Chess Club Stories Part One
Bigger and Stronger than I
In 2001 I went to Lyndon State college for a year. During winter break I had the opportunity to visit the old middle school where I attended the seventh and eighth grades.
When I was a student it was hell. I had some difficulties that led to me being temporarily suspended and when I was fully mainstreamed in the eigth grade I really needed an incentive to stay there. The teachers in the resource room were awful, the bullying continued and it was ignored. The only time the principal acknowledged my existence was to give me a detention for some supposed infraction when others got away with murder.
So why did I go back there? Why did I go back now that I had a choice? So I could spend a Friday afternoon at Mr. Flight's chess club. During the middle school years it was all that got me through the week and during the last three weeks of my winter break I had a chance to go back and see him again. Mr. Flight was happy to see me and many of the teachers and staff that knew me as a student were glad to see an alumni taking an interest in the school's activities.
I wanted to work with kids something fierce back then. I figured there was always going to be kids like me who get kicked in the ribs and are expected to be grateful for it. And if those kids needed someone to talk to I wanted to be the impartial third party that wasn't receiving a paycheck from the school board and knew how hard it was to be a student at this school.
It's one thing I think a lot of people forget when they're no longer in school and a part of the working world. There are two kinds of logic. Adult Logc and School Logic. Like a game of chess, Adult Logic is based on very rigid rules that never change and that they don't even live up to half of the time. School Logic is much the same but its' being molded and guided by those who use adult logic.
When a kid comes to you with a problem, say it's bullying, you're first instinct is probably to tell him,
"Just ignore it. Then he'll get bored and go away."
Well, that very adult logic works if you're able to get away from the bully regularly. But if you have to go back to school every single day to deal with that same kid, ignoring it just doesn't cut it. Not when school logic says that if the teacher or the principal didn't see it, then you won't get in trouble. The bully doesn't care if you acknowledge him or not, he's going to keep on pounding you until either, A: He gets caught is punished accordingly. B: His victim is injured permanently or commits suicide, or C: Snaps and does something that horribly damages his life and future. Use your imagination. It's happened all ready.
When it comes right down to it a kid needs someone he can tell about his fears. Someone who is an adult, but doesn't expect Adult Logic to solve the problem. You need to be above their level functionally while communicating at theirs and that's the problem most adults run into.
"What grade are you in?" A boy named Luke asked as I played against another student. He was short, pudgy with curly brown hair and glasses. At the time I didn't know his name.
"I'm actually a freshman in college," I said, looking at him as I spoke but keeping one eye on the game board.
"You're lucky then. You don't have to go here."
I knew the sentimate and from his tone my heart ached for him. Earlier I had overheard him telling another kid in the chess club how an eigth grader had knocked him over in the hallway in between classes. When I heard this and I had first seen Luke I had a sudden flash to when I was in the seventh grade and a student had done the exact same thing to me.
"Hey, put that back," I said as Billy, my opponent, tried to arrange the pieces to put me in checkmate. He smiled mischeviously and returned the pieces to the right place. Billy won the game fair and square and I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play against Luke.
"So how as your week?" I asked him, hoping he'd be willing to tell me what's bugging him.
"Bad." He sighed glancing at me with a look I knew all too well. "I keep thinking that when I'm in eighth grade it will get easier."
"Yeah, I use to think the same thing," I told him honestly,opening with my King's pawn. "Then I became a Freshman in highschool and it started all over again."
We chatted for a while, barely concentrating on the game. He explained how he had to hold in a whizz the whole day because the bathrooms are too nasty.
"I get to use the staff bathroom because I'm visually impaired," He said. "Big deal. But what about the other kids who have to put up with the same thing? How does that help them?"
"Well that's something in your favor," I said, seeing myself in this kid once more. "I mean you get bullied and harrassed, but you show concern for other people. That makes you a way stronger person than they are."
He shrugged and gave a half smile. I don't if it really helped but the very next week he seemed a lot happier and more focused on the game. And that's the biggest reason for going back to the middle school. To find myself and make me feel like I have a chance in hell of surviving.