Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tales of CTY Summers

   I am in the midst of my 23rd summer stint in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program, teaching the Writing & Imagination course to a group of gifted 11- and 12-year-olds. Because of my (very) senior status among the staff (the person with the next-most years has 10), I am also the unofficial historian and "cruise director."
  This past week, in addition to keeping my fellow instructors informed on such things as when we are playing volleyball and what's at the theater for our Tuesday movie night, I have been regaling them with tales of past years. To wit:

  * Okay, so last night I went back to my room and wanted to take a shower. Took off my lanyard, was taking off my shirt and then realized I needed something from my car. Grabbed the car keys, closed my bedroom door, walked out of the suite and, halfway to the car, realized I had just locked myself out because the lanyard was on the desk. Twenty-three years of this and there's still the opportunity to do one of the things I always tell people not to do: Don't leave without your lanyard! A call to the WC Security office and I was back inside
  Anyway, I was reminded of the most famous lock-out in C'town lore. Way back when we were first in these western shore apartments (a.k.a. the previous millennium), one of the instructors walked out his bedroom, pulling his door closed behind him, and went to take a shower. Takes his shower, comes out of the bathroom, and realizes he has locked himself out of his room. Looks to his roommates to get one of them to call Security, but all three have gone to breakfast. So he decides he should try one of his across the hall neighbors. He walks out of the apartment... and the door locks behind him! His neighbors are gone as well, so there he is, standing on the "balcony," yelling down to a passing CTYer from another building to please call security for him. What makes this story so legendary? Well, as I said, he came out of the shower. All he was "wearing" was a not-very-large towel.
  And that's why you should never forget your lanyard.

* Beginning with our first year at the site and until he retired, Dr. John Toll (for whom the Science Center is named), the President of the college, would join our Opening Ceremony and welcome the students and their families.  His speech was always the same: "Washington College was the first college established in the United States of America. Now, I know what you're thinking, what about Harvard and Yale and such? Well, they were established before there was a United States of America..." He would then go on to explain the history of the school.
  In 2002, Dr. Toll was unavailable to make his speech and it fell to Lowell, who was the liaison between WC and CTY, to speak. Lowell, while very capable in his job, had no interest in public speaking and was, in fact, in a near panic about having to do it. So, I offered to help him out.
  The opening ceremony began and when our site director Tim introduced Lowell, he stepped to the mike and said, "I have asked someone to help me out with this." I walked up to the microphone, with Tim and the rest of the admins looking at each other and saying, "What is he doing now?!"
  I proceeded to deliver Dr. Toll's speech verbatim. The instructors and TAs, recognizing the speech because we had all heard it so many times before, were laughing hysterically. The parents and kids, of course, had no idea and probably thought the instructional staff was just crazy.
  And that is the story of how I delivered the Washington College Address.

* Way back in 1996, when CTY first arrived at Washington College, there was no movie theater in town. In fact, the nearest place to see a movie was Dover, and few people wanted to make the drive to see a flick. When the Chester 5 opened in 1998, CTYers were a ready and willing audience.  Admission at the time was only $5, but since we were a group of 30 or more each week, I was able to secure a Tuesday night special of $4 for anyone wearing a CTY lanyard. With a couple of small price increases along the way, this 6-week summer discount continued until 2013. At that point, the theater owner decided to make Tuesday a discount night year-round for everybody.
  Over the course of the past seventeen summers, we've seen a number of blockbusters, along with a number of clunkers. (Eight-Legged Freaks comes to mind i the latter category.) And while there is a wide array of films that might be voted the best one, there was little doubt about the worst movie. A vote of long-time staffers named 2003's Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde the worst CTY movie ever. Miami Vice in 2006 ran a far second.

* Even though it's still very early in the session, most of the admin staff has been in to visit my class. They quickly found out that if you come into my classroom and we start a writing assignment, you are expected to do it too. 
  Some years ago, we had a site director named Joe and he was a fairly frequent visitor. However, when I would tell the class to take out a piece of paper, he would suddenly look out the window, announce that he was needed elsewhere and run out of the room. The class, well aware of my policy, were quite upset by his actions. So we set a trap. The kids came up with an assignment for Joe and I said that the next time he came in, as soon as he sat down, I would stop whatever lesson I was doing and we would get him to write. (The assignment was "Where does Joe rush off to whenever there's a writing assignment?")
  In he came a few days later and = boom = he was trapped! The kids had a great time watching him try to talk his way out of it, but we didn't let him. They, of course, also wrote their versions of where he went... and they had a great time doing so.
  And speaking of visitors, one time back in the early days, a contingent of folks from the Baltimore "mother ship" came to visit the site and dropped in on various classes. Mine was one of them. In walked four swell-dressed folks who just smiled and said. "Don't mind us, we're just here to observe." 
  "That's what you think," I thought. A few minutes later, as I finished the lesson, I told the class to take out paper and a pen. The guests in a back sat calmly; I suppose they thought they would just watch the kids write for a few minutes and then go. "That means you folks as well," I said, as my TA handed them paper and pens. Funny thing, I've never had a Baltimore contingent visit my class again...

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