This year’s school Spelling Bee is in the can, completed, finished, wrapped up. I was the pronouncer for our elementary school bee; a job you get basically because everyone else says “I’m not doing it.” Oddly enough I mostly love being a pronouncer, my mom had us reading dictionaries at an early age, but I have to tell you it is an exhausting job. Why? Because you have to watch each student, heart in their mouth, come up to the microphone and spell the word you give them. And when they miss, you can not react. My face has to stay deadpan as they labor through the word, looking straight at me. My heart is breaking for the student who just misspelled their word and whose eyes just filled with tears. I’m thinking, “Please don’t cry, because if you start to cry, I’ll going to cry and it’s going to get damp in here.” That’s the exhausting part, the tension. I say the word, then they are supposed to repeat it, then ask me questions, then spell; which most never do. They’re nervous kids, they forget to ask for help.
By the way, just in case you don’t know this, the pronouncer does not pick the word; it is part of a prescribed, numbered list issued by Scripps each year and brother, I go in order. Anyway, my job is to help the kids. I can say the word again for them, give them the part of speech, origin of the word, a definition, use it in a sentence and give alternate pronunciations for the word, which is really hard for this southern girl. Who knew there were three different pronunciations for “equestrian”? And why? It takes me several weeks to get ready all 375 words and my donkeys all have an expanded vocabulary.
And while I’m at it, I have to say I have never met a fourth, fifth or sixth grader that has voluntarily used the word thaumaturge. Look it up. But now if I ever witness magic or a miracle, I’m ready.
Speaking of miracles, let’s invent a sound system that does not sprout gremlins the moment the Bee starts and begin issuing unearthly feedback when it did not do that yesterday when we practiced. Thanks again to a very nice parent who routed the feedback gremlins. Thaumaturgy! See I knew I’d use it.
But at the end of the day I am proud to be a part of the Spelling Bee and appreciative of all the hard work our students and teachers put into learning to spell. Spelling is a skill they will need their whole lives. Language is the accumulated knowledge of many people, many ages and it is an important thing to pass on.
And yes, I remember the word I missed in the Spelling Bee; it was “magazine”. Really.