“Checkmate,” said Mr. M. I looked down at the battlefield of knights and pawns with awe and frustration. I had lost again, but I was getting better.
“Good game, Mr. M.,” I said as I stood up. “Well, I guess I’d better be getting back to class.”
“All right,” he said. “See you sixth period.”
Paul M. was my eighth grade science teacher. I learned a lot in his classroom that year but most was taught over a game of chess during homeroom, and the lessons were not about science but about growing up. Four years later, I still remember and apply these lessons in my life.
First, I learned that even a lowly pawn, when maneuvered right, can become a queen. I never really had high self-esteem in middle school. I wasn’t popular and I didn’t do well in my classes. Through the talks with Mr. M. my feelings about myself began to change. He introduced me to things I was good at, like chess, he gave me advice about peer relations, and he helped me in school. I learned that I, like the pawn, could accomplish many great things.
Second, I learned that it wasn’t a good idea for me to trade my queen for a knight. At that moment in my life, I was making poor choices. My grades were not up to par, and I was fighting with my parents a lot. Mr. M. taught me to make better decisions about the future and not to sacrifice the good that I had in life for petty gains.
Third, I learned that the three-move checkmate seldom works. I was very impatient in the eighth grade. I gave little time to anything of importance, which usually resulted in shoddy work. Mr. M. taught me that, just as in chess, the only way to accomplish anything in life is through planning ahead and patience.
Mr. M. gave me numerous life skills. I can easily say that with the self-confidence, decision-making skills, and patience Mr. M. taught me, life will never put me in checkmate.