The ChessTech 2020 conference organized by ChessPlus in December 2020 attracted over 500 participants from more than 40 countries. Jerry Nash had the opportunity to lead a question-and-answer session on the first day of the conference with Principal Salome Thomas-EL of the Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware. This is Part 4 of a 4-part series featuring his responses to various questions regarding his background in education and his belief in the power of chess as an educational tool.
Q – Anything else you would share in terms of the outreach you’ve been able to have beyond your school with chess as this academic tool?
Number one, when I first started teaching chess, we did have an active chess in schools program out of New York City, which was a tremendous support for me. And then we had an affiliate in the Philadelphia area. We had chess masters and grandmasters who were coming into schools and working and I had one who came into my school. And I sort of used that as a blueprint. We don’t have enough of those masters who can come in, but we have accomplished and experienced players. And as you know, Jerry, if we teach these teachers to play chess, right, they become advocates.
The issue I found for me is that with chess, students can teach themselves after a while. They begin to study and work. They can teach themselves. And so, chess doesn’t require the classroom to be teacher-centered. It takes a very confident teacher to run a classroom where I’m not at the center of the classroom. So maybe in our messaging we have to get principals, school leaders, and teachers to understand that you learn the game and get on board because you’re going to be a novice in that classroom as that student was at one time. But it actually improves their teaching skills. As you know, I have worked for years with the First Move chess program in the United States, and we’re getting chess in elementary schools all over the country. So it can be done and it will be done, we just have to be as resilient as these students become when they start playing chess.
Because the important issue – final point – is that building resilient students is not about teaching them how to become successful. Jerry, it’s about teaching them how to respond when they’re NOT successful. And that’s what chess teaches every child.