Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How do you spell kindness?

You already know I love words, that I pronounce the words for the BizBee, the adult spelling bee. I used to pronounce the words for the kids’ Alaska State Spelling Bee, but mostly, I wish there were a happier alternative to kids’ spelling bees. It’s just so traumatic when there’s one winner and 200 “losers” who may be able to spell any other word than the one the luck of the draw dished out. And the kids cry.

So I always begin a bee by having the kids realize they got where they are because they were already good spellers, that no matter what happened, they wouldn’t be a “loser.” For the rest of their lives, people would always call out to them, “Hey, how do you spell _____?”

And then I tell each participant to turn to the person on his/her left and wish her good luck. Then turn to the right, and wish him good luck. Mostly, they think this is goofy, but if they think I’m goofy, they relax a little.

So today I was back volunteering for my friend, Dawn, pronouncing for her school’s spelling bee. It’s always a tightrope: do I have enough “easy” rounds so the kids can feel some satisfaction and accomplishment before going out, or do I risk taking too long and the bell rings and the buses are waiting? So sometime during the bee, before a new round, I have to jump ahead to harder words, and the kids drop like flies.

Which left just Michaela in the front row and a pack in the back row.

And then, when Michaela herself went out, the auditorium (which had been a miracle of quiet and attention) erupted in cheers for her as she left the stage.

“What grade are you in?” I asked the back row. “Fifth,” they all said.

“And Michaela?” “Third!” shouted the audience. Ah, I thought, she was the triumph of little kids over big kids. She’d hung on and all those third graders were rooting for her. She was theirs. But it was louder than that: the whole school knew this “little kid” had stood with the fifth graders.
Eventually it came down to three students: Angelica, Craig, and Sofia. After Angelica spelled out, I whispered to her to wait in the hall, that if the others misspelled, she’d be brought back in. When Craig spelled out, I told him the same thing.

But as Craig left the stage, he turned back towards Sofia and whispered, “Good luck!”

There. That’s it. That’s the reason for today’s post. My heart is happy.

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