Project Advent II, Day 5: All Saints Chess Club


When I started planning for Project Advent II, I wasn't worried at all about filling up my Wednesday slots, because I knew that I'd have the same thing that I have every Wednesday during the school year: All Saints Chess Club.  I've been doing this for about a year and a half now, coming up to school every Wednesday during lunch time and just being there to help out as needed, whether that's playing with a kid who has no partner, settling a dispute over the rules, or just being the grown-up in the room to keep things calm.

The club meets three days a week this year, during the lunch hour, and attendance is "come as you can."  Since the chess institute at Texas Tech is in transition now, with the departure of Susan Polgar, we haven't had the same assistance we had last year, and parent participation has been more vital to keep the program going.

When I was planning Project Advent last year, I stopped to talk to Paige, the chaplain and admissions officer for the school.  She was the one who told me I should use chess club as my hour of service on Wednesdays during Advent.  It's such a part of my weekly schedule that I really hadn't even considered that until she mentioned it!

This year has been a little more difficult than last.  It seemed like most of the kids who were coming last year had a pretty solid grasp on the game's rules before I ever met them.  Also, we had a pretty steady group of about five or six children each week.  At the beginning of this school year, we were averaging about sixteen children every time I came, many of whom had a tenuous grasp of the rules of chess at best.  There are some things that I'm pretty good at; commanding the attention of a room full of kids is not one of them.  I knew that some of these kids needed instruction about the basics before they could really play with the others, but it can be kind of challenging to give that kind of attention to one or two when you're the only adult in a room full of kids.  I'm still figuring out how to do that, but I'm also figuring out that it's also OK for me to loosen up and just let them come in and blow off steam for a while in the middle of a school day.

For instance, there are two girls who come in nearly every week when I'm there.  They always get out two sets of chess pieces and set them up into a game that they call Super Chess.  Here's a picture.
Sometimes instead of setting up the pieces that deep, they'll set up two boards side-by-side and line up the pieces differently.  There's a whole different set of rules they've invented for this game, rules that make perfect sense to them, and no sense to the rest of us, even after watching them play this for the last three months.  I'll give them this, though: unlike some of the other players, these two never, ever argue about whether a move was legal or not.  They may be the only ones who know their game, but at least they agree on how to play it.

Affirmation Project:  Scott Cheatham, you make me laugh, you're one of the smartest guys I know, and you've been a real support to me for the last couple of years.


Ali said...

Super chess is awesome.

Also? I would just tremble and rock myself in a room full of kids "blow[ing] off steam for a while." You're a strong man than I, Holwerda.

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