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The Chess Warrior Print E-mail
By Alan Kantor   
August 6, 2008
(Clockwise from top) Michael McTaggart, Matthew McTaggart, and Jonathan Ballew creating a chess table for a local elementary school. Photo by Paul Sausville
Chess is like life. There are many things about chess that can emulate life. An amazing program has been going on in Cleveland, Tennessee, for five years and seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Paul Sausville has shown to be a positive influence in a child’s life as a teacher at the Ocoee Middle School in Cleveland. He has created and developed a curriculum that is helpful and relevant to students. His “Chess Education” has developed from a related arts class reaching out to about 800 students. It even has branched out to a summer program called “The King’s Academy.”

He starts out the school year introducing the pieces which he calls character education.  This is where real life comes into play. “Is a chess game really that important compared to life issues?” Mr. Sausville asked in class. Some of the children who really like chess shout out, “Yes!” When it comes down to it there are other issues to deal with. So as he teaches about the chess pieces he is also giving the children a character education.

For example, each piece is given a character trait: a pawn is a little engine that could. It tries so hard to get across the board and to protect the other pieces like the king. The knight stands for creativity demonstrated by the “L-shape” style of movement. The bishop lends support to the rest of the pieces. The rook is a strong protector and lends confidence. The queen is a risk taker and a leader across the board. Lastly, the king is humble and a quiet leader.

He ties in many examples from real life to his chess program like stories and movies related to real people. The children would watch a movie about Mahatma Gandhi. A worksheet would be handed out on some of his characteristics and the class would be asked to relate parts of the movie to the characters of the chess pieces. Although this did not start out as a chess class, Sausville is a chess lover and brings chess into the classroom.

He teaches character education through chess. He will get the children to be like the chess pieces. Like the pawns, the children are expected to keep trying. Since the knights are creative, the children need to keep thinking. The bishops resemble teamwork and need to keep together. Boys and girls have to keep believing in themselves and exhibiting confidence in themselves like the rook shows.

In life, they should show leadership and take risks like the queen does. Finally, humility is a valuable character trait in the king and just as the king has other pieces helping, we as people need to keep asking and keep sharing.

His knightly code of conduct involves teaching his students responsibility, respect, giving, truth, courage, love, inspiration, instruction, and creating opportunity for others. Before one of the chess lessons he elaborated about telling the truth. It is just amazing how he combines life’s related activities with chess. The children respond to the easy-going manner of their teacher as they try and follow every word he has to say. Most of them are eager to play when they can but for the most part they are encouraged by the wisdom of his teaching.

There are so many activities that Sausville brings to the classroom that it really is an amazing thing. He even combines community involvement. A number of the children built chess tables from scratch with money for the materials donated from local sponsors. The chess tables were then given to some elementary schools to give them the enjoyment of playing the royal game.

As Sausville mentioned, “It all connects. What I do in chess is not just in the classroom. It is beyond.” He expects his chess program to continue to grow as he is always coming up with new ideas. The Ocoee Middle School is proud to have a teacher like Mr. Sausville helping the children of Tennessee!