It’s usually a humbling experience when somebody comes along and succeeds with ease where you have already failed miserably. But sometimes you need a little humility to get to a place of deeper understanding.
Way back at the end of September, I tried to introduce chess to the SKs. I played up the thrilling warfare angle, created backstories to help explain the way the pieces moved, and generally did my best to sell the students on a complex and exciting game of strategy. One month later, the boards were gathering dust and the knights were being used as “guys” in LEGO castles.
But then a Grade 5 student came along. She had recently read a book called The Queen of Katwe, which chronicled the life of a poor rural Ugandan girl whose love of chess helped her pull herself out of poverty and set her on the path to becoming a world-class Grandmaster. Inspired by the story, she decided that her leadership project would be to teach chess to the little ones in Kindergarten. So she recruited a few friends, hunted down some extra boards, and started coming every Friday at lunch.
The first visit from the Grade 5s was at the start of January. And with only a few visits, these student leaders have inspired almost half the SK kids to pick up the game and give it a try. The class now cheers when they see “Chess Club” on the daily schedule, and pick-up games during free choice time have become a common sight.
For me, watching these Grade 5s succeed where I had failed has reminded me that the Official Teacher Voice of Authority just can’t compete with joyful enthusiasm from a fellow student. Peer teaching is a powerful tool, and I feel so fortunate to have ended up at a school where it emerges and grows in an organic and authentic way.