Sunday, September 27, 2009

update on me

all right, so you want to hear how I'm doing? I feel like lately I've been posting a lot of semi-interesting things you could find on the internet yourself, also some nice photos of kids, not that you care maybe, but no actual thoughts from me. So here we go:

Professionally, things are going quite well. We got some amazing, amazing new kids this year (James Black, Justus Williams, and the Bryant twins are the most remarkable/ high-rated, but there are also a whole lot of talented, super enthusiatic lower rated kids whom I'm very excited about.) Here's the current list*:

1. Justus Williams 2051
2. Jehron Bryant 1963
3. Miguel Garcia 1926
4. Alexis Paredes 1914
5. James Black 1841
6. Pobo Efekoro 1822
7. Shawn Swindell 1759
8. Azeez Alade 1751
9. Nigel Bryant 1733
10. Rashawn Williams 1718
11. Myles Foster 1703
12. Rawn Prowell 1701
13. Isaac Barayev 1690
14. Mr. Galvin 1620
15. Joel Ogunremi 1592
16. Danny Feng 1598
17. Jakob Kobajlo 1569
18. John Paul Garcia 1500
19. Sebastian Dabrowski 1488
20. Randy Rivera 1437
21. Brittanie Uddin 1434
22. James Ovando 1383
23. Jermaine Cooper 1355
24. Karol Wadolowski 1313
25. Aleem Awan 1311
26. Giovanni Quinones 1306
27. Abadel Perez 1309
28. D’Andrea Dey 1308
29. Rhoda Lynch 1291
30. Ezequiel Acosta 1280
31. Mitasha Palha 1277
32. Sekou Prowell 1276
33. Talitha Santana 1254
34. Matthew Kluska 1239
35. Emmanuel Ogunremi 1231
36. Adolfo Nabor 1229
37. Mr. Murnieks 1202
38. Ameer Williams 1195
39. David Kim 1181
40. Mateusz Bruszewski 1178
41. Lisa Laundry 1147
42. Vaughn Soso 1126
43. Bilal Hussein 1122
44. Kevin Dominguez 1118
45. Lukasz Fron 1116
46. Kenneth Martin 1115
47. Kamil Chmielewski 1108
48. Mariah McGreen 1086
49. Lequasiah Lawrence 1081
50. Henry Cali 1081
51. Maya McGreen 1077
52. Keith Leary 1064
53. Chris Caraballo 1061
54. Jayvann Cox 1048
55. Richard Wu 1011
56. Eddie Turcios 1007
57. Cesar Ramos 1005
58. Sedrick Nurse 998
59. Qi Yuan Huang 987
60. Usman Hussain 986
61. Alex Cueva 974
62. Joel de la Cruz 960
63. Daniel Montanez 958
64. Alex Bradford 951
65. Juan Candelario 916
66. Cedric Brown 907
67. Anita Maksimiuk 902
68. Christian Marte 885
69. Anthony Ovando 856
70. David Herrera 837
71. Hector Martinez 820
72. Rashawn Baldwin 800
73. Myles Baron 793
74. Matthew Jacome 772
75. Rashawn Baldwin 800
76. Warren Zhang 697
77. Otto Schatz 695
78. Aru Banks 694
79. Manuela Ortiz 660
80. Brian Flores 621
81. Timothy Lam 607
82. Evelyn Cardenas 554
83. Zanea Seymour 521
84. Michael Osseniov 486
85. Brian Chen 380
86. Patrick Johnston 336
87. Szymon Krasnicki 285
88. Rebecca Ogunremi 268
89. Xonatia Lee 184

Ridiculous, right? And Saturday, I learned we are probably getting a new 1700, Emmanual Khodra, who is an old teammate of Justus'.

A lot of the new kids come because they live nearby and 318 is the best middle school in the district. (We ranked in the top 40 of all NYC public schools, out of more than 1600! hurray us) But some kids are coming from far away, and while I would like to take some credit, I think the larger reason is that the eighth graders this year are just incredibly charismatic kids, and everybody wants to hang out with them. The whole team is really a tight knit group, and they spend all kinds of time together and seem so happy, I'm almost jealous. I think even parents see what a good time my kids have with each other, and they want their kid to have access to that kind of camraderie and friendship and educationally based fun. I'm definitely humbled and flattered and awed and terrified of being in charge of all these geniuses' chess education.

What's interesting to me is how the shift upwards in ratings and attendance affects what's important in my teaching: I have less individual time with kids, so my class lessons and homework become more important. I've been enjoying Herman de Grooten's book, Chess Strategy for Club Players, a lot. And I've been giving a lot of hard tactics and making** the kids put time into them. Also, I've been using more, and that's been a true godsend. It means kids can get individualized help with their openings (the funny reality of teaching middle school: teenagers all want their own special, personal opening that nobody else plays. They will literally get angry if you teach someone else their line.)

Teaching has been very tiring though, because I have at least two and usually three "learning groups" (kids of like strength) in each class, and each group needs its own curriculum and lessons. Which means I have almost no down time during a class. It's like I finish a lesson with one group, have them play a position or work together on some exercise, and immediately I have another group in front of me, ready to check homework or review yesterdays' opening lesson, or whatever. Always go-go-go, finish all this in a 43 minute period. I talk basically all day, loudly and quickly.

Socially, things are pretty dismal. I'm sick right now, so the feeling is exaggerated, but I feel like 99% of my life is work, sleep, internet, and errands, pretty much in that order. Things have gotten so bad that Greg agreed to help me find a boyfriend. It's a pretty funny story, and I know you guys like Greg stories, so here you are:

I've tried online dating, but found that very few people wrote to me, and most didn't write back when I wrote to them. I'm not sure why: I used the blue and yellow picture, which I agree was probably a mistake, and I was kinda weird often when I wrote, or maybe it's just that internet dating is hard, or maybe I'm not as irresistable as I seem, but for whatever reason I failed at it. So Greg believes he's very good at being charming online and picking good people, and he offered to find me some dates. Here's how it works: Greg wrote my profile, he selects and writes to people for me and screens the responses. He forwards anything that he approves of. I continue contact from there. I don't know my own password even. The best part is that my profile doesn't sound much like me at all, but it sounds exactly like Greg (likes: waterslides, hanging out in the park).

So far I have only gone on one date. The guy looked excellent on paper, wrote some great email, but when I met him (at a trendy Japanese restaurant/bar), he was exactly like a chessplayer, only an economist. He talked to me about fiscal policy for 2 straight hours. I'm actually pretty interested in economics, and I'm good at having conversations with obsessive intellectual types (me: "so where do you see US monetary policy in the next ten years?" date: "that's a really good question..."), but c'mon. A bunch of other people have written/ winked at me, but so many of them have something insane in their profiles. For example, what is going through your head if you say you will only date caucasians or East Indians who have blonde, red, or dark blonde hair? How can I take someone who says that seriously?

So I guess I can't complain, but life feels a little zing-less.

*students who haven't played in 2 months are removed
** trying to make, which translates into giving them a hard time when they don't get it right (of course, as long as I think they should have, given their strength and the problem's hardness). I don't know how effective/nice that is, but I can't think of how else to do it.


Gurdonark said...

Each learning group sounds like almost a different "prep". Three preps for a single class sounds taxing.

You're an interesting person with a lot of cool stuff going on. You'll find the right person. It's a critical balance, isn't it--finding a 'good conversationalist' and finding a 'good listener'. I think maybe they are the same thing. So many times the key, I think, is finding a little sanity, and a little kindness. The rest is collateral advantage.

You've got an amazing chess thing going there. Hang in there--you've played your cards very well with this, as near as any stranger can tell from reading a weblog, and keep on turning up aces.

What a fun five years ahead for you--finding the right person, crossing 2200, and watching your kids develop and flourish!

katar said...

men are visual learners so if there's not immediate eye candy they already look for the "Match Close" button. try again with actual photos. you just spent some time on the beach in Thailand so use those.

this one

also this one

the more photos the better. also you come off even in this blog post as somewhat insecure or less-than-confident. try to exude confidence even if you dont feel that way. if worst comes to worst you could always prey upon some Class B player. take care and GL.

The Mascot said...

Do you think Greg's being too discriminating? Like leaving out the guys who don't get around to showering every week? Or maybe he's being speciesist?

For example, if a suave, debonair and handsome Egg were trying to contact you, you should not discount him because he's a different species.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

there is nothing I would rather wake up to every morning than a tasty Egg.

Bill Brock said...

You've got a great group of kids. It bothers me more than a bit that you sometimes post pictures of them flashing gang signs.

Here in Chicago, we've had a rash of innocent kids getting killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anonymous said...

Gang signs? You are a racist. Please point out these gang signs in ANY photo. It bothers me more than a bit that you make gang related assumptions of children of color without knowing a thing about them. Shame on you.

Bill Brock said...

There are minors involved, so I'd be hesitant to link to specific pictures. If I'm offbase, Elizabeth will correct me.

It is fair to note that the intergang temperature seems to be significantly higher in Chicago these days than in NYC. Too many children being killed senselessly here. So maybe I'm being a little too sensitive.

Bill Brock said...

Also, I am over 50: my son had to explain the difference between Metal Hand and the shocker to me....

Brian Lafferty said...

I just started going through de Grooten's book last week. It really is well done. Time will tell if it helps me.

On the dating front, I have some general suggestions.
1. Do your own date searching without the filter of anyone else.
2. Try to develop a social scene outside of anything chess related. Some suggestions--Yoga groups, meditation groups,non-creedal religious organizations (UU Society for example).

Above all. Just be you. :-)

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I would be surprised if gang members read a chess blog.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

It’s true that Alex is making some kind of hand-sign, but I think that one is pretty ubiquitous in teenagers’ photos, and not necessarily so loaded. I have never, for example, seen a photo of Chris Williams in which he is not making exactly the same sign.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

But I think it’s a little trigger happy to throw around the word racist. Maybe I’m revealing my own ignorance here, but plenty of white kids make that gesture in photos. What’s it got to do with race? (I’m sensitive because I get called racist *all the time,* definitely at least once a year someone goes nuts on me in public and starts screaming I’m racist, usually in front of my kids.)

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Speaking of racist though, Berlusconi called Obama “tanned” *again*.

Anonymous said...

Hundreds of students photos

One vague photo of 11 year old

Does not equal point of "you sometimes post pictures of them flashing gang signs"

PLUS you know the kids. Unless this is all some intellectual exercise.

Bill Brock said...

I've seen it in previous group photos, not just the most recent batch (and admittedly in your pics of noted gangsta Abby Marshall).

Again, I realize I may be getting hypersensitive. People may not realize how bad things have been in certain Chicago public schools over the past two years (only a few years after the brilliant Duncan/Vallas reforms). Kids are getting shot on a regular basis for flashing the wrong sign in the wrong place. Others, just for being in the wrong place. (Check out the lead story in today's Chgo Tribune, e.g.) May your mileage continue to vary.

Many things in culture that are transparent to others mystify me. Consider this a quibble & keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

What is the "it" you claim to be seeing? I think you should apologize, by characterizing Liz's kids as "gang members" you bring discredit upon yourself.

Wick said...

Asking dating advice from chess players is a bit like asking for cooking tips from the English or career advice from a guidance counselor.

I met my wife 25 years ago, when we were both, emphatically, not looking. Sometimes the act of looking makes it more difficult to find things.

Best of luck.

es_trick said...

Just wondering how the other schools feel about their best chess players transferring to PS 318? Seems "unfair" for one school to monopolize all of the talent in the PS system.

But that speaks volumes about the kind of program you're running, that the kids from all over the city are flocking to join the kids you already had. On the other hand, seems like your success is starting to overwhelm you, like your program has gotten too big for one person to manage. 50 kids all at once!?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

There are many fewer junior high schools (=IS) with serious chess programs than elementary schools (=PS), so for the most part we aren’t really “stealing” from anyone. To the extent that we are, it’s the kid’s choice, and IS 318 is probably a better school than the one they would be going to. I get all soppy describing it, but it’s a really special school -- everyone’s enthusiastic, the teachers care, the kids are happy to be there, nobody yells at anyone. I can’t think of the last discipline problem I had. It’s also a much more rigorous and interesting education that I got at the public middle school I went to in North Carolina. And it’s a great place to be a chessplayer in junior high school, which, if you remember, isn’t always so easy socially.

And it’s important to realize it’s not just me doing this. The administration gives me unbelievable support:
1. I have a full teaching schedule of advanced classes. (So afterschool is almost all playing—we do the serious chess work during the day.) I don’t teach anything but chess.
2. They provide another person to help supervise during after-school so I can pull out small groups for lessons.
3. I have the greatest boss ever, who is 1600, helps me teach, goes to tournaments with us on Saturdays, listens to chess lectures on ICC, comes up with new opening ideas and is in the middle of starting a 318 league much like the USCL.
4. The school used to give us a big travel budget to take kids to Nationals (it was free for the kids) and to buy books and clocks. Unfortunately, that’s all gone this year, but I’m sure it will come back in a few years after the recessions over.
5. They hire two former students to look at games with me on Saturdays.
6. Basically they do anything they can to help me.
Also Miron Sher lectures every Thursday, Mitch Fitzko teaches beginner classes and afterschool on Wednesdays, Alan Stein volunteers every Tuesday afterschool, Greg Shahade volunteer coaches at Grade Nationals and Nationals, ICC donates free memberships, Mig, Ellen Bender and others donated 100s of books, and Shaun Smith at Chess in the Schools runs the most efficient free Saturday tournaments imaginable.
Of course I am still overwhelmed, but I will just do the best job I can.

Bill Brock said...

Reality check: kids who are not in gangs flash gang signs (neighborhood solidarity).

And I've seen West Side Story!

I allow that there may well be a faux gang sign designed to elicit pointless concern in well-meaning middle-aged buttinsky white males.

Anonymous said...

"Gang signs? You are a racist. Please point out these gang signs in ANY photo."

In Chicago, first and second fingers and thumb extended is the sign of the Vice Lords gang (fingers make a V and an L). Elizabeth has in her gallery a picture of a kid flashing this sign.

Gang members are not amused when they see nonmembers flashing their signs.

A racist making "gang related assumptions of children of color" would assume these kids were actually in gangs. I assume they're good kids who have no clue how dangerous their antics can be. But maybe I'm just oversensitive because one of my seventh-graders during my student teaching cut school to hang out on the West Side one day and was SHOT IN THE HEAD.

Please don't be a fucking idiot.

Bill Brock said...

Many of us in Chicago are a bit oversensitive this week.

Rough week for the city. :-(

Bill Brock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Brock said...

and then this shit

Anonymous said...

What a stupid post, so typical for this blog...."these kids are flashing gang member signs"..."no you are just saying this cause they are black", no i am not...yes u are...ok maybe i am just sensitive because in chicago...

Doug said...

Bill Brock:


I read the article referenced in the link you posted. It's actually quite short, though apparently not quite short enough for you to read it. The article (about one group of young men beating to death a high school student in Chicago) does not, I repeat, does not mention President Obama nor does it in any way imply a link between Obama and gang violence, much less black nationalism or whatever else was alleged in the linked-to website you find to be such an indictment of The Drudge Report. You're seeing racism, or at least anti-Obama-ism, where it doesn't exist. Perhaps you WANT it to exist, though why anyone would want that is a mystery to me.


Bill Brock said...

Hello Doug,

Do you think "Olympic Spirit" was an appropriate title for the article referenced in the link?

Brian Lafferty said...

"Please don't be a fucking idiot."

You're asking that of Bill Brock?! ROTFL!!!

Anonymous said...

No, I'm asking it of Anonymous@9/28/12:50. And now I'm considering asking it of you.

Bill Brock said...

Elizabeth is a wonderful person doing wonderful work, and this is not about scoring debating points on a board game blog. And (thankfully) NYC is not having the same level of problems Chicago is having right now. I've lived in the city thirty years.

Last night; five hundred feet from our front door. Children are dying.

Bill Brock said...

broken link

Second try

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Would love to hear your predictions for the K12 Nationals to be held in December in Dallas!!

The KEC Master said...

You know a lot of good chessplayers! I wish I had chess in school growing up, but there's always time to make up for it after work.

As for romance, I would advise you not to worry about it. There are plenty of single people in the world. I think you will find that person when you least expect it.