Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Comments from the Spelling Bee

Ah, I remember being a kid in elementary school, preparing for the spelling bee. I was a great speller - my classmates always thought I'd be in the spelling bee. We'd have a few rounds in the classroom, then start eliminating for who would go to the school wide contest. I was a shoe-in, they all thought. Except, every time, I'd rush through a word and do something stupid. Who knew "government" had an "n" in it? (And yes, my teacher more clearly pronounced the "n" for the student after me after I got it wrong.)

As a math teacher, I don't have any classroom responsibilities regarding the spelling bee. I don't have to come up with vocabulary lists or hold any contests (although I have started holding my own version of the Granite State Challenge for math review whenever something goes awry with my schedule, such as only having 10th grade and one of the 7th grade classes on Spelling Bee Monday). I don't even get asked to be a judge. But, I do get to watch...and monitor the hallways for when the 7th graders get bored and think a trip to the "bathroom" can last forever as they hang out by their lockers instead of coming back.

It was fun watching the kids with their chance to perform. The 1st graders were very thoughtful with words like run, ran and rat. They would often take long pauses, the length causing the teachers to wonder if they were going to speak again, to think about the word they just heard and place it in their brain on their English vocabulary list. Remember, not only are they new spellers, but they are new English speakers as well! The older kids in secondary school were not as brash as they usually are when they're strutting around school. They, too, would pause to consider their word, carefully spelling it out things like extraordinary. The shoe-in winner, much to the consternation of some Honduran parents who called the school to ask him to step down, was the red-haired gringo from Alaska, here with his parents who are teaching computers and 6th grade. He had studied and competed fairly in his classroom and gotten all excited about being in the competition, so no! he didn't step down. And, like me so long ago, he stumbled, missing one of the w's in awkward. The winner of the competition was a second grader, who clearly had studied. And while she missed "strength", a fourth grade word, in the final competition against a fourth grader, it was clear she knew all of her second grade words.

In true Honduran fashion, we found out that there were activities for the kids after the spelling bee. At first, secondary school was not going to be allowed. Then, Sunday night, we found out the secondary students were going to stay until 10 a.m. if they were on their best behavior during the spelling bee. Finally, while milling around with the other secondary teachers trying to figure out of we should head to our classes or not, we discovered that there were no classes until after lunch. And that's how I ended up teaching only 10th and one class of 7th grade on Monday. Go Granite State Challenge!


  1. Oh for the days at ORHS.

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