Thursday, January 29, 2009

Miss Eyre and the Bee

Have you ever been to a spelling bee? I'm not talking about a class or even a school-wide spelling bee. I'm talking a real, hardcore, Scripps-following spelling bee. I can now say that I have. I was at a district-wide bee recently to support two of my students who were competing. One of my students is going on to the city bee, and I'm pleased as punch.

When the bee starts, a coordinator reads the rules. Verbatim, word for word, out loud, to everyone. It takes a full ten minutes at minimum. Entrance and exit to and from the auditorium is tightly controlled while spelling is going. Spells can be thrown out if they are interrupted by noise. For those of us public school teachers who are used to the gentle, casual chaos (if it's "gentle" and "casual" at all) of a school bee, it is serious stuff. Needless to say, I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

But the tension! My goodness! The bee is being filmed, so there are stage lights. These are pre-pubescent and pubescent children up on that stage. One boy was sweating visibly and had armpit patches, poor thing. I watched children clench their fists, count on their fingers, mouth words, roll their eyes, screw up their faces, every little nervous tic you could think of and then some. I worry about subjecting children to this kind of pressure, even though the rewards can be great.

Nevertheless, when it came down the final two, I was hunched forward in my chair, leaning forward onto the empty chair in front of me, my hands folded under my chin. I was sitting with the mom, siblings, and friend of my student, CJ (not her real initials), who was spelling. CJ looked remarkably cool. And when she spelled her final winning word and it was judged correct, I really did whoop. It was awesome.

Stuff like this makes being a teacher fun!