The Teesside Megafinal will soon be here and it seems to be a good moment to think about general expectations.
The vast majority of children play in Megafinals so they can have fun, enjoy the company of their friends, make new friends and to test their chess skills against children from other schools. Their level of play will almost certainly improve as a consequence.
Chess tournaments can be tough, especially if a player has unrealistic expectations going into the event. Mixing wins with a similar number of defeats is perfectly logical expectation. Expecting to win every game without any particular difficulties along the way is not so logical.
Occasionally, it is reported to me that a child is 'heartbroken' or 'devastated' after (what they see as) an unsuccessful tournament performance. It goes beyond hyperbole, because the parents in question really do appear to believe that what they are saying is true.
This usually isn't far away from those who claim they want their child to learn the art of resilience through chess, only to claim, retrospectively, that not only did their child have to play strong opponents but also that their opponents cheated in every game.
If expectations are realistic then we wouldn't have to navigate through so much smoke and so many mirrors.
We never apply pressure to our pupils to perform at tournaments either in our chess classes or on a one-to-one basis.
We cannot monitor or control parental pressure, but we do find ourselves having to deal with the aftermath.
I have plenty of stories to tell another time, including how a parent threatened to set his Rottweiler dogs on me after his son failed to win a game.
For now, here is a reminder of the ethos of our Teesside tournaments:
'We will be working very hard on the day trying to ensure everyone has a great time. As usual with our events, we want to keep the pressure on the children to an absolute minimum.
To help protect this ethos, we want the children to relax between the rounds and to temporarily forget about their chess battles.
It would be greatly appreciated if all parents, guardians, teachers, chess coaches et al supported this ethos too and helped all of the children to enjoy the day without applying any pressure between the rounds.'
An important aspect of working in schools is to help children to try their best, respect others, show manners and grace, learn from their experiences, develop confidence and resilience and to help others.
Also, that everyone is unique.
In short - to set a good example.
People 'above' us, the ones who love power but perpetually shake responsibility, revel in doing exactly the opposite.
Liars, crooks and cheats know how to 'get on' but despite their exalted status they have no desire whatsoever to set a good example to anyone.
Just imagine if all school staff behaved in such a sneeringly deplorable manner.
Yes; things would be even worse than they are now.
Role models are needed now, more than ever before.
Today brings another busy school term to its conclusion.
This week, I cross-crossed Teesside to spend time with our excellent CSC tutors Mrs Lloyd, Mrs Hutchinson, Mr Edmunds and Mr Cassidy (Mr Harris is the only one to whom I did not manage to pay a visit this time).
Mr Edmunds played the classes through the screen!
We have worked very hard this term. It is not always easy and each class presents its own unique challenges.
Yet, as the outside world becomes increasingly more dangerous and ridiculous, we have all been enthused and inspired by the dedication, commitment and sheer joy of the children in all of our schools.
Let us not forget that this is only the first full school year back since the outbreak of the global pandemic. Everyone is tired and there are numerous challenges in all of our lives: some public; some private.
I hope everyone will be able to find some peace over the course of the Easter break. Whoever - and wherever - you are, you have earned the right to take a rest.
CSC Teesside has a busy Summer term ahead and our Megafinal is coming up very soon. Incidentally, there are currently only 19 places remaining, so please book as soon as possible if you have yet to do so.