Friday, February 4, 2011

Chess Anyone?

by Jan Shoop

This week’s Fantastic Friday blog post comes as a request from Rendi, one of the students at StarShine. Rendi commented on our blog on Tuesday of this week. He asked if the students at StarShine could have a Chess Club like the one they had several years ago. In commenting back I told him I would tell his story in the next blog post.
Rendi is in the sixth grade at StarShine in Ms. Ana’s class. But five years ago when Rendi was in first grade, the school had a wonderful and dedicated father son team who volunteered at the school and taught the students chess. Tony, the father, and Anthony his son wanted to help in some way at the school and were avid chess players. Tony, Anthony and I met to discuss how they could best volunteer at the school. In the discussion Tony suggested that his son and him teach chess to the students as part of the after school program.  I was pretty skeptical at first. I wasn’t really sure any of our high school students or junior high students would be interested in chess. They were more interested in sports like soccer or basketball. But Tony felt that chess would be a great addition to the after school program and he was sure that the students would enjoy learning the game. With reservations, I agreed.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the star StarShine chess player would be a first grader and not a high school student or junior high student. And that the Chess Club would become a huge success and one of the most popular clubs at school.
 Tony and Anthony arrived at the school on the first week with several giant chess boards and chess pieces that they had purchased for the school. The boards were probably 2 feet by 2 feet and were made of green plastic with large playing pieces perfect for learning chess. The students would set up the boards and play out on the patio picnic tables when the weather was nice or in the cafeteria when it was cold. They played for several hours after school each week. Tony and Anthony grouped the students by skill levels and awarded certificates to students for achieving goals. They taught the art of chess, practiced with the students and had contests. The students had a wonderful time and learned not only how to play chess, but critical thinking skills and focus. I think Tony and Anthony learned the importance of volunteering at a school with students like Rendi.
I would walk out to the patio after school was out and watch the Chess Club arranged in groups of two to four students completely focused on their chess game. It was a remarkable sight to see the concentration on the faces of the students and the joy that Tony and Anthony got from teaching these students.
Rendi became the star of the chess club. He excelled above every other student, even though he was only in first grade. Rendi waited every week at the gate for Tony and Anthony to arrive and spent many hours engrossed in learning the maneuvers and techniques of chess. He won every award and competition that Tony and Anthony had. Not only did Rendi become a good chess player he became a better student; actually a fantastic student. His love of learning, focus and critical thinking skills improved tremendously.
Tony and Anthony came to StarShine every week and never missed for an entire semester. The students at StarShine fell in love with them and with the game of chess. At the end of the semester summer came and Anthony graduated from high school. The next year he went away to college and the Chess Club ended. The school has never found another volunteer to teach chess at the school. But I believe there is someone out there with a love of chess just like Rendi’s love of chess. I know there is someone out there who is willing to spend a pleasant afternoon teaching chess to the deserving students at StarShine; students who would enjoy learning the game of chess, just like Rendi.

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