Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Spelling "B"

My oldest son recently represented his fourth grade class in the finals of the school spelling bee. It was our family's first experience with this sort of thing. His younger brother and I sat in the audience and watched as the large group of students whittled its way down to a few true contenders. A voracious reader, my eldest calmly handled each word tossed his way. "Cartoon," said the teacher. "Cartoon," he replied. "C-A-R-T-O-O-N. Cartoon." Eventually the contest was down to the final three - he was the only fourth grader left, facing off against two upperclassmen.

"Clothe," said the teacher. "Clothe," said my son. "C-L-O-T-H-E. Clothe."

"I'm sorry, that's not correct," said the teacher. Murmurs went through the audience. People looked at each other, surprised. I thought he spelled it correctly, too. He was stunned. I asked for an explanation.

"'Clothe' has one 'o,'" said the teacher. "Not two."

I turned to the other teacher in charge of judging the contest. "I wasn't listening," she said. How nice for her - perhaps a few days of detention would help her listen better, I thought. And how tacky to admit ignorance in front of these kids during an event that was so important to them.

By this time he was in the audience sitting next to me, boiling over with frustration. "I said one 'o'," he growled. "Do they think I'm stupid?!" His little brother was hopping mad. "Do something, Mom!" he hissed.

Years ago, I was in a school spelling bee. "Been," said the teacher. "Been," I said. "B-E-E-N. Been."

"I'm sorry, that's not correct," said the teacher. She only heard one "e." I had to sit down, pissed off and angry.

This time, for my kid, I stood up and approached the judges, stopping the tournament. I appealed the ruling. But with no rulebook, and two teachers just blinking back at me, wanting to go home, it was hopeless.

So I gave up on the system and focused on saving my kids. "This isn't right," I said. "She should have been listening. It's not your fault, and I know it hurts bigtime. This doesn't seem like much at this very moment, but I'm very proud of you for handling this so well. "

That day stung for a very long time. Then he received a certificate for being a finalist in the Spelling Bee. We pulled the official-looking document out of its folder-
And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

A few days later, his teacher asked me to return the certificate for a 'good one.' I refused. "Years from now, when he's sweating a final exam in college, or worried about something at work, he'll have this framed document on his wall and he'll remember how some things, while seeming important at the time, are really just silly little things. And that's worth more than any spelling bee."

"Oh and by the way, next year, we're gonna participaNt, and we're gonna win."


Anonymous said...

i've participanted in some spelling bees, makes you wonder how in a teacher's dream, a subject whose answers are open to no interpretation whatsoever, they can still get it wrong!-insomniac

Anonymous said...

Annie, Sorry to throw a dampened blanket on the American Spelling Bee format, bu the thing is, Americans clain to speak English. Well, they may do but they cannot spell in English. Just one of many examples is the word 'colour'. Spelt the English way. Not 'color', the American way.
Have a good look at the American Bastardisation of the English that they clain to speak.


PS, Glad that your son did so well in the competition.


Annie said...

Thanks, Terry. btw - do you 'clain' to be British?

diverdowndoc said...

Congrats Annie- Good paenting job. Love the certificant! ;)

blurk said...

Gud fer you, Annie. I think I'da bin more upset.

Stoopid teecher...tell my kid he dont no how to spel.

Mad Scientist said...

next year bring a digital recorder for instant replay