The U.S. Chess Trust provided chess equipment to Ryan Academy High School – a move that helped these new chess players find wisdom in chess play. This is what their teacher, Lisa Suhay, had to say.
Each day at a small private school in Norfolk I teach four courses: 12th Grade British Literature; 9th grade composition; journalism and creative writing. The breakthrough tool, however, was the game of chess.
I went into the classroom with three boards, a set of descriptions of each piece as a character (knight, king, queen, bishop, pawn/soldier, castle/rook) and a very crazy teaching plan.
Students in all my classes would learn to play. No excuses.
Results were immediate and dramatic. My discipline problems pretty much evaporated. Students with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia were transformed into chess-a-holics. Those who previously were labeled by themselves and others as least likely to succeed were suddenly winners.
Since we had nearly 40 players we formed the school’s first chess club. I applied to the U.S. Chess Trust in Walkill, NY and the Virginia Scholastic Chess Association in Richmond for aid in the form of more chess boards. The U.S. Chess Trust agreed to supply boards so we can keep all the students in play. The U.S. Chess Trust also featured our school on its national website.
Then I set them all to the task of writing Chessays (chess essays): “How is chess like life?” Those essays are piled beside me as I write and from them shines a light so bright it brings tears to my eyes.
“I am a pawn in the board of life. My power is limited. A lot of times people see me as the weakest piece, but what they don’t know is someday I will be the strongest. Pieces, known as my family and friends, fall around me but the only thing I can do is move forward,” wrote one 16-year-old. “Like a Raisin in the sun, my dream was deferred. My King had fallen. It felt like the game was over…”
An 18-year-old girl wrote, “Life is not an easy game to play…There is not one smile that is permanent. Love comes and goes. Heartache is a deleterious emotion that can make our ways of thinking very destructive. This is our battle.”
It’s chess, but they’re not just playin’ anymore.