It was time for the first set of parent-teacher conferences since chess had taken over my classroom. I was concerned that families might not understand that chess is not “just a game”, and I was prepared to prove important strides were being made in every subject, thanks to having the theme of chess in place for our enrichment.
Along with all my student data, I had my “chess helps students learn” statistics stacked in a folder by my side and did not attempt to hide the many chess posters, chess sets, and demo boards spread around the classroom.
Enter Mr. Z., a very serious looking parent who at first did not have a lot to say. I embarked on my elevator speech about his son, with appropriate compliments and observations on his scores in math and literacy. I went on to discuss ways to prepare for the state exams ahead and offered helpful tips for home activities.
I thought we were done, but Mr. Z. remained seated. He looked down and pressed his lips together as though there was still unfinished business.
And then it happened. He looked up and stared me right in the eye.
“My son tells me you play chess almost every day in this room.”
I unsuccessfully tried to repress my big sigh.
Then as practiced, I reached for my folder and began.
“Yes, this is true. Studies have shown…”
Mr. Z. interrupted, “Can you teach me this game?”
I stopped talking.
He continued, “I would like to play it with my son.”
It was at this point I realized the man was not about to criticize me.
I was (and am) still learning.
This conference of inspiration sparked my additional practice of holding parent workshops on chess, where not only were they taught the game with the help of their own children, but I could share my fervor in detail for the wonders it works in an academic setting. Never have I experienced anything but mutual enthusiasm in return. That evening I realized chess is also a pathway to improved relationships within and between families, a connector across all playing fields, and an ever-flowing source for this humble teacher’s continuing education.
Snippets of Parent Feedback After First Family Workshop