28 March 2008


Or, adventures in teaching human anatomy.

I'm a TA for Human Anatomy lab this semester. As you would expect, students run the range of experience, knowledge and comfort with the human body. Most of our classes are rather uneventful - we talk about bones, muscles, the digestive system, whatever it is that we're covering that week. Lots of blank looks from students who are overwhelmed with all the material, and the occasional question of "so, how much of the small intestine is the jejunum again?" Run of the mill stuff. Occasionally, I have an interesting experience teaching. And when it's Human Anatomy, with cadavers, the interesting experiences seem that much more interesting.

My favorite anecdote: Teaching the reproductive system. My students are mostly LDS, some married, some not. The reproductive system seems to make them a little more nervous or skittish than any of our previous examinations of the cadavers. I see students trying to pay attention and learn the structures while trying to not pay TOO close of attention, and looking around at each other while at the same time not making eye contact. Weird dynamics. I go through the male reproductive system with a small group of female students; no questions, some blushing. Move to the female reproductive system. I go over the external anatomy: "mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, urethra, vagina." Then the internal anatomy, showing the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries. Everything is good. I turn to the students, "okay, does anyone have any questions?" A tentative girl, looking very closely at her notes asks "Umm, yeah. Can you tell me where the clitorius is again?"

It was all I could do to keep my jaw from hitting the floor. Yes, I know that many college-age women don't know much about their own bodies, especially those that are not sexually active. But darlin', really? Clitorius? The part of your female anatomy packed with THOUSANDS of nerve endings? Sigh. I only hope that I can help these students to know *where* these structures are, even if I can't teach them *why* they should care.

Let's see, what else? There was the time I held up a disembodied foot and a student passed out, hitting her head on the floor when she fell. That was bad. (Yes, she was okay, just shaken up afterwards.) I learned from that experience that disembodied anything, when unexpected, will freak or gross someone out. No more holding up feet, knees...though I do still hold up heads. And brains. Hmm. No one has passed out yet this semester, at least.

I'll spare you the gruesome anecdotes from TAing Human Dissection. Let's just say it mostly dealt with students making comments of how things in the body looked or smelled like food products. Ick. Oh, and many references to Silence of the Lambs, especially Anthony Hopkins' little slurpy tasting sound he made with his tongue. Ick ick ick. Besides that, it was a lot of fun.

Yes, I'm morbid. Now you know.

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