Learning about teaching at CTY in LA
May 1, 2007 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm teaching International Politics for the Center for Talented Youth this summer and I'd love to hear more about (1) your (or your children's) experiences with CTY summer classes, particularly the three-week residential programs, and (2) the Loyola-Marymount area, where my class will be held.

First, I've taught Introduction to International Relations as well as International Law in a university setting before, so while I realize the material will need to be packaged very differently, I feel comfortable with that end of my preparation. I'm not, on the other hand, quite sure what kind of experiences the students (or their parents, who are footing a hefty tuition bill) will be expecting to take away. For those of you who've been through the summer program as a student or parent - particularly at one of the residential sites - what were the biggest positives? Negatives?

Second, Loyola-Marymount looks like a gorgeous campus, but I'm not sure what to expect from the parts of LA that surround it. Can I safely run to/near the beach early in the morning? Are there cafes, shops, etc near campus? My reference point is State St in Madison - is there something like that near campus?
posted by brozek to Education (13 answers total)
Response by poster: For example, the CTY wikipedia page says:

"Most CTY sites are home to instances of children's street culture, passed to new students by returning ones. Some traditions are unique to a particular campus, while others have been transplanted to many sites. Lancaster and Carlisle, which have operated since the early 1980s, are often regarded as the CTY campuses with the most traditions. The JHU site seems to have fewer traditions than other sites of the same age, possibly due to its proximity to the watchful eyes of the CTY main office.

Some popular traditions include the singing of the "Squirrel Song", the "Circle Time", "Cross-dressing", "Love Tape" or "drag" day, and the pranks on the residence assistants (RAs) or the TAs (Teaching Assistants). The Passionfruit, where students gather to toast various events and people from their time at CTY, is very popular and is considered to be the most important tradition at many sites."

Which makes me think there are other unspoken traditions and expectations I'm not aware of. Because I want this to be a fantastic experience all around, I want to be armed with as much knowledge as possible before I go.
posted by brozek at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2007

I'm not, on the other hand, quite sure what kind of experiences the students (or their parents, who are footing a hefty tuition bill) will be expecting to take away.

Most of the students will be very bright kids looking to get their first kiss or quasi-sexual experience. You're going to have to compete with that, I'm afraid.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2007

I was a TA at CTY and in my experience, the students are just as excited about learning as they are about making out. Also, you're not expected to know all of the traditions--other teachers and the students will clue you in. I think CTYers love to spread all the lore to newbies.
posted by leesh at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2007

Man, I had no idea I was supposed to be making out with the boys. I was too busy learning Spanish and etymology.

I also don't recognize a single one of those "traditions", but that could be because it's been two decades since my first CTY summer. Oh my God, how am I that old?!

I went to CTY at Scripps in Claremont one summer and at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster a few summers after that. (This was in the late 80s.) You'll be faced with a bunch of bright students that are there to learn. Like any summer camp, the social experience is a huge part of that, but when the kids are in class you won't really have to prod them to participate. Personally, I don't remember the teachers being too involved in the social life of the program. That was more the role of the RAs. Like any teacher, you'll be more popular if you crack a few jokes and spend some time in class talking about non class-related things. But don't stress about it too much. Everyone's there because the want to learn at the same time as having fun, otherwise they'd be back at home or at a regular summer camp.
posted by MsMolly at 10:30 AM on May 1, 2007

I was at Dickinson, in Carlisle, for the summer of 1997. I too remember the classes being entirely distinct from the social experiences. (Well, except for my rocking eMate 300, which helped blur the line between the two! Heh.)
posted by thejoshu at 10:35 AM on May 1, 2007

Best answer: I was a student at CTY Carlisle in the mid 90s (and an instigator of one of the first drag days). You're going to have a fantastic time. Don't worry about not knowing the traditions ahead of time. The social stuff will be mostly taken care of by the students themselves and by the RAs.

The biggest positive for me on the academic side was being around teachers who didn't treat me like a kid. These are teenagers, but many of them have the brains and knowledge of people 10 years older, and they're coming to you from schools that are totally unaccustomed to dealing with them. If you can provide them with a challenge, show them that there are people out there who are interested in meeting them at their intellectual level, you'll be doing them a huge service.

Most of them will be warm, loving, and eager to learn. But you may also meet a few who seem to have chips on their shoulders or who will seem impossibly arrogant at first. Understand that these are coping mechanisms developed to deal with peer groups and school administrators who pick on smart, geeky kids. Be nice to them, keep working with them, and they'll eventually come around.

If you have any other specific questions or want to talk further, feel free to email me through my profile. CTY was one of the most rewarding experiences of my childhood. In fact, some of my friends and I are organizing a ten-year reunion this summer, and we're expecting more than 50 CTYers from all over the world to fly in. It's a life-changing experience for many kids, and I think you're really going to enjoy being a part of it.
posted by Amy Phillips at 10:44 AM on May 1, 2007

I went to CTY at LMU back in the 90s. As I recall, it is in a pretty typical urban-suburban area - there was a grocery store and strip malls within walking distance, although I don't recall any sort of thriving downtown space with stores and restaurants all close together. The beach is a pretty comfortable running distance from the campus, and I don't think you should worry about crime or anything.

There's also a nice student-run coffee shop on-campus that should be open all summer.

I had some good teachers and some bad ones. The good ones were friendly with the students and treated us like adults without being too permissive. The bad ones treated us like we were in 6th grade.
posted by muddgirl at 11:06 AM on May 1, 2007

I went to CTY in 2003 (Individually Paced Math Sequence at Franklin-Marshall), and more recently, I did their Civic Youth program in 2006 (at the Peabody Institute, JHU). You'll spend at least 4 or 5 hours with these students per weekday, maybe a bit less on Saturday. I think Amy Phillips hit all the major points, but my email's in my profile too.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2007

Many of my friends from childhood spent at least one summer at CTY (I spent my 2nd-12th grade years in gifted or super-gifted programs) and they only had positive things to say. Try treating them exactly as you would treat college students. These kids are there to feel like total geniuses and the higher your expectations are, the more fulfilled they'll feel.

Think back to what you were like as a smart teenager (I assume you were one) and what you would have wanted from an International Politics class. You would have wanted a lot of heated discussions, probably, and you would have wanted to hear different perspectives on current events than you could get from the media or your upper-middle-class parents. You probably would have wanted the teacher to be clever and witty, and use the Socratic method while being obvious about it. You would have wanted to leave with a sense that even if the kids at school made fun of you, you had a more sophisticated worldview than they did.

As one of the few kids who didn't go to CTY, I can tell you that all those kids came back with huge egos and a total sense of superiority - a sense of having been challenged with material way over their heads, but having risen to the task. It's your job to give them that feeling of being better than the poor plebes whose parents told them if they wanted to take some advanced math classes, they could go to the library and teach themselves.

As you can tell, not having been involved and having had to put up with these kids afterwards, my feelings are mixed. But I think you'll have a great time and the kids will too.
posted by crinklebat at 1:32 PM on May 1, 2007

I went to CTD, the Midwest equivalant of CTY in the summers of seventh and eight grade. The biggest positive for me was the instructors. They were challenging, supportive, and friendly. Treat the kids like adults and they'll love you.

The worst was the other kids. I never benefited from the socialization aspect of the program. Partly from being in a bad headspace, and partly because even smart, geeky kids are still kids and will form cliques and be cruel to one another. The intelligence can make things worse, actually. It gives them the potential to come up with far more creative torments, and when the underdog geek suddenly finds himself to be the "cool kid" of his floor he can get pretty drunk on the power. Yeah, that fucking sucked.

So if you see a kid who never hangs out with the other kids, that kid is probably the outcast-of-outcasts and might benefit from some non-patronizing one-on-one time.
posted by Anonymous at 1:49 PM on May 1, 2007

Just a couple of years ago, I spent two summers at the LMU site for CTY. You can see the ocean from campus, but we students never got an opportunity to visit the beach.
Read this metafilter post before you go. It does a pretty good job summing up the attitudes you'll find in a lot of students there.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:12 PM on May 1, 2007

I asked my daughter (she went twice) what she thought a teacher should know. She said, "Don't worry about making learning fun. The kids are there because they like to learning. Adding the "cutesy" stuff to make it more "fun" is just annoying."

As a parent, it seemed like one of the good things was that this is not school. The goal is not to master some particular material but to foster basic skills of reasoning and expression and, most of all, the joy of learning cool stuff and talking about it with other people who think it is cool, too. Teachers seem to focus on what the kids do right (or partially or sort-of right) and encourage them to do more of it. Not that papers don't come back with red marks but the tone is positive and constructive.
posted by metahawk at 8:44 PM on May 1, 2007

Wow... those were two incredible summers for me. I'll re-emphasize a point that's been made above: the most amazing part of it for me was being treated like an adult and really being asked to work intellectually for the first time, as opposed to being talked down to, ignored and herded around (essentially, babysat) in my public middle school. The kids will be deeply inspired to work and probably capable of more than you can imagine.

I'd say you don't even need to think in terms of significant re-packaging. What I got to do at CTY could definitely be classed as 'college-level' (it definitely helped cement my resolve to leave high school and start college two years early, which ended up being one of the best decisions of my life).

Basically, you'll be teaching a kids that, in many cases, are in a non-boring school environment for the first time in their lives. This is a treasure for a teacher and a situation in which you can and should push for great work.
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:51 PM on May 2, 2007

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