Coach’s Perspective: Fair Lawn Week 3
Hello students and parents of the ICA community. My name is Alessandro and I am a coach at our summer camp this year. All of you know what an enriching experience our camp is for the campers, but you may not realize how much the coaches gain from being with all of the wonderful students of the ICA each day throughout the summer. To show you the wonderful but often unconsidered perspective of the educator, I will write a report for each week of camp that I experience. This will not be like the normal weekly reports that describe the generally notable events of each week and the winners of the many prizes we offer; rather, I will choose several illuminating examples of just what it means to be an ICA coach from each week and share them with you.
Welcome to the second article in our new Coach’s Perspective series. If you missed the first one, you can find it here (please link). This week I have two new examples of how teaching the children of the ICA has inspired me or taught me something. The first came up first thing Monday morning. As fellow coach Justin was still away at a big chess tournament he played in during the weekend, I was tasked with taking his group as well as my own for that day during our morning lessons. For the first half of the lesson, I struggled to teach two groups on two different levels. Furthermore, Justin’s students were not cooperating as they kept conversing over me and laughing about their conversation even as I repeatedly told them to stop. Meanwhile, my student, who was doing different work because he was a much stronger player than Justin’s students, often made unhelpful noises and comments. Going into the mid-morning snack-break, I was already irritated and had no idea how I would get through the second half of the lesson, much less teach anyone much that day. As we watched the kids eat snack, I asked longtime coach David for advice. He suggested I make up something to spark their imagination. For example, he was a “chess wizard” in his class. It sounded ridiculous to me, but, lacking any other ideas, I tried it. My classroom became a laboratory and we became chess scientists for the day. To my surprise, this strategy garnered far more attention than normal tactics. When my group returned to its normal size the following day I abandoned my wizard hat, but the fact that this idea, which I considered silly, could be so interesting to children has stuck with me.
Another impactful moment this week reminds me how lucky I am to be so close to the ICA. Throughout the week, a young lady who had come from Connecticut for a week to attend camp had asked me for a game several times. Given the busy nature of our camp, there is rarely time for a casual game like this. The fact that she was so eager to play me, especially when there were so many other people near her level, surprised me at first. Towards the end of the week, however, I realized that perhaps she did not have the opportunity to work with strong players like the ICA coaches at home. Thankfully, we managed to fit in a game between rounds of the traditional end-of-week blitz-bughouse competition. This situation reminded me of how lucky I am to be an instructor (and a student) at the ICA.