Why did I bring Go to my school?

"Mathematics is difficult and uninteresting" are the stereotypes that every math teacher must choose before inviting students to go through the door of knowledge that opens them.

In the path of my personal professional development, I am persistently looking for interesting things that would bring students closer to mathematics and show them that it is worth the effort. Every new generation is a new challenge, but every generation is very different from the previous one. Already at the beginning of the fifth grade, a great difference was seen in relation to the previous generation, both in the ability to maintain attention on time as well as in interpersonal behavior. Such a situation meant that I also had to adapt and invent some new content that could help overcome the difficulties encountered. This generation had all the features of the so-called. A "click" generation that has barely so much patience to hear just something quick and brief. However, mathematics is a science that requires patience and does not know the term instant lessons! In addition to that impatience, there was also an increased level of aggression among them. All this has led to the fact that a project, which has long formed in my head, has seen the light of the day. The additional motive was certainly the award for the Best Educator of the Serbian Association "Živojin Mišić" which I received in 2015 and made my efforts so meaningful and acknowledged.

Therefore, in an attempt to overcome the difficulties in January of 2016, within my mathematical section, I started training in which children could learn to play a thought game, whose beauty and well-being I discovered at my young age. I say training, because it is, in fact, a thought sport organized through the Go Union of Serbia, within the Ministry of Sports.

Go is the oldest thought game in the world. It was formed in China around 2250 BC. The legend says that this game was created because the Chinese emperor at that time, unhappy with the progress of his son, ordered his ministers to make sense of a game that would contribute to his faster development of ability, to trigger his imagination and to develop logical thinking. For many people in Asia, it is more than a game even today. Understanding and planning, as well as a high level of commitment and concentration, are embedded in the saying that in Japan or China one who does not understand it can not understand the wealth of life. The rules of the game are very simple: two players play alternately, placing black and white stones on a 19 × 19 field board. The rocks are placed on the cross-sections of the lines and are static, to be exact, one set of stone can not be moved. Putting one stone on the other, the players slowly form a wall that fences their territory. The goal of the game is to capture the opposing stones and fence as much of the territory as possible on the board and thus gain points. However, after learned rules, the possibilities for combining are expanding to complex dimensions. Strategy and tactics are very important in this game. The intuition and feeling are expressed in the go, and because of its beauty, subtlety and intellectual depths, it has occupied the human imagination for centuries. Unlike chess, it has almost unlimited number of combinations (scientists have shown that there are more than atoms in the cosmos). After every chess move, there are an average of 35 opportunities for further development of the game, and after each move in the go, there are on average 250 different ways to further combine.

Investigating the topic of introducing go to school, I came to the realization that I was not really the pioneer of such an endeavor. Go was first introduced to schools in Japan. Japanese master of this game, Jasudu Jasutosi, aka the story of the tragic death of a schoolboy pupil, which turned out to be the result of peer violence, decided to do something. Jade began to teach the kindergarten children the simplest version, the so-called Atari-goa. Teachers soon began to notice that, as a result of playing goa, socializing among children has expanded and improved, as well as their concentration. Children aged 4-6 years managed to maintain concentration for more than an hour. Due to the large number of combinations in go, the same situation in different batches is impossible, so children have developed their concentration in trying to predict opponent's moves. This type of activity was not previously present in the education of children of this age. Jásuda transferred the further program to elementary schools, and later to special schools. Children who have behaved violently or have a tendency to isolate have discovered a new way of communicating with the environment. Jasudin's project began to build intergenerational communication channels that were erasing the boundaries of economic development. Through meetings with the elderly in nursing homes, children were taught to be attentive to others, becoming more independent and self-confident. Soon the project involved more than 10,000 children and adults! These experiences from Japan were later applied in France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Poland ... In the US, the Judaic Book with the basics of gaming was shared by teachers who wanted to apply this program, printed materials for students, believing that learning this game would contribute their better development. Go became a phenomenon in American schools. Scientists say it improves children's intellectual development and executive functions, while teachers claim to reduce violence and frustration. The go program currently being implemented in secondary schools in the United States shows that due to this, the results of admission to faculties have been corrected.

Once I’ve read this motivational story, I became convinced that this activity is the right thing. As the rules are not very complicated, and since children love games, I did not need much conviction to fill the classroom in the first training. The children were simply delighted! We practiced even through a break ( many people were surprised to see me coming to school, although I do not have to!). The feeling that you are on the right path, awakened curiosity in children, the gratitude of the parents, which offers a nice activity to the children through the break, simply drags you on. On their insistence, we met three times a week and practiced in my cabinet. My friends and excellent masters of go from Pro Go club, helped me with all their knowledge, as well as equipping the cabinets with with furniture for go.

After a month my students had the opportunity to try their first tournament. Go club called Pro Go organizes a traditional Sretensky tournament that lasted for 2 days last year due to the large number of participants - my students. The excitement of the medals we have provided for the best, has completed a nice gathering during these two days.

When a project comes to life, the beauty of its realization is reflected in the fact that you do not know exactly how far away all the activities will take you. So we were thrilled to see the chance that in March we will be participants of the European Junior Championships which was held for the first time in Serbia, at Palic. Additional activities in collecting funds and animating sponsors followed. Over 250 children from all over Europe took part in the championship, including 11 of my students, who formed the backbone of the Serbian national team. Again, having a good time with peers from Europe, playing a go everywhere and everywhere: in the bus, on the phone, in the hotel, every party is a new challenge that allows you to strengthen your self-esteem. All this strengthened their will, persistence and desire to be even better. Through competitions, they learned how to get out of defeat stronger and turn the defeat into victory. And I discovered that I could be in a new role as a sports leader and I must admit that I really liked this role, so I myself was motivated for further efforts.

One activity was produced by the other, so it was as follows: in April, the national team championship, open school championship in May, the national junior championship in September, the national championship for all ages in October. Our training was visited by the Japanese Cultural Attaché, Mr. Juiciro Omori, who on this occasion expressed his enthusiasm for our activities and the large number of children involved in them. Since September, at the Regional Center for Education of Education Employees in Nis, we continued the mentoring of the go-junior, where the project was named Club of Thinking Games, and the realization and funds were provided by the Center for the Promotion of Science, which recognized the positive idea of introducing go-to school.

Now that I enumerate all these activities that have been accomplished in just a year, I realize there was a lot of enthusiasm invested, how much energy and engagement this idea has made. I asked myself: is the expected effect realized? During all our activities I carefully watched how much it contributed to the changes in the behavior of children. The first thing to notice was that the atmosphere during training was always positive, a good mood was prevailing and there were no conflicts or quarrels between them. As the younger and older children joined us in time (the youngest participant was only 5 years old and the oldest 17), it was noticed that the transfer of knowledge and experience was realized among children at different levels, which was also an opportunity for peer education . Older children were not allowed to play with the younger, older and more experienced beginners, and everybody carefully listened to go-goers. We taught them to respect the adversary, to hand out and thank the opponent at the end of the game, as ordered by the customs in Japan. With this we tried to nurture good behavior, which is sometimes lacking in modern generations. Also, playing has worked on them soothing, so they are the most temperate, in time, they became more patient. They also learned to care for similar applications on the phone or computer. Socializing among them also improved, and this was particularly noticeable when going to the competition. For me, it was important that I noticed that some of the children had improved their achievements in mathematics while working with this game and developed a certain amount of persistence to get good grades of work and effort, as they did and as they mastered the game's skills.

Personally, the whole project was a great challenge, but also the opportunity to professionally rise in a different way. I have never been a teacher who performs the same preparations from year to year, because this would be boring to me firstly and then to children as well. I'm always attracted by new ideas, and their realization gives me new energy that empowers me in my professional comity. And energy is "addictive" because students learn by model, looking at their teachers. Additional engagement of teachers with students causes respect and allow us to become something more than a lecturer to become leaders!
You can see our little go-story at https://youtu.be/46qH0SXAmvA.

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