Chapter Ten

“I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyous celebration of life. It was just me imagining a better world than the one I had just experienced....." - Sherman Kelly

Efferent: 10% to 20% of the vagus nerve's fibers are efferent, delivering information from the brain to the organs.

Afferent: 80% to 90% of the vagus nerve's fibers are afferent, delivering information up the vagus nerve, from organs to the brain.

Lab Notes:

The vagus nerve is made up of between 80,000 to 100,000 fibers, each sending specific neural signals back and forth between the immune system and the brain.

The efferent arm of the vagus nerve is the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway – also known as The Inflammatory Reflex. One of the roles of the efferent arm of the vagus nerve includes inhibiting cytokine production in the body. The efferent vagus nerve fibers are responsible for the parasympathetic vagal tone which controls motility, cardiac function, and inflammation.

The afferent vagus nerve stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and is part of the autonomic nervous system's involuntary functions. Recall our earlier lesson on the role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis during the fight-or-flight response.

Hmph. It’s almost like the vagus nerve is.... important.


Ex-Pats and Education

The day that my Hawaii State Teachers License came in the mail, Sean and I excitedly danced around our kitchen. We tacked it on our bulletin board and clinked our coffee mugs to celebrate my new position: teaching 10th grade English inclusion at the local high school, five minutes down the road from our house. I had swallowed that frog in my throat about signing my 30 years of life away, and now, was more ready than ever to dive in.

I dreamed of inspiring my kids with literature and history the way that my greatest teachers did for me. In one of my undergrad classes, one of the greatest assignments required us to create our dream curriculum. 

I designed a class that was very similar to a Romantic and Victorian literature class that I had taken while in college. The curriculum would cover poetry and essays from the Romantic and Victorian era, covering writers such as Blake, Keats, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, Coleridge, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, and Dickens. Students would grapple with the idea of progress, destruction, and beauty:

How did the Industrial Revolution and scientific discoveries separate humanity from the natural world?

In what ways did scientific inquiry create problems within the church?

What were the social implications of society moving from an agricultural center to the factories and how do we see that reflected in history’s great works of literature?

Why were the Romantics offended by rationalizing nature?

..... I could go on and on.

I quickly learned that not only was that not how pedagogy is designed in public education, but it burned in me. I grappled with it hard: what is the importance of educators having the autonomy to create classes not only in their area of expertise but also their individual passion? Is it a necessary component of an educated youth? If students are exposed to an original curriculum created by a teacher who is an expert in their field, as well as passionate about that area of their field, could you imagine the enthusiasm and authentic learning that would take place? What if science teachers could create a class surrounded by the idea of string theory rather than just a brief overview of basic physics? What if social studies teachers could create a curriculum focused on an in-depth study of the Greeks and Romans or a political science class focused on how countries rise and fall?

Imagine if we gave teachers time to do research and become professionally fulfilled by engaging in their areas of expertise... what would that do to teacher retention and satisfaction?

However, that’s not the reality of the education system, and nothing can prepare a teacher for the bureaucracy and politics of the education system in 21st century America.

I started at the beginning of the 2013 school year. Doe-eyed and ready to change the world, I quickly realized that I was in over my head.

This post is for paid subscribers