Today was Shedeck’s second-grade spelling bee. Each of the school’s four second-grade classes had their own spelling bee, and the top 3 finalists from each class got to participate in the second-grade school wide spelling bee.
Although Mason placed first in his class without studying the list of words, both Susan and I told him he might not be so lucky in the actual spelling bee. Mason then “forgot” to bring home his spelling words all this week to practice. Last night over dinner I told him the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper, stressing that hard work pays off.
On the way to school this morning, Mason told me that he was excited because he was going to be in the newspaper after winning the spelling bee. I didn’t have time for the “count your chickens before they hatch” speech. By the way, I know all these speeches by heart because I’ve had them delivered to me throughout the years.
The spelling bee started around 9:15 this morning in the Shedeck cafeteria. When I arrived, all 12 kids were already sitting on the stage with numbers around their necks. Mason was #8 and his buddy Tristan was #9.
Nobody missed a word during the first five rounds. The last word of round five was “came”. The student (#12) then said, “Cane. C-A-N-E. Cane.” Anybody who has ever been in a spelling bee knows, that kid is out. It’s the speller’s responsibility to make sure they understand the word before they spell it. It sucks, and I’d be upset if it were my kid, but those are the rules. That’s why you have to ask for a definition and to have it used in a sentence.
After a ten minute break (which involved reviewing both audio and video tape, and no I’m not kidding), the teacher’s decided that the child had misheard the word and should get a do-over. A do-over? In a spelling bee? My first thought was, good God, we’re going to be here all day! After the ruling, the teacher re-pronounced the word and the child spelled it correctly. Ask anyone who was ever in a spelling bee with Stoney Trent or Vi Le, you gotta ask every question every time.
In the next round, Round 6, Mason got the word “just”. “Just. G … no, wait, J-U-S-T. Just.”
“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. The correct spelling is J-U-S-T.”
Another spelling bee rule is, you aren’t allowed to correct yourself. Mason left the stage. I couldn’t see him directly, but I saw a teacher pass him a Kleenex. Tristen, Mason’s friend, misspelled the next word, “squirrel”. I know the words are picked randomly, but it’s tough luck when one kid gets “squirrel” and the next gets “of”.
Pretty soon Mason got up and came over to me, now sobbing uncontrollably. He and I went out into the hall where he completely broke down. He was upset because he didn’t get a second chance like the other girl, he was upset because he said “G” instead of “J”, he was upset because he knows how to spell “just” … but most of all I think he was just upset. And man, who hasn’t been there before.
A few rounds later, one of Mason’s classmates got the word “next”. “Nest. N-E-S-T. Nest.”
“Listen to the word again,” the teacher said. “Next. NeXt.”
“Oh, next. N-E-X-T. Next.”
Mason just sighed. “How come they’re getting second chances?” he asked.
In the end, speller #12 (the first “do-over”) won the competition. Mason barely clapped. Tonight’s lessons are “being a good sport” and “sour grapes”.
I’m proud of Mason for getting as far as he did, and I hate to say it, but sometimes those lessons that sting teach the most memorable lessons.