“Life Happens”

It’s easy to forget sometimes that my class is just one of many that students are taking and that it might not be their first priority. At the start of each quarter, after explaining my expectations and policies, I always tell my students that sometimes “life happens”. By this I mean that something might happen to cause one or more of them to fall behind in some way. In this case, I ask them to let me know that something big is going on and I then work with the student on a case-by-case basis to accommodate them so that they can complete the course satisfactorily.

One year, a student’s house burned to the ground a few weeks before final projects were due at the end of the school year. Another time, a student’s mother fell terminally ill. A few days ago, one of my students came to let me know that her fiance had just been diagnosed with cancer, and today another told me that she had just been laid off from her job.

Such events help me to stay realistic about what I can expect from students, and are a constant reminder of what is truly important in life.

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About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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