First, This series is beautiful and every man, woman and child should watch it. Second, it is highly likely you will miss one of the most important lessons from the series.
Because I am known as a Chess Fan and Coach, I have received countless texts, emails and phone calls about this series. People want to know what I think. I think this series is brilliant. It beautifully highlights a struggle we all have. How to balance passion and purpose. As Beth, the main character, advances her Chess dominance, she burns through relationships.
And this is the lesson that you might miss. Ultimately, we see that in Chess and in life, we perform at our best when we are connected in service to others. When you watch or re-watch this series, pay attention to how the people in Beth's life give her power and balance. People are literally her "high." This is a lesson she has to learn. The Game is a metaphor for a battle that happens within us.
I encourage you to watch "Avoid Isolation" and read chapter "Flock Together" Session 6 in Character Chess. Relationships are key to your success. Nurture and develop them. Life Is Chess. Make The Right Moves.
"Chess is Life. Word is bond." Harlan B. Hodge
I'm feeling so 80's right now. I just found this video I shot for the World Chess Hall of Fame last year. They did an exhibit on the relationship between Chess and Hip Hop. My good friend Adisa Bankjo of the Hip Hop Chess Federation was instrumental in the installation (http://www.hiphopchessfederation.org/). I was invited to share my ideas on the relationship between the two seemingly unrelated topics. Ironically, there are many connections. I share one historic example that should make you laugh a little.
I have had this problem lately. I have been bumping into myself. Everywhere I go, I seem to be in my own way. I can't seem to get anything accomplished because I'm running in three or four different directions. Have you ever experienced that?
In Chess, the Pawns are aligned in front of the major pieces. The Pawns must be moved first before the Bishops, Rooks or Queen can get into the game. For new players, this is often an irritation. It seems that our development is being suppressed by these little meaningless pawns. In reality, these pawns serve a very important purpose. One of these is that they protect us from ourselves.
Pawns move one step at a time and they always move forward. The other pieces have the option of moving backwards. This is not the case with Pawns. They cannot be jumped over except by the Knight, but that's for a different lesson.
Here's the point, you are the chess player and every piece has its role. Good players master the small steps first. Once we learn master pawn movement, then we are prepared to bring out the more valuable pieces. In my life, I am a very good facilitator. Of all the things I do well, this is probably the most effective thing I do with the least amount of effort. On the road to mastery, one practices a single activity or action until it becomes second nature. Once you reach that level of automation, you can graduate to improvisation.
My advice to you is to do the small the things so well that they disappear. When your effort is reduced to effortless, you have move out of your own way, until tomorrow.
I have often said, "anything is isolation is dead or dying." While this is a true statement, it may not be the most positive expression of our current reality.
This short film got it right. We are interdependent. We need to recognize our reliance on each other. Next, we need to take action toward action that reinforces that belief. This is an example of how we do it.
While this may seem to most "yet another Chess movie," I assure you it is not. Life of a King is more closely related to the movie, "Fresh." These movies use the game to discuss the deeper challenges facing the most vulnerable population in America. They invite people who are disconnected from these issues to use the game as a portal of understanding. The story portrayed in Life of a King could have been told without any mention of the game of Chess. Mr. Brown's redemption is played out in urban neighborhoods every day. We could have exchanged the game of Chess with basketball, golf, tennis, football or any other tool used by a responsible motivated adult to mentor lost youth.
Yet, America seems to be more receptive to and in need of a different perspective on black youth. Yes, these kids have brains, soul, heart and character. This is a movie which highlights all of the above. The Life of a King is anchored by an enduring hope in the goodwill and potential of children. When many have lost hope in this generation of children, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr., this movie is a needed reminder of what is missing; a champion for hope.
No, this movie is not filled with the high intensity and hyper realism so popular today. And I am grateful for that. As a matter of fact, I was so grateful for the throwback 60's track that opens up the movie. It's a foreshadowing message that the answer to today's problem might not be something new. It might not require computers, or high stakes testing. It might not involve a "New School Transformation Model for Student Empowerment Through Advanced Study and Understanding with STEM." It might just involve men with passion getting involved with their neighborhood boys. It might just be a character development initiative. Maybe, it's just that simple.
“Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness, Only Light Can Do That” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Antoinette Tuff is a counter narrative to the National Riffle Association (NRA). After the Sandyhook tragedy, the leadership of the NRA made the following statement, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun in a good guy with a gun.” Well, now we know something different.
On Tuesday of this week, God found it fitting to show our nation and the world the power of love. On that Tuesday morning a heavily armed man enters an elementary school ready to wage havoc. It was surely to be another school tragedy that ended with innocent children and adults massacred on school grounds. However, a miracle was in the works through an unarmed “good woman” aptly named Mrs. Tuff.
As fate would have it, the would be killer was met face to face with a loving and faith-filled school worker who skillfully negotiated the situation and saved the lives of countless people. She calmed the shooter; empathized with his situation; assured him of his value and ultimately showed him a love that would eventually save his life. By all accounts Mrs. Tuff is a true American Hero.
I have always struggled with a commonly accepted belief. It goes something like this, “if someone comes into your home to do you harm. You are justified in harming them.” This is the belief that has ignited the proliferation of hand guns in homes. Many of my friends and family members have bought hand guns and are prepared to use deadly force on any intruder that enters their home.
We have been training for this day for three weeks. "30-07-26. Right-Left-Right. Do it again. And again...and one more time. What's your combination? What's your locker number?" We did the schedule run through a dozen times; clocking how long it will take to get from the locker to each classroom. We practiced this first day of school thing a million times and still this morning was a chaotic mess. He was late for the bus. He forgot his glasses. He used the right combination on the wrong locker and was late to his first class. This morning was exactly what the first day of Middle School is supposed to be.
I am a father, husband, uncle and chess coach. These are four of my favorite titles. However, fathering is an obsession for me. My son's school has always been "our place." PTA meetings, fundraisers, class parties, literacy nights, field trips, and after school Chess Club, of course, I'm there! So, quite naturally, the first day of school is an event for the entire family. Today is the kick off to another year of impossible challenges that always seem to become possible as time passes.
Just like the first move in the game of Chess. I always anticipate a great battle with hard losses, tough decisions and sacrifices. Yet, as the game progresses, the patterns appear and the logic prevails. One usually finds a rhythm that helps him make the tough choices and keep things moving towards the goal.
As I stood in the hall helping my son open the right locker, I look around for a moment and realize that there were several parents having similar challenges with their new middle schoolers. I paused and inhaled the moment. As my son ran off to class, I helped a few other kids open their lockers, "right-left-right" before I proudly left the building. I'm sure, the boy will remember his glasses tomorrow. He will get to the bus stop on time. And soon, he will learn how to open his locker in a reasonable period of time. I trust that we will find our rhythm soon.
Congrats to all the dad's who walked, drove or followed your kids bus to school like me today.
I am very excited to announce that we have been selected to share Character Chess at the 7th Annual Gathering of Leaders in Chicago. The gathering is sponsored by The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC). The focus of this years conference is to encourage literacy among Boys of Color. More information about the gathering can be found at http://www.coseboc.org/annual-gathering.
Character Chess has been selected because of our work locally and nationally with Boys of Color in the area of character development and academic performance. We understand that academic performance is proceeded by a set of values. A value for self, others, hard work and the knowledge are just a few of these essential building blocks. Good character is the combination of values, which happens in the mind and heart, and a behavioral commitment to upholding those values. That happens in our actions. We have tried for too long to modify behavior before dealing with the foundational beliefs that shape behavior.
To expect a child to perform well in school when he has no commitment to actively participating, paying attention, completing assignments, working through frustration or exploring new things, is to wish for the nearly impossible. There are those that place the responsibility on teachers to be more engaging, more sensitive to learning styles and more diverse in their approach to achieve results with children. I believe we should have the highest stand for student performance as well. We chose to inspire student performance based on 7 character traits that produce results in school and life.
These performance values include:
This model has been practiced and proven by the KIPP Schools since 1994. It is based on the research findings of
Dr. Angela Duckworth, Dr. Chris Peterson, and Dr. Martin Seligman. However, this is not a new concept. It is the foundation upon which most American schools were founded. We are now returning to this commitment.
Therefore, it is fitting that our strategy for encouraging these values employs a game that stretches back at least 2,000 years. Chess has been used over the years to teach the values and strategies for being success and producing results. While the strategies have evolved as our societies have, the game remains relevant for today's purpose. Chess is the only game proven to improve focus, concentration, reading comprehension and social engagement.
Combining Character Education and the strategic challenges of Chess are a natural fit. We teach lessons of Character through the game of Chess. While students learn the basic rules and strategies of the game, they are challenged to extract the metaphoric lessons from the game and apply them to their lives.
Over the past 10 years, I have successfully used this technique to inspire and transform the academic, personal and professional lives of hundreds of students. I am excited for this opportunity to share these strategies with educators from around the country at the COSEBOC Gathering of Leaders. We are going to have a ton of fun exploring the intersection of character, chess and academic excellence.
In my Character Chess Sessions, I have the student do what we call a "Psycho-kinetic Read." It's like what your 4th grade teacher called a "popcorn read", but slightly different. I explain to the students that there is an invisible energy in the room that connects all of us to each other. That energy helps us to tune into each other and communicate without words. I explain to them that we will practice using this energy through our shared reading exercise. Here's how it works. I count down from five. At zero, one person in the room will just start reading without being called on. That person can read as much as they like. He can read two words or ten sentences. He just reads until he "feels" that he should stop based on the psycho-kinetic energy in the room. When he does stop, someone else will spontaneously will start reading when he "feels" it is his turn. I go on to tell the readers that it is common for two people to feel that it is their time at the same time. In this instance, much like two cars at a stop sign, someone must yield to avoid a wreck. This exercise requires a certain level of respect and kindness for the group to be successful.
The black community is falling to pieces. Time is out for sugar coating the truth. By every measure, the place we used to call the black community is in peril. Most would agree that at the core of this problem is the unraveling of the social fabric of this community. From broken family structures to lack of employment opportunities, there are a wide array of institutional failures to justify the tragic state of black America. The institutions of the black community have fallen apart. Families, neighbors, schools, social clubs, churches, and businesses are the backbone of any community. Without these institutions no community can thrive long.
Yet, what has led to this weakened social arrangement? I propose that the mortar between these social bricks has eroded. The very thing that holds masonry together is the mortar. Our communities mortar is the value we have for the institutions that sustain us. Our faith in and value for families, neighbors, schools, social clubs, churches, and black businesses has eroded. Since integration, we have placed tremendous value on all things not-black. My grandmother used to say, "we think white folks ice is colder." As a result of our unconscious buy "white" campaign we initiated "a don't buy anything black campaign." This has led to the massive erosion of value for all things black. For the sake of time, I will not make a list of examples. If you need them, just look out the window or walk down your street. Look for black men married to black women; or black businesses supported by black people, or black schools that black people want to attend, or black neighborhoods that black people want to live in. The lack or absence of any of these is evidence of the decline.
Here's the good news. Just like tuck pointing can save an old water damaged house, we can refill the gaps that exist in our social structure. It starts with restoring the value of our institutions. We must make a concerted effort to value blackness once again if we hope to save the people who belong to this community. We must restore a sense of honor and integrity to our institutions. That means holding each other in high regard. That means remembering the importance and value of marriage. That means seeing value in our neighbors and neighborhoods. That means supporting black businesses and organizations. In essence, to restore the black community we must do something that requires little to no money. We have to find value in her.
How do we begin? Every person who is concerned about the academic, financial, social, emotional and health disparities of black people has an opportunity to reengage their emotional connection to these issues. Much like our psycho-kinetic readers, you are connected to this cause whether you realize it or not. I encourage you to choose to feel the energy in the room. Re-sensitize yourself to the plight of children dying in the streets of Chicago. Re-sensitize yourself to the massive numbers of black men being locked away from their families. Re-sensitize yourself to the sexual health concerns plaguing black women. Allow yourself to feel the pain and hurt of these people in pain. Let that feeling guide your actions.
As my students practice the psycho-kinetic reading exercise, I see two amazing things happen every time. First, the children most unlikely to read suddenly become the most engaged readers. I have seen quiet boys and disengaged girls jump into the reading process. This results in shocked teachers and very happy students. Second, a community of trust and respect develops among the readers. Every person is empowered with the ability to halt or promote the process. Most students choose to use this power for good. As a result, the assumption of ill-will, a feeling of being disrespected, is replaced by an assumption of good-will, a feeling that we are in this together. This youthful demonstration should give us insight to what is possible if we choose to see value in each other.
I encourage you to join our movement to reignite the emotional fire in the black community. Visit www.resensitize.com and reconnect emotionally to the plight of hurting people.