What I Did on My Summer “Off”

Hi folks, been a while since I blogged at ya. School starts in a few short weeks (on Labor Day for us), so I thought I would  briefly fill you in on what I have been up to this summer. I have longer posts for each of these planned, so stay tuned in the next week or so for more details.

Bored Student

Picture by flickr user eltpics

I taught summer school. It is always interesting teaching summer school, which at Randolph-Macon tends to be much lower class sizes (mine was 7), but the students aren’t always the most motivated. I taught General Psychology and tried, with some modifications, a re-do of my big experiment in redesigning this course (described in this earlier post). My first post this week will be reflections on this experience.

I also supervised a research student on a project of her own devising. Her step-father owns an art gallery, and she was interested in how spacing and labeling of art influences aesthetic  judgments. So I got to read a bit about the psychology of art, which was kind of cool. We tried a replication of a few well-known effects with a new twist (actual paintings, not computer projections) had trouble recruiting subjects, and failed to replicate. Oh well, that’s research. She did a fantastic presentation at the end, which made me all kinds of proud.

GM Maurice Ashley

International Grandmaster Maurice Ashley

My kids did a few different camps, but for one of them, if you volunteered, your kids could go free. So I did. As the people who were running the camp pondered how to assign the volounteers, they found I had some relevant expertise, I was basically bumped up to a teacher and had my own group. So I found myself teaching 5-7 year-olds how to play chess for a week. As a bonus, I got to talk to an International Grandmaster (Maurice Ashley)about perceptual illusions, chess illusions and the mind-blowing fact that the Earth itself is moving faster than just about any object moves on Earth. As you might have picked up, a big theme of my (college) teaching is picking up lessons from other teaching situations, and this was no different. It was exhausting, but fun, and a little eye-opening.

I’ve been planning the first new course I’ve taught in a while, and it is a newer new than I have ever taught before. It is called “Kids These Days” and it is a collaboration with fantastic English professor here at Randolph-Macon who specializes in children’s literature. It is a First Year Course (part of our First Year Experience) and is creative,  interdisciplinary, team-taught class. Typically biting off way more than I can chew, I will be taking twenty lucky 18-year-olds (mostly) on a magical mystical journey through the history of science, and of psychology, through the lens of how psychology has explained those fascinating creatures we call children.  I’ll have a lot more to say about this in a post coming up, but I am really excited, and more than a little nervous teaching something where there is no textbook and no existing framework. But ultimately, this kind of experimentation is why I love my job.

I have also dreamed up a way to get into the movie business. I have always liked playing around with movies, and have wanted to make a few when I find the time. This semester, I aim to make a series of short videos, integrated into my First Year Class, called the Art and Science of Being a College Student. My hope is to interweave direct practical advice (the first one will be “How to Write an Email to A Professor”) with a bit of the science of psychology (in the email case, I will summarize James Pennebaker’s excellent research on language). So, keep your eyes peeled for some of those.

Thanks for your patience loyal readers, stay tuned, there will be blog!


About Cedar Riener

College psychology professor, husband, father.
This entry was posted in education, psychology, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What I Did on My Summer “Off”

  1. Rich Meagher says:

    Is that a Jim Anchower shout-out in the first sentence? If so, then I applaud.

  2. Cedar Riener says:

    Yes! Was tempted to go full on “Hola amigos,” then complain about my car. . . but I decided most wouldn’t get the reference.

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