After she qualified for the school Bee, her older brother decided he could “train” her. He asked her to spell nonsense words he made up in an attempt to teach her patterns. It made a pretty hilarious comedy routine for the rest of us, but sadly, his efforts were a little too late (first practice was the night before the Bee). She was undone in the third round of the Spelling Bee by the word ‘receptacle’. Tricky word. I had to type it slowly.
The thing about Spelling Bees is that the words are chosen at random. You might get ‘dog’ or you might get ‘reluctant’ or you might get ‘contemporaneous’. It’s very much a game of luck. And good memory. And the ability to keep track of where you are in the word as you spell it out loud. Some kids had pens with them and wrote the word out on their hand and then simply read it in to the microphone. Seems like cheating to me. I was surprised my daughter didn’t employ this method since she is constantly scrawling the lyrics of her favorite songs on her arms.
At any rate, as I watched my beautiful, smart child on stage nervously trying to recall “receptacle” my heart hurt. She is so very bright, but at that moment she felt much less than bright. In fact, when I met her on the way out, she said, “I’m so stupid.” Wrong. I told her this and pointed out that she was one of only 28 students out of the entire school who had qualified to be on that stage. Still, she walked out of there feeling less smart.
I’m sure the Bee affects different kids differently and deep down she is proud of the fact that she qualified for the Bee. Her brother certainly is. I heard him bragging to another high school student that his little sister had qualified for the Spelling Bee. He then went on to explain his inventive training program.
A long time ago when my oldest child was lamenting that he wasn’t a superstar soccer player, his father reassured him that he was a superstar in other areas. He told him, “If there was a travel team for reading, you’d be on it.” So I guess the Spelling Bee is basically the travel team for English. It’s something to be proud of and an experience that will most likely seem better in retrospect.
I hope the memory will be one of pride and not failure. Our kids are constantly putting themselves out there – testing their academic prowess or their athletic ability.
themselves against their peers. The test of character is not which round they
make it through in the Bee or how many goals they scored in the big game, it’s
what they do with the assessment of their abilities. Are they proud of their
efforts? Will it inspire them to work harder or will it cause them to pack up
and go home?
When my daughter comes home this afternoon, I will tell her again how well she did. I will watch her face to see if the Bee has inspired her or defeated her. This was a big, public assessment, but every day in smaller ways our kids are working out their spot in line. They wrestle with the demons that doubt them. They are sorting out their abilities, their preferences, trying on possibilities. Society tells them that they must be the best. Just getting on the stage is not enough.