My kids have inherited my good spelling gene. I guess Al has one, too, which surprises me a bit because he is also a math genius. I thought you had to be one or the other, but I guess he was blessed with both. In fact, the psychiatrist who evaluated Al's post-stroke brain functioning told him, "The stroke knocked you down a few notches so now you have a normal brain like the rest of us."
Because of their exceptional ability to spell, my children have swept the school spelling bee every year. I'm proud of them, but it's getting a little old. And spelling bees are quite stressful. I'm a total sideline screamer when it comes to watching the kids participate. Except that I just have to scream in my head, otherwise, I would be ejected from the game.
If you've never been to a spelling bee, it can get quite tense.
The first task is usually the most daunting. The judges tell every competitor to approach the microphone and spell their name.
Joey steps up to the mic. "Joey. J-O....Can you use that in a sentence please?"
The problem I've found with spelling bees is that no matter how intelligent a child is, if you put them in front of an intimidating crowd with a microphone and require them to spell something out, they will forget every word you ever taught them. Why can't they just take a spelling test and have it graded in front of everyone?
You can totally see the strain on every parent's face when their student begins a turn. They're mentally calling out, "Okay, Sally. Take a deep breath. Concentrate."
The word Sally is given: love.
Sally begins. "Love. L............................U....................................V........................................E. Love."
Sally's dad jumps out of his seat and "Come on, Sally! You know that word!" He throws his pocket dictionary across the floor and is escorted out of the gym by armed security guards.
Next comes Johnny.
Johnny's word is: antidistestablishmentarianism.
What happens with these exceedingly long words is that the kid gets lost in the middle somewhere.
Johnny begins, struggling just to pronounce the word, let alone spell it.
"Antidistestablishmentarianism. A-N-T-I-D-I-S-E-S-T-A-B-L-I....." Because there are enough i's in this word to fill an entire dictionary, Johnny forgets which i he's on. The rules say that he cannot go back and change the spelling. So, for several extremely painful moments, he stands there, with everyone and their dog staring at him, while he tries to remember all the letters he just said. He finally finishes up by sputtering out, "I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Antidisestablishmentarianism."
The problem here is that the audience is not allowed to applaud or give any kind of feedback until the round is over, which is why Sally's dad will be banned from the school grounds for the next six months. However, everyone knows immediately whether the word was spelled correctly or not, so the student only has to scan the faces of the people to know whether or not he was successful. His parents have fake smiles plastered on their faces, nodding encouragingly. His fellow students are snickering. Grandma has buried her face in her hands and is writing Johnny out of her will as we speak.
Now, you're probably thinking that I'm some cranky old curmudgeon who thinks that spelling bees are a waste of time. Well, you'd be right, but I am proud of my kiddos for their accomplishments.