Those of us involved in chess like to think. We have an email group at Chess in Schools, and recently a member posted an article about connections between chess and mathematics. Specifically, it referred to Singapore and reported school math success there.
Having been in the public school educational system for 30 years now, there are so many differences between the two countries that it’s difficult to blindly say that Singapore is “better.” However, the article’s author did bring up an interesting point that piqued my interest and how it relates to chess. The article indicated they felt one of the reasons for Singapore’s success compared to the United States was because of the larger amount of professional development.
Professional Development. When you are a teacher, these two words cause your shoulders to slump. Not because teachers don’t want to stay on top of their game, but because the system is flawed. In short, PD is inserted into a teacher’s schedule as sort of an extra hurdle to jump over in the course of a school year. Teachers do not look forward to it. The game that happens is how can teachers use the time to decompress from the ultra-busy daily grind.
In the fall of 2021, I was fortunate to take the 20+ hours of Chess in Schools training from Jerry Nash. As a classroom teacher, I found it to be one of the best uses of professional development time in my career. Yes, admittedly I love chess. The game. The culture. The history. I got a lot of ideas on how to teach the game during Tuesday afternoon Chess Club. But as an experienced math teacher, I was also able to take Jerry’s lessons and apply them to how I would teach concepts in Algebra because everything about the game is higher-level thinking. And that is what I strive to accomplish each day. I was a history major in college and have experience as an English teacher. The benefits of learning how to teach chess will help every middle and high school educator, regardless of discipline. That I believe. For elementary teachers in a self-contained classroom, the benefits are even greater. With schedule flexibility, you can have chess be a station or rotation as part of your daily routine. And because of the added higher-thinking skills brought into your classroom, it will probably help your students see greater success in traditional areas such as reading, math, and writing.
But I caution districts who try to jam chess into a Friday afternoon PD window, not to use the full 20+ hour program. Teachers will see it as “just another PD activity.”