Archive for November, 2009

Chess in schools- song and a dance or real chess education?

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Sometimes I walk into schools to introduce my chess program to school officials. I know  that I have a very good program. I have worked hard to create it, maintain it, and am constantly improving it. I am also aware of the other chess organizations out there and what they have to offer, so I am confident about the quality of my chess program.  Some copy my ideas and my lesson plans. I guess I should feel flattered by that- imitation is a form of flattery, they say. And although it is a bit challenging to deal with that, I do have lots of new ideas that I implement into the Educational Chess program- so a little competition pushes me to become even more creative and improve my program regularly.

Many schools now offer a chess program to their students. Some are O.K.- taught by experienced chess teachers with solid chess tournament experience,  some are taught by big organizations who hire college students (with mediocre results) , and some are taught by parents, teachers or individuals with very little knowledge of chess who mostly baby-sit their students (with poor results).

So, I am confident that I have a really good program. However, it is not so easy to translate that to the school administrations-many of the schools now have a chess program, so competition is much more intense for new schools.

And I am amazed how some schools officials seem to not understand the difference in quality of programs- most don’t know chess.  I was told by one school official a while ago that they like their chess organization because “they are friendly”. One other told me that their students have some acting in their chess class. Then, I hear  there are song and dances, too.
And I thought that was fine, but when I asked them about what their students learned, they all shrugged their shoulders. When I told them that a song and a dance is great, but learning and improving at chess should be the main goal, they had no answer.  I even offered to teach some of the school officials for free- but they had no interest in that.
So, I am noticing that there are chess programs out there with a song and a dance- and not much substance.

Here is my advice to those in charge- you need to be able to figure out the better chess programs from the mediocre ones. How can you do that? First, get involved- learn chess, and go beyond the basics. That is pretty much what most of the organizations out there offer- except they pepper it with a song and a dance. My students say many of their former chess teachers repeat the same lessons over and over again, and it only covers the basics. Really, we can do much better than that. And you owe it to your students to make sure that they keep learning and that they stay mentally stimulated.

Here are some factors school officials should consider when choosing a good chess program:

-instructor teaching experience and tournament experience (at least 2 years for teaching and about 4 years of serious rated tournament play)

– instructor knowledge (the higher the chess rating, the better. My recommendation- 1,800 and above.)

– a detailed program . Ask for details, learn what those terms mean.

-what level is the program for? Most are just basic, with no inclination to help students reach their potential.  However, a lot of kids now ask to learn more.

-how involved is the teacher in making sure all students learn? In other words, does the teacher really care about the children’s progress?

-is there new material offered on a regular basis?

And you need to verify this information. A song and a dance are nice, but a good chess education is mind power and a recipe for success. So, school officials- learn chess, learn how to choose a good chess program. Get out there, get involved today!

So, figure it out- do you want quality chess education? Then, you have to do your part and ensure that your school’s children benefit from a quality chess program.  In my opinion- you owe that to your students.