02 June 2009

How do you spell S-O-D-E-R-L-I-N-G?

Last night my older daughter was recognized by the New Britain Board of Education for her achievement of running the Spelling Bee table, as it were...winning the district-wide Bee each of the past five years in the only grades for which they hold the competitions (4th through 8th grades).

She received a special trophy with a goofy bee on the top (to go with the more traditional trophy cups she had received at each victory), and it struck me that she did what Rafael Nadal didn't at the French Open, win from her very first attempt and repeat that accomplishment four more years in a row.

I told her that after seeing her very first bee victory in the school-wide competition in 4th grade, I never doubted her winning any of the bees in her first three years since she answered each word with such calm confidence, while those around her lost their cools. It was only last year in 7th grade, when I saw a momentary blankness in the school-wide competition, that I thought, "Ya know, she might be beatable." If she were beatable last year, she wasn't beaten; and, of course, she was unbeaten again this year.

A remarkable accomplishment indeed.

She admitted to me last night that, no matter how it appeared, she was nervous throughout and never had been as confident as I was (which, when one is doing the competing, is probably a very good thing). I, by the way, kept my confidence to myself, and along with her mom, made it clear the point was to have fun.

Her younger sister experienced the other side. In her very first year of competing, she made it to the district-wide competition but came in fourth when she spelled v-a-l-i-d when the word was b-a-l-l-a-d. (We're still not sure why the judges didn't stop her when she clearly said "valid" before spelling it, so there was no doubt that she just misheard the word. Of course, while one can have the word repeated, one wouldn't ask for the word again if they didn't think they misheard it.) Ask her, winning is more fun than losing -- even to your best friend. You're sad that you didn't win, but that doesn't mean you don't feel happy for the winner. (Yes, Lebron, even if you're a fierce competitor!)


A small post script for those inevitable questions: she never entered the national spelling competition because 1) it requires a local sponsor (usually a Scripps-Howard newspaper) that at present doesn't exist around these parts, 2) the New Britain Schools' bee time frame never fit the national one, and 3) quite to my liking, the NB bees focus on words that kids who read just might come across in their reading (as opposed to the national bee in which each word is really a puzzle of national origin, derivation, and linguistic history, with many words that no one outside of very specialized fields of study rarely, if ever, will come across).

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