The Day I Learned Chess

There I sat, tensed up in a chair outside my elementary school library. Why did I volunteer for this? I thought to myself. The image of Mr. Traller popped into my head, and what happened to his daughter. My friend Josh and I were tasked with running and organizing the elementary school chess club.

The thought passed through my head again, “you are in way over your head.” Two seventh grade students running a club of kids only a couple years younger than us. The only help we received was a single parent volunteer. We don’t know how to lead, how to teach chess, or how to make sure kids behave. I don’t even know how to act, according to my parents.

Briiiiing! The bell rang excusing class for the day. I yearned for that sound most days. However, things were different. Old and new faces show up eager to learn chess. “Where’s Mr. Traller.” They inquired?

“He’s not running the club anymore,” we told them, hoping they didn’t know what he went through. His daughter contracting a rare form of cancer had taken up too much time to run the club. “You’re stuck with us instead,” we tell them jokingly

10 minutes passed, and the trickle in of kids stopped. We led them into the library where we they sat quietly. My palms sweating profusely as I walked to the front of the group. I rehearsed what I planned to say in front of all the kids in my head the entire day. “Welcome to chess club everyone, most of you are expecting Mr. Traller to lead the club, but he can’t commit to the club every day so Josh and I will help lead the club.” Done. I exhale loudly and let josh take over. Josh gave a quick lesson explaining what each chess piece does while I drifted around the room, helping those with questions, and keeping kids focused. Then we let the reigns off and let all the kids play chess for the remaining hour of the club. That is how I spent most of my time, watching games, giving advice, and making sure kids stay focused.

Josh and I continued to run Chess club all through middle school. The kids started to open us more as we saw them each week. I began to be respected more, and I began to relax more and more. I was able to open up and help kids better as I was no longer as nervous

You see a whole new world when you are responsible for others, I watched friend groups form, kids excluded. There are those with a smile on their face and honest excitement in their voice, but there are kids who roll their eyes and yawn. I learned how to lead groups and make sure everything runs smoothly.

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