Students huddle around a black and white chess board analyzing the game. A financial literacy podcast plays in the background as they evaluate potential moves. Room B 208 is full of students at the end of the day, immersed in a podcast, homework or a game of chess.
Cedar Shoals economics teacher Robert Chatmon hopes that in hosting students after school he will teach students about life through chess and how to take advantage of our economic system.
“We’re dealing in a time where prices are super high, and they’ll soon start coming down. Kids need to understand market conditions, so that when they’re raising their families, they can take advantage of these times,” Chatmon said.
Chatmon uses the same motto, “Think before you move,” as Chess and Community, an Athens nonprofit. Founded by Lemuel “Life” LaRoche, Chess and Community prepares young people to “lead through community engagement and civic empowerment.” They use chess to teach youth to critically think and manage their impulsiveness. Chatmon hopes to extend their program to Cedar.
“Chess to me is like life. You can either play chess, or be played by chess. Either way you’re playing the game. But if you make your way down the board, you end up becoming something way bigger than what you started out as,” Chatmon said. “I tell my kids, however you start out is not how you have to finish. You have to think about ways to maneuver this life.”
Sophomore Jonathan Williams has played chess for four years and was thrilled to hear that there was a teacher hosting chess games. Williams started playing as a social activity, but he says he has realized the deeper connections between chess and life.
“It just started off as something I could bond with my friends over, but eventually I started to enjoy it more. Chess is just a really good game to help you stay organized and think ahead on day to day activities,” Williams said.
Chess has taught Williams to be patient, and weigh the consequences before acting. He also enjoys the financial literacy podcasts Chatmon plays.
“I do kind of enjoy them, it’s nice to watch and take a break from chess when I’ve finished my matches,” Williams said.
Sophomore Jason Zhang is another frequent player. He started playing chess when he was in 5th grade and played competitively at Community and Chess matches with the Hilsman Middle school team. Zhang appreciates Chatmon for holding the meetings after school, and he even beat Chatmon in a match.
“While I was playing him the first time I was very nervous. We were both taking more time than we should have to make our moves. I was really trying to think as many moves ahead as I could. He took the loss pretty well, but I could tell he was a little frustrated after the second game (Zhang won) but it was fun playing against him,” Zhang said. ”He’s (Chatmon) a cool and funny guy. It’s enjoyable being in his presence and playing chess.”
Zhang looks forward to the matches to come, and hopes that eventually Cedar will have a chess team.
“It is a great opportunity,” Zhang said. “Hopefully in the future it can be a chess team and we can actually go compete.”