academia, the culture can be brutal, maybe worse than playground culture.

Kevin Patton: There’s bullying that happens when you step outside the norm that the bullies have set up. So, don’t be naive about thinking that your step outside the norm won’t have any consequences, because those bullies are there, at least sometimes they are. So, you have to assess what those consequences might be and whether they’re tolerable. That is, weigh the costs and benefits to whatever approach you adopt.

Kevin Patton: Now something that can help there is to be a little proactive and openly discuss it with your colleagues. So, if it’s normal to be addressed as doctor or professor and you want to be called by your first name with your students, then talk to your colleagues about it, probably informally, maybe one-on-one and go around the whole group and just throw out the idea that you’ve been toying around with this idea, and you think you might do. And it’s not to harm them to make them look too stiff or anything. But just throw it out there. And you might be pleasantly surprised and find out that other people are onboard with it as well, or you might find out that, well, no, other people don’t want to do it. And they might actually have some good reasons why you don’t want to make that move. And so, you might end up changing your mind.

Kevin Patton: So, I think it’s always good to clear the air before there’s any kind of bullying or fighting or anything so that your colleagues all feel like they’re part of what’s going on rather than be blindsided by a student who says, “Well, the other professor doesn’t make us call us doctor this or doctor that. He just lets us call us Kevin or call him Kevin.” So, that can really mitigate a lot of potential problems.

Kevin Patton: Something that I do that I would recommend is that I educate my students about those choices. So, I will tell my students I prefer to be called Kevin, but I know that some of my colleagues prefer a more formal address, and that’s okay, too. And I tell them, there are pros and cons to both, and this is just what works out best for the way I do my course. But it works out better in some courses to not do it that way.

Kevin Patton: So, the implication is, is don’t berate your other professors. Don’t look at them differently because they made a different choice. We’re all making different choices about all kinds of things in our course, and that includes how we interact with students and how we’re addressed.

Kevin Patton: And I think probably the bottom line to all of that is just use the mantra to be kind. If you’re kind in dealing with your colleagues in this particular area of how you’re addressed, I think that that goes a long way in cutting off any potential problems that you might run into.

Kevin Patton: And so, we’re talking about culture, the effect of culture. There’s also the culture of the higher ed niche that you’re in. In my conversation with Mike Pascoe, he addressed some differences that he sees between physical therapy educators, which he’s involved in, and medical educators. And I see that kind of difference among other health profession educators that I deal with, among nursing educators. Each one or each subgroup is going to have their own professional way of doing things. And so, that needs to be taken into account, too, is the way that you’re choosing going to fit or not fit, and how are you going to make that work?

Kevin Patton: When we look at formal ways of addressing a professor, that seems to create a kind of professional distance or a line that’s drawn, or perhaps maybe even a sort of a wall. But maybe, sometimes a bit of a wall is good to clearly establish roles, or to help maintain a time honored tradition. So, that leads us into the whole idea of using the title doctor to have students address us.

Kevin Patton: And the first thing that comes to mind is, when you work that hard and overcome all those sometimes absurd obstacles, you kind of want people to call you doctor. You kind of think of that when you’re trying to see the light at the end of that tunnel of doctoral studies, right? And doing all that dissertation writing. You can’t see the light at the end of that tunnel yet, but you can hear something. Yes, there it is, in the distance, barely audible. It’s a student or colleague’s voice is saying, “May I speak to Dr. Patton, please?” Now there’s nothing wrong with holding onto that. Considering that we, either personally or as part of a group, often face an onslaught of professional disrespect. And this may be a valuable tool to stake out a boundary, and effectively resist that onslaught.

Kevin Patton: For example, there was recently a trend I saw on Twitter and other places where young female academics were encouraged to add doctor to their social media handles. The point was to draw that line in the sand and demand some recognition of professional status that sometimes is just not afforded to women. It was not to create a distance as much as was meant to define equality with men with the same academic status, men who are often paid more respect than women just because they’re women.

Kevin Patton: I think this could work just as well for other situations where age, ethnicity, religion, political party or other aspects of identity can make it hard to establish one’s religion without saying it out loud, or attaching it approporately to our names, or to our social media handles as in this case. Of course, not everyone teaching A&P has a doctorate. If you don’t have one, then don’t use the title, really. Some very bad things can happen. Like putting on a military uniform when you’re not entitled to wear it. It’s not only dishonest, but it can get you into some very hot water ethically and perhaps even legally.

Kevin Patton: And this includes ABD, that all but dissertation status. If you don’t actually have a doctorate, then do not use the title doctor. If you don’t have a doctorate, why not use the title professor? College and university students are often trained to default to that title anyway. It can be used whether you have a doctorate or not. Some of my students call me Professor Patton, and that works just fine.

Kevin Patton: One thing about the title professor is that it can be used either generically, that is to designate any college instructor, or it can refer specifically to academic rank. Now, in a few places, it may be frowned upon to call faculty below the rank of assistant professor by the title professor. And if you work in such an environment, well, bless your heart, because I can’t imagine that’s very comfortable for you. But I guess don’t ask your students to call you professor if the powers that be don’t want that.

Kevin Patton: But what about using a title like Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. or Miss? Well, that has some level of formality if that’s what you’re looking for, but it can have some unintended effects that some of us want to avoid. For example, the titles Mrs. and Miss imply marital status. Should that be important in a professional academic role? I don’t think so. And for some folks, these are to be avoided for that reason. But for others, they just feel most comfortable with one of those titles. And so, okay, that’s their choice and I’ll honor that.

Kevin Patton: Sometimes the use of these different titles is very closely tied to personal and professional identity. On previous episodes, I’ve mentioned one of my past mentors and teaching heroes, the late great Dr. James Mulligan. I was first introduced to him as Father Mulligan. He was a Jesuit Catholic priest with a doctorate who was teaching at St. Louis University, which is a Jesuit institution.

Kevin Patton: Some of the Jesuit professors at that time preferred doctor or professor. But Jim preferred the title Father, because he told me that’s how he saw himself, primarily as a priest or minister, but happened to have a strong interest in biology. Now once we students had a few courses with him, he’d start asking us to call him Jim, because he felt that our relationship with him had gotten to a different level, so that’s how he handled it.

Kevin Patton: A few years later, after I was finished with my undergraduate degree and had gotten a Masters degree. And I was a different university working on my doctorate. And I needed an external member of my committee, so I asked him because I really liked him and admired him and thought he could bring a lot to what I was working on. So, we caught up with each other and I found out that in the meantime he had converted from being a Catholic to the Episcopal church, and was now working as an Episcopal priest. And he had married another Episcopal priest.

Kevin Patton: And when I casually addressed him during that conversation as Father Mulligan, he stopped me and said, “Just call me Jim. But in any case, at least avoid calling me Father Mulligan.” And he went on to say that they don’t call his wife who had the same status as priest as him, they don’t call her Mother. So, they were both Doctor Mulligan.

Kevin Patton: Now, I tell this story … well, okay, I tell it mostly because I love reminiscing about Jim Mulligan, but also to illustrate the fact that how we are addressed can be a deeply personal thing, something that, in my opinion, should be respected. In a way, it’s a bit like the situation of gender pronouns that I brought up in Episode 41. We probably want to respect everyone’s preference for how to be addressed, whether it relates to gender, or a marital status, or professional role, or to the highest degree attained. Whatever it is, let’s honor that. Let’s respect that. Because that might have been a very well thought out, intentional decision of a preference.

Kevin Patton: At the beginning of this discussion, I mentioned that I asked my students to call me Kevin, that is, use my first name. Now why is that? Well, as I said a few minutes ago, it’s because I want to propose to my students that they see me mainly as a peer. I teach adults. Some of them are just barely adults, but some of them are been adults a lot longer than I have, too. Well, okay, not a lot longer than me at this point, but a little bit longer. And we’re all adults working together in our course. I’m their peer. So for me, first names are okay. But I’m also their coach, or their mentor, and that could be emphasized by using something more formal. But for me, it works just fine with just first names. If it didn’t work, then I’d find a different way to be addressed that does work.

Kevin Patton: By the way, I tell my students that I prefer Kevin, but if they want to call me Dr. Patton or Professor Patton, that’s just fine. Partly that’s because how exactly they address me just isn’t that important to me. As long as they’re courteous and appropriately respectful, just as they would expect of me when I address them. But partly, it’s because I know that some of them are just, well, really uncomfortable with too much familiarity, at least familiarity with a so-called authority figure. And maybe in particular familiarity with teachers, or maybe it’s familiarity with men, or with white people, or with old people. Those are all groups that I can be identified with, male, white, old.

Kevin Patton: Maybe it’s the culture in which they’ve lived. Maybe they’ve encountered an abusive relationship that was based on inappropriate familiarity, or it could just be a habit. For me, it’s important that I be clear about it being their option. So, I give them options telling them my preference, but also giving them permission to use the other options if they’re more comfortable with it.

Kevin Patton: As with most topics, I could just go on and on. You know I would do that, right? But I won’t this time. This time. I’ll just wrap it up here by offering my opinion that there are really good reasons to ask our students to address us formally, and there are really good reasons to ask them to be more informal, perhaps using just our first name. So, it’s up to us to choose our preference, but it’s just as important to be clear about it with our students. And I also think it’s important that if we’re going the informal route, that we give them some more formal options, too, for the reasons that I mentioned.

Kevin Patton: When it comes down to it, an important question to ask ourselves is who do we want to be for our students? What role do we want to establish for ourselves? Then we can give some well thought out advice for our students regarding how to address us.

Kevin Patton: Okay, wait, wait, wait. Okay, one last … I said that was the last thing, but really, I mean it this time. One last thing. At the suggestion of Mike Pascoe, who brought up this topic with me, I’ve got a Twitter poll posted asking what your preference is. I agree with Mike that this would be a fun and interesting way to take the pulse of what’s going on out there. So, just find me on Twitter using my handle @theAPprofessor. I’ll also put a link in the show notes and episode page. And do it right away. Go ahead and cast your vote in the poll or post your preference in the poll. Because if you don’t do it right away, those Twitter polls, they only last a few days and you won’t get in there and it won’t be as much fun.

Hearing from YOU

Kevin Patton: Hey, don’t forget that I always put links in the show notes and at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org in case you want to further explore any ideas mentioned in this podcast. And don’t forget to call in with your question, comments, and ideas at the podcast hotline. That’s 1-833-LION-DEN, or 1-833-546-6336, or you can send a recording or written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. And oh yeah, follow me on Twitter @theAPprofessor.

Aileen: The A&P Professor is hosted by Kevin Patton, professor, blogger, and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton: I am a real doctor, not just playing one in a podcast. But then, I’m a physician and don’t pretend to be.

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Preview of Episode 45

fish bowl


Kevin Patton: Hi there. This is Kevin Patton with a brief audio introduction to episode number 45 of The A&P Professor podcast, also known as TAPP Radio, an audio extravaganza for teachers of human anatomy and physiology.


Kevin Patton: In the upcoming full episode number 45, I’m going to revisit the topic of how we ask our students to address us as doctor, as professor, by first name, and you may recall that we did a Twitter poll, so we’re going to discuss the results of that. I’m also going to mention some things related to the workshop I did at the recent HAPS 2019 Annual Conference regarding concept lists, and I’m going to reveal the secret identity of the A&P Professor. I bet you can’t wait for that, and the featured topic is the Fishbowl Model of homeostasis.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton: The free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree. Looking to power up your game in teaching A&P or maybe you have colleagues that could benefit from more training? Well, check out this online graduate program at nycc.edu/HAPI. That’s H-A-P-I, or click the link in the show notes or episode page.

Word Dissections

Kevin Patton: It’s once again my favorite time. It’s time for word dissections, and as usual, I have several words to dissect, and as usual, these are terms that we will have already seen in teaching human anatomy and physiology, but we’re going to dive a little bit deeper and look at them from a different perspective, which will not only help us understand them in a different way maybe a little more deeply. It’s a way to practice helping our students understand terms by looking at the literal meanings of the word parts that make them up.

Kevin Patton: The first term is “homeostasis,” and I bet you everybody listening who has ever taught anything about homeostasis stops and splits that word up because it’s a pretty daunting word. It’s usually introduced at the very beginning of the course where we’re starting to show students that these long and intimidating terms can be broken down, chunked into little pieces, and that helps us understand them a little more easily. It makes them a little more assessable.

Kevin Patton: One of our first opportunities to do that is with the word “homeostasis” and I usually break it down this way. I say that “homeo” is a word part that means the same or equal, and then “stasis” means standing or it’s the state of standing that ascending sort of implies. It’s a state or condition, so “stasis” is the state of standing. You put them together and it’s the state of standing the same or equal, or I often say it really means standing still, but when I’m explaining this, and I often am standing if it’s a face-to-face class, when I tell this part of the story, I’ll say, “Look at me. I’m standing still,” and they’ll say, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. Right,” and I’ll say, “Well, I’m not really.”

Kevin Patton: I’m not really still in an absolute sense of the word because my body is constantly falling due to the effects of gravity, and so I’m not always exactly balanced. My center of gravity isn’t exactly balanced over the center point of my body, and so I’m constantly falling to the left, to the right, forward, backward, but my brain detects that subconsciously and pulls me back. It causes my muscles to move in a way that pulls me back, and I don’t fall very far, so it looks like I’m still, but I’m really just kind of in more or less the same spot.

Kevin Patton: If you were taking a very long exposure photograph like they did in the very early days of photography, I would do better if I was resting up against something so I wouldn’t be having to constantly stabilize myself, and I tell them, “This is a good way to think about homeostasis in our body that it’s not an absolute standing still. It’s a relative standing still, and that we’re constantly monitoring conditions and pulling ourselves back,” and then I get into the details of homeostasis, and for fear of doing that right now, I’ll move on to the next term, but I think you know where I’m going with it.

Kevin Patton: The next term also relates to the stories I tell about homeostasis and that is the ordinary English word “thermostat,” and if we break that down, we see that the word part “therm” means heat literally, but of course, we measure heat in units of temperature, and so we could extend the meaning of therm to mean temperature. It literally means heat, but it can be used more widely to mean temperature in general, but what’s temperature if not a measure of heat, so they’re kind of flip sides of the same coin.

Kevin Patton: Now, the second part of that word is “stat” and that gets back to the root of that ending we were just looking at, “stasis.” Stasis is a condition of stat that is of standing, so “stat” means stand, and when we use it as a word part like this, it’s usually used to represent something that stabilizes or makes constant, whatever is in the first part of the word. In the first part of “thermostat,” we have heat, so a thermostat is something that stabilizes or makes constant, the heat or the temperature, and of course, that’s what a thermostat does. Right?

Kevin Patton: The next term I want to get into is… Actually, I’m going to be kind of going in two directions at once, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Kevin, you’re always going in two directions at once. If not, three.” Yeah. Okay, but I’m doing that intentionally this time. Okay? Look, I just did it. I went off on a tangent that I need not have gone off on, so coming back. What are the two different directions I’m going in right now? Well, it’s… The term is “sodium,” but I also want to think about that symbol “Na,” and where in the world do we get Na? How does that come out of sodium? Well, I’ll explain that.

Kevin Patton: First of all, looking at sodium just by itself, it’s derived from the word part “soda.” That’s where the “sod” part, S-O-D part comes from, and “soda” is a word that represents any of several sodium-containing substances such as sodium hydroxide, or sodium monoxide, or sodium carbonate, or soda water. There’s all kinds of things that we use soda to represent, but they all contain sodium in some form.

Kevin Patton: The story is that it went through several different languages before it got to us, but originally, it probably came from the Arabic word “suwwādah,” and that is a kind of plant that when you burn it yields soda compounds, so that’s the “soda” part, and then the I-U-M ending, we’ve ran into that before. It’s a noun ending. It denotes that it’s a thing or in this case, a substance or stuff, so sodium literally means soda stuff. It’s the stuff in soda or what we would otherwise call soda.

Kevin Patton: Sodium was first isolated by the Cornish chemist Humphry Davy way, way, way, way back in 1807, and besides being a chemist, he was also an inventor, and he liked to play with electrolysis and isolated a number of elements that way. When he did some hydrolysis on sodium hydroxide, a solution of sodium hydroxide, he was able to isolate sodium and identify it, and he also did that with potassium, and we’re going to come back around potassium in a couple of minutes. He’s the one that decided to coin the term “sodium” for that substance.

Kevin Patton: Well, then, a year or so later… It’s actually two years later. In 1809, the German physicist and chemist Ludwig Wilhelm Gilbert decided that it should be named something else. Not what Humphry Davy said, but he decided to call it “natrium,” and he coined that term based on the word part “natr,” N-A-T-R, and that’s from the first part of the word “natron.” A natron is a natural mineral salt that’s made up mostly of sodium carbonate, hydrated sodium carbonate, so he decided to use that term, and then add that same I-U-M ending and call it “natrium” instead of “sodium.”

Kevin Patton: There were some German chemists who came up with some of the original tables of elements, and they decided to use Gilbert’s term, and they used “Na” for the symbol in these tables, so that’s how we kind of… We’re kind of mushing two different systems of terminology together when we call it “sodium” and yet, symbolize it with capital N, small A for natrium, so it’s not a bad thing to know that “natrium” is an alternate name. Although, it’s not the oldest name for the element sodium.

Kevin Patton: That leads to… naturally, I think. In my mind at least, it leads to discussion of potassium whose symbol is “K,” and how do we get “K” out of potassium? Well, it’s the very same story involving the very same people. As I just mentioned, potassium was named by its discoverer, Humphry Davy, who used electrolysis to produce the first samples of potassium, and he chose that name based on “potash,” so that “potass” part comes from “potash,” and “potash” actually comes from the ordinary words “pot” and “ash.” Potashes were wood ashes that were left over from a wood fire, and wood ash contains any or all of several different potassium compounds, so that is a source of potassium is potash, and so it’s potash stuff. The I-U-M ending makes it stuff or substance, so it’s substance made from potash. That’s where we get potassium, so where does the “K” come from?

Kevin Patton: Well, our old friend, Gilbert, he decided that, nah, a better name for that instead of “potassium” is “kalium,” K-A-L-I-U-M. The first word part there is “kali” and then of course, the second part means stuff or it’s a noun, I-U-M, ending, so where did he get “kali?” Well, it goes back to the Latinized version of another Arabic word “qali,” Q-A-L-I, and that comes from the same root that we get our word “alkali.” That “kali” ending of “alkali” is the same “kali” that’s in “kalium,” and that’s the same “K” that was used as a symbol for, an early symbol for the German version of potassium, the German version or German name I should say for potassium, so the “K” stuck for the symbol, “potassium” stuck for the name. It’s a combination of two different systems of naming, but that’s okay. We’ve learned to live with it.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton: This podcast is sponsored by HAPS, the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, promoting excellent in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology for over 30 years. Go visit HAPS at theapprofessor.org/HAPS. That’s H-A-P-S.

Book Club

Kevin Patton: If you’re worth your salt as a teacher, you’re often working hard, maybe even struggling a little bit to come up with informed answers to student questions such as, “Is salt good or bad for you?” In the typical A&P course, students get the message that sodium and chloride are essential to life. In fact, throughout the course, they learn about many of the central roles these signs play in the functions of the human body, and well, it’s no wonder that salt has played such a central role in human history, which reminds me of a great book that I listened to, it was an audio version, a number of years ago. It’s called Salt: A World History. It’s written by Mark Kurlansky, and I think it ought to be on your list of must-read books for A&P professors. As a matter of fact, it’s officially on The A&P Professor Book Club list as of right now.

Kevin Patton: The book was recommended to me by my friend, Michael Banks, who’s a humanities professor turned administrator. As a matter of fact, right now, he’s a president of a community college, so it’s got to be a great science book, right, if it’s interesting to a humanities guy, right? Well, he got this one right. I tell you. It doesn’t sound like… and I know from the title, but it really is a gripping story of both the science of sodium chloride and its incredibly vital role to the development of human civilization. Now, I know. It sounds nerdy to get excited over a book about sodium chloride, but if you read it, you’ll see why I liked it, and of course, you know that we only do nerdy stuff in this podcast anyway. Yeah, it’s not that surprising to hear about this. Right?

Kevin Patton: In the book, besides learning about salt, you’ll also come away with an appreciation of the interconnectedness of things, and that’s always good to take a step back not only from the A&P that we’re focusing on, but science in general and see how that science is interconnected to society, and history, and just all kinds of things that are part of ordinary daily life. If nothing else, it’s going to give you a lot of anecdotes and factoids that you can use in your A&P class as you do your storytelling of the human body.

Kevin Patton: Now, one of the questions that I often get in class is, “If salt or sodium is so essential to life, why is it bad for you?” Well, what a great teaching moment that is. Right? I can help bring the student asking that to a higher level of thinking by dissecting that false choice of good and bad, and in this case, revealing that, well, there’s kind of this gray, this spectrum of… like with many substances. I mean, it’s the Goldilocks thing, right? Too little is not good. Too much is not good, but somewhere in the middle is that sweet spot where it’s just right. Why don’t you check out Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky in The A&P Professor Book Club? Just go to theapprofessor.org/bookclub.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton: A searchable transcript and a captioned audiogram of this preview episode are funded by AAA, the American Association of Anatomists at anatomy.org.

Kevin Patton: This is Kevin Patton signing off for now and reminding you to keep your questions and comments coming. Why not call the podcast’s hotline right now at 1-833-LION-DEN. That’s 1-833-546-6336, or visit us at theapprofessor.org. I’ll see you down the road.

Last updated: September 24, 2021 at 17:32 pm

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