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As the group views each clip, invite people to place a check mark in the appropriate boxes on their handouts. to indicate each factor that the clip seems to address. They may also want to make a few notes about how each factor was addressed. For each clip that you show, take time to discuss at least one of the questions listed (or a question raised by a group member). Clips in bold are especially recommended for this group. Use as many or as few clips as time and necessity allow.

Clip 1: “Popular Geeks” (1:40 min.)
This clip begins at approximately 1:42 seconds into the film with the graphic “Brooklyn, NY.” It ends at approximately 03:22 with a headline from the New York Post touting the middle school’s victory in a high school chess tournament.

This clip includes the school principal, Mr. Rubino, saying, “In some schools, if you go by a stereotype, if you’re in the chess team, you know, you’re this pariah which no one wants anything to do with you. In 318, you know, the geeks, they are the athletes.”

  • What is your reaction to Mr. Rubino’s comments about “geeks” at I.S. 318 being treated with respect while at other schools they are typically pariahs? What kind of reputation do smart students have at your school? Are they pariahs or popular?

  • What do you think accounts for stereotypes that negatively cast smart students as “geeks”? What could you do to counteract those stereotypes?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clip 2: “Benefits of Chess” (1:33 min.)
The clip starts at 08:52 with a title card about the kids taking Ms. Vicary’s class seven times a week. It ends at 10:25 with Mr. Galvin saying that Ms. Vicary is the best.

The clip includes chess team coach Elizabeth Vicary observing, “Chess does a number of fantastic things for kids. And I think the most interesting one is they get to really sort of deeply learn about a subject, and it’s learning that they have to negotiate on their own. You know, a math teacher, it’s never the case a math teacher isn’t sure what’s right. An English teacher, pretty much the same thing . . .Given that I can’t see forever, all the possible continuations or all the way down into like sort of infinitely expanding realms of future continuations in chess, it’s very hard to know what that best move is. Yes. And I think that this is a good thing for kids to be exposed to, the idea that truth isn’t quite so simple as— as right and wrong, and— and that there are— that they’re studying on a level where the answers really aren’t clear to anybody. Or unclear to me, and I’m very good at it, you know?”

  • In addition to the things that Coach Vicary mentions, what skills do the students learn from playing chess that are likely to help their overall academic performances? What other activities might provide similar skills? What opportunities does/could your school offer for students to develop those skills?
  • Do you think you would want to take Ms. Vicary’s chess class or join a chess team? Why or why not?

  • What evidence do you see that Ms. Vicary has the support of administrators? What do they say or do that lets her know that she is valued and lets everyone else know that they appreciate her work with the chess team? How does that support contribute to a positive school climate? How does it compare to the ways that appreciation for teachers is expressed in your school? As a student, how do you show your teachers that you value them?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clip 3: “Honoring the Graduates” (1:43 min.)
The clip begins at 13:04 with the chess team in the hallway posing for a picture. It ends at 14:47 with students cheering for Rochelle.

In this clip, we see chess team members being honored at a school event.

  • What do you think it feels like to have the entire school cheer for you? For students who don’t play chess, what’s the impact of seeing chess players cheered by the entire school?

  • What sorts of accomplishments are publicly cheered at your school? In what ways are academic accomplishments celebrated?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clip 4: “High Stakes Tests and Family” (1:48 min.)
The clip starts at 17:39 with Mr. Pultz talking about upcoming high school qualifying exams. It ends at 19:26 with Alexis saying that being a lawyer or doctor “could get me more in my life.”

The clip includes Mr. Pultz talking about the upcoming high school qualifying exams. We also meet Alexis and his immigrant mother, Viviana, who expresses her dreams for her son’s success.

  • The clip begins with Mr. Pultz talking about a high stakes test. What’s your view on the use of qualifying tests for high school?

  • What kinds of pressure does Alexis experience? Have you experienced anything similar? How did you cope?

  • How does Alexis’s experience compare to that of members of other immigrant families you know? How does being from an immigrant family affect him?

  • What messages does Viviana convey to her son about education and how does she convey them? What’s the impact of having parents who emphasize the importance of school?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clip 5: “Funding Dilemmas” (2:37 min.)
The clip begins at 57:05 with Pobo saying “How’s it going?” and announcing budget cuts. It shows a meeting with parents and ends at 59:42 with the slate that announces restoration of $100,000 in funding.

In this clip we see students, administrators and parents respond to proposed funding cuts that potentially threaten the existence of the chess club.

  • Off the top of your head, what’s the cost/benefit analysis of investing scarce school funds in the chess program? How do the benefits to students compare with what they gain from “core courses,” such as science, math, English and social studies?

  • What do students gain when families and community members advocate for their schools?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clips 6 and 7: “At a Tournament” (50 seconds + 7:15 min.)
The clip begins at 1:20:00 with John Galvin polling the chess team to see who has been to nationals. It continues until 1:20:19 with Pobo joking about being the greatest tutor in the world. The next clip continues the story beginning at 1:23:45 with a montage of students arriving at the hotel for Nationals and the title: United States Chess Federation Junior High Nationals. It ends 1:28:12 with Coach Elizabeth Vicary talking to Patrick about judging performance on how often he used good techniques and not how many points he earned.

This clip follows the students as they compete in a national tournament. It includes an example of coaching. We also see how team members and coaches respond to the team’s weakest player, a student who struggles with A.D.H.D.

  • What do you notice about how teachers and coaches treat students? What language do they use to encourage team members? How do they respond when students fail? What facets of student performance do they value the most and how can you tell?

  • What do you notice about how the students treat one another? How would you characterize their approach to competition and winning?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?

Clip 8: “Swagger: The Antidote for Disappointment” (2:30 min.)
The clip begins at approximately 44:02 with chess prodigy Justus’ grandmother and mother getting him up early for school. It ends at 46:32 with Mr. Galvin saying, “I’ll see you later.”

In this clip, we see family members and school staff support Justus, a chess prodigy who is having difficulty dealing with losing.

  • What do Justus’s mother and grandmother do to support his success as a chess player, student and person? What sacrifices have you seen families (including your own) make to give their children the best possible chance to succeed?

  • How did parent-school communication and cooperation benefit Justus?

  • What did you think about the advice that Mr. Galvin gave to Justus? If you had been in Mr. Galvin’s place, what would you have said or done?

  • Which of the four school climate factors did the clip address, and what did you learn that could help you improve your school’s climate?




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