Lost Dreams Found During the Pandemic

Online Chess Lesson in Progress

The pandemic has been an interesting time for my online tutoring business. Being a full-time in-person (even during this past school year) academic elementary teacher (ten years in New York City and five in Tennessee), I try to keep my online tutoring topics related to my other passions and hobbies, such as piano and chess.

I’ve also been tutoring online since 2012, so I am used to the ins and outs of virtual teaching, and the monthly or so inquiries from new students on those two topics.

About a month into the lock-downs, my phone started buzzing noticeably more with inquiries about taking both piano and chess lessons. Overall, requests increased about 300 percent. In addition, for the first time, people were asking for lessons twice weekly instead of just once.

Also, the number of adults from around the country looking for these lessons increased about 75 percent. Older people expressed a wish to add to whatever they might remember from childhood lessons, and some started these topics from scratch.

Under pre-pandemic conditions, all piano teachers knew the struggle of convincing most families to prioritize music lessons over sports and dance. Certainly, the plight of chess teachers was the same. But since most of those other activities temporarily vanished, the influx continued to grow along with many individuals’ ongoing availability.

I found it both inspiring and touching that introspection led so many to reach out for creative outlets related to the arts to fill their time and perhaps also make previously lost dreams come true. It signifies the fact that there are many interests people would like to visit, but when over-scheduled, they are helpless to do anything about it. Once they “found time”, they recognized this void and took action.

During lessons, naturally I chat with my students and we get to know each other a bit. It’s been sad to see the loneliness in some of the children, who express missing being apart from their classmates and in-person teachers. One seven-year old boy, a chess student in this case, shared how it made him upset when he kept hearing the phrase, “We’re all in this together”. He said, “We are NOT together. That’s the whole problem.” I certainly couldn’t argue with that insight, so I complimented him on his analytical thinking and lent my heartfelt sympathy.

So, during the past year which held all sorts of turmoil, I’ve given numerous piano and chess lessons to adults near the fires in California, those within cities under great duress, and to those under quarantine or in serious lock-down mode.

I’m also a certified life coach, and one particular tool I use, the Balance Wheel of Life. reveals most new clients to be sorely lacking in the “Hobbies” or “Creativity” section. This pandemic uptick in requests shows that people, when given a chance to reflect, are indeed aware of what is lacking in their life without external guidance.

As things have begun to open up, the flow of requests is normalizing, and many no longer can fit these luxuries in their schedules. People are going out and getting busy again; team sports and group activities are back. A more standard work schedule is returning for many. Once again, chess and music will play “second fiddle”.

But I found it uplifting that for that not-so-brief, crazy time, people were looking inside themselves. The passion and need for artistic outlets showed. We can rest assured that the connection to music and creative thinking is still built into our design, regardless if at times it lies dormant or hidden.

It’s just that “time” thing…

Stay healthy and safe!

Chess Fantasy a Reality in 2021

My chess book has grown into a middle grade chess fantasy. Querying begins this March.

Twelve-year old Princess Cassie, child of Mars and chess goddess Kaissa, escapes to New York City when a war is waged against Chess Mountain. Disguised as a mortal student in a chessy classroom, Cassie befriends humans and thwarts a bully while struggling to find the only solution that can solve her kingdom’s conflict.

In My Own Little Corner Cell

Practicing social distancing to the max, but can’t complain about the view from my turret cell in East Tennessee.

I’ve received positive and helpful feedback on my book, yet it still has not found a home.

To rewrite, or not to rewrite; that is the question.

The answer may be somewhere in-between doing and not doing.

But Yoda might disagree. 🤔


Grandmasters and Grapes

Ah, to be remembered for grandmasters and grapes,
for Narnia and philosopher-scientists,
for St. Exupery and our avian companions on Earth,
for spreading chess fever to help us find our voice –
Thank you for this reminder
of the true curriculum I am meant to bestow as your guide –
yes, a teacher in disguise!
Still striving to take unstained out of this world…my panache!

Grandmasters and Grapes
A generous ode written about me (VWG) by a 4th-grade student