30 July 2012

Chess Camp, Day 1

I will go hoarse by the week's end, I'd be willing to bet a month's Volunteer Living Allowance.

Today I taught all the rules of chess five times to five small groups of kids ages 10-12.  It really is the perfect age to learn chess: one is mature enough to sit quietly to learn and study the game (or at the very least feign interest), smart enough to capture all the rules in under an hour, and yet young enough to just have fun moving the pieces in unsophisticated fashions around the board.  And the fun for me comes from the one student in each group that shows a genuine interest in the dynamics of the game and the intellectual appeal.  It's especially rewarding to me to be handed the opportunity to, once in my life, pass down the knowledge and experience of something that means so much to me.  On average, in each group of four students, one student was especially interested and showed promise in the further development of his/her abilities, two more students expressed real enjoyment of the game and a desire to play further, and the last student just played along.  But you can be sure of this: 23 more young people in St. Kitts now know how to play Chess than did yesterday. 

As expected, after failing to gather enough (i.e. any) volunteers for my planned training session last week, the Chess demonstration board that I specifically requested for this pursuit did not come through.  Instead, I was relegated to my own oversized vinyl set for teaching the kids how to move and such.  Not that this was a problem for four kids and one adult huddled around a table; I was just careful to not allow them to play on my set after I was done teaching them.  *Shudder* I can still feel their icky school-aged hands all over my chess set.  And also as expected, the money for gourmet catered lunches from Neville's Eatery did not come in, so my lunch today was limited to two hot dogs.  Still, at 1 o'clock and after (essentially) lecturing for three hours at that point, it was delicious!

As not expected, we've had a minor weather system move in from the East, and it was Rainy Rainy Windy Windy all day.  This means that the planned outdoor games in the afternoon was halted.  And you, as wise readers, can extrapolate what that means for 23 young persons' energy levels.  Much like the rain in some places, they were through the roof.  Also not entirely expected, with the apparent dearth of volunteers, I was usually on my own in the Chess classroom, and there were only a handful of volunteers manning the Games room across the hall; one of the planners stopped by only very briefly in the morning and left again, much to the UWI director's consternation.  I'm still not sure what sort of miscommunication went on there, but suffice to say that if we hadn't had a recently dubbed young teacher come by and handle the students that afternoon, I don't expect that anyone would have.

It made for an exciting day, and I really look forward to the progress each of these students will make, particularly tomorrow when we discuss Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate, and the students get to play through their first real match.

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