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Chess CCA - Hitler Style

First day of Chess CCA today. So what's a CCA? Co-curricular activity. All teachers much be involved in CCAs during the year. It's part of the job. No, we don't get paid to run or be involved in a CCA. It's the expectation like being on duty during lunch.

What happened today, was a near train wreck. Like, it was close to an absolute meltdown. I'm glad I was able to laugh about it during and after. Initially I had 41 students sign up for chess club. I thought, cool. That sounds fun. And I had another teacher to help me with it, Dan. He teaches Social Studies. I have Dan's daughter Phoebe in one of my classes. Very cool young lady. Dan is also a chess enthusiast. We got together and made some plans for day one of chess club. We collaborated in an online form to collect data from our club members to find out where they are with ability and experience. Everything we planned disappeared in a minutes. * Poof *

Before this was supposed to start I got my room ready. I had an empty period at the end of the day. Perfect. I got my QR code ready so kids could go directly to the online form. Made sure I had the chess boards out so kids could play. Next was to print out a roster so I could take attendance and have a form to collect some information on. And then reality set in... there were forty one names on the list. Twenty one of those names were third grade and lower. Six first graders. Nine second graders. Six third graders. I was about to have twenty one elementary students in my room at once. Mostly of them likely know nothing about chess. Uh oh.

I head back to my email to see what's there giving me some guidance. I know I didn't read all the details but I vaguely remember something about going to pick up my CCA kids. Wait. I have to go get them? They won't be coming to me? I've witnessed elementary teachers leading their classes around in a long line like a mother duck and her ducklings. I've never done this. Suddenly it strikes me that I'm about to be so far in over my head. Like, WAY in over my head. Thank god that I'll have a bunch of ten and eleven year olds to lean on for some stability. Yeah, read that again. That's about to be my reality. There are six kids of the forty one that are in what we would call high school. Again, uh oh.

I head to the gym to go get my kids. I got there super early hoping to have a quick chat with Filipe (CCA) director. Luckily, there he was. I handed him my clipboard with the print out. He looks at it and says, "yeah?" Dude? Would they ever have a regular classroom with twenty one mixed first second and third graders in it? You know? With an EXPERIENCED primary school teacher? Is that realistic? I was thinking about maybe some middle school kids. This is not what I expected. He looks at me like, yeah, this could be tough. Reality set in for him fairly quickly when they all showed up. Here's what I was staring down. Oh, and Filipe grabs my clipboard and circles two names. He tells me Noah and Henry can't be in the same room. Why? He says one will stab the other with a bishop. I'm not kidding. Okay.

Hold me. I scared. I'm not kidding. I tell primary school teachers all the time that I think they're brave. I had other teachers approach me and ask me, are these all yours? Do you have some help? Dan was supposed to be here too, but was nowhere to be seen. And then all the extra kids started showing up. We ended up with forty seven kids. Excuse me, sir. Are you okay. No. Im not okay. And then Teresa (primary teacher in the picture above on the left) grabs my arm. Henry and Noah can't be in the same room. Got it. I've been told.

Mine is not to reason why. Mine is but to do or die. I should have taken the time to sign that will before coming to China. Sorry Moira. My bad. In the front of my line there's a little girl looking up at me with nothing but love in her heart just asking with her eyes if I'll love her back. Ahhhhh. That was cute. That's why primary teachers like their job. I took my place as mother duck and my ducklings followed as they're trained to do so. Before we leave the gym another person tells me about Noah and Henry. Are we talking Bloods and Crypts here? Walking up two flights of stairs I'm wondering, are they all really following in the back of the line? WT absolute F happens when I get to the door of my room? Hey kids, whip out your cell phones and scan the QR code. Ummmm. Not happening. We get there and Dan shows up. We make eye contact. He immediately gets it. Were in trouble. He just gets it. I'm looking in a mirror. His face and mine are the same. I'm not thrilled with the look in the mirror. I acted quickly.

We have two classrooms. I stopped the line outside my door. One kid at a time I try to find out who can play and who can't. I direct those that can play to the second room and tell Dan to take the boards. I'll give him the players and I'll take the ones with no chess knowledge. He specifically asks if he can take Henry. I guess I get Noah. Look at me throwing myself on the sword and saving Dan from the chaos that's about to erupt. You're welcome Dan. When you speak of me, speak well.

I ended up with about twenty players in my room. I have five groups of tables. I put four at each. No chess board or pieces. I run to the other room and tell Dan I need five sets. He looks at me and says we don't have enough sets. Screw that, I'm taking five sets. He gets it. I grab the sets and head back to the lion's den. Hey. David and the lions. Cool. Wait, was that David? Daniel? Whatever. I'm about to be eaten alive. I know it.

I put a set at each table and they go nuts. Pieces are bouncing onto the floor. Some kids start attempting to set up chess boards. One girl was hiding under a table. Literally. She was planning to jump out an scare me. Oh yeah. High level seniors do that all the time. Another day in the life. I'm standing in the front of the room. The noise is crazy. So I raise my hand in the air and say "please raise your hand if you're listening to me". No hands go up. I try again and get a couple up. We stand there saluting the chess gods and being ignored by most of the feral gerbils in my room. I say it again. A few more hands. I'm stubborn. I wait. Eventually all the hands go up and it's quiet. Now what? I wasn't prepared for this. With my hand in the air I start talking. Oddly enough their hands are still in the air. It's quiet. I run with it. With my continuing Heil Hitler pose I introduce myself and describe the situation. We're going to try to learn the pieces one piece at a time. Pawns first. Did we have all the pawns? Of course not. By this time I can see why Dan wanted Henry. Noah is the kid from the Omen. He's a devil. I head next door to get some pawns so we can start learning about chess. On my way back two boys come running at me yelling Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! Noah said a bad word. Seriously? Okay. I take Noah out to the bench in the hallway. I sit him down and tell him to stay like a bad puppy. I get back to my room and we get the pawn down. Two kids on each side of the board. We start the rook. Hey, we're learning chess. Have a peek.

Noah? Crap. Forgot about him. I head back out and he's laying flat on the bench. We have a talk. I give him some expectations. Does he want to come back and try again? Yes. Let's see how this goes.

We introduce all the pieces besides the king and queen. How the hell did that happen? By holding my Hitler pose while trying to gain their attention. Whatever. It worked. We now have to figure how to start the duck train again and get these kids to a bus or their parents. I take the bus crew. Dan takes the parent brigade. Somehow I ended up with two kids that don't ride a bus in my line. I take them to the other side of campus and learn about waiting for parents, and what I'm supposed to do if they don't show up. That happens? Yeah. I'm told daily. My two tiny ducklings get nabbed and I'm free. I've survived. I head back to my classroom to put away all the boards and think about what just happened. What do we do next week? Dan and I exchange some WeChat notes about what to do next week. We need some more chess boards. We contacted Filipe.

I'm exhausted. I'm headed to bed. Goodnight moon. I hope you found some schadenfruede joy in my day.

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Mike Durkee
Mike Durkee
Oct 15, 2022

There is a reason we chose high school and not the lower grades. There is a special place in the afterlife for elementary teachers. I have zero concept as to how they do it. You are a much braver man than I.


Wow. Good Halloween story. Are there any older students who could help? Wish you well next week!

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