Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Sting of the Spelling Bee

Hi, this is Hans in my first blog post.
The National Spelling Bee just ended, and it brings me back to my spelling bee days. Oh, the chances missed, the lessons learned. Spelling bees in our house became a little bit of an obsession. Once my sister happened to place in our local spelling bee in fourth grade, my Dad saw potential. But potential is only as good as the effort that is put in to achieve it, so she started studying spelling words, and I soon followed. When the city, county, state, and regional contests neared, we would sometimes miss school to get through that last list of words contained in the overfilled green canvas bags. Even at that time, before the internet, there was a powerful underground organization of parents (and occasionally students) willing their way to spelling bee stardom. My Dad even got in on the action and went to an adult spelling bee. Anyway, Hannah and I won the city and county contests and went on to the state contest in Wyoming.
But then, in 8th grade, our family moved to South Dakota. There was no city, county, or state competition. We just were invited to come straight from Hill City middle school (Hill City is really the name of the town) to the regional competition held by the Rapid City Journal. The winner of this competition would go directly to the National Spelling Bee. Unfortunately, the lack of warm-up competitions failed to sustain me in my spelling word fervor, and my Dad had to go out of town for an ill-fated business trip.
I don't remember all of the details (maybe PTSD-related loss of memory), but we rode to the competition in a school bus, with Mrs. Prelle as our chaperone. There was a written round. I think that I scored second on that round. Then we moved on to the oral round. We were in a large auditorium, and we all lined up in the aisle that ascended from the stage to the door in the back. My first few words went okay, but then I received the word (blast it!) "regnant". This was not that hard of a word, so I had probably skipped over it quickly. I couldn't remember if it ended in an "ent" or an "ant". I stood there thinking. I saw my spelling-bee-life (and that of my sister) pass before my eyes, and then calmly misspelled the word. I then heard the infamous last words, "That is incorrect!" as I staggered toward my seat.
The regional championship was within my reach, and I missed it. I attribute any failures in my life since to that fateful day in a non-descript auditorium, with only a few onlookers in Rapid City South Dakota. Missed opportunities. Paradise lost. I can repent of my ways, but there is no way to go back and change the past...
My Dad was to return home from his trip shortly, but even though we did not have very much money, he called later that day to see how I had done. I told him the story, and he proceeded to point out that "regnant" was on a list that he had left with me before he went on his trip. He said, "If you had studied the list that I left, you would have won." Well that felt better.
As part of my grieving process, I am including a list of the spelling words spelled CORRECTLY by the most recent national spelling bee competition.

demitasse, quadrat, diener, hyssop, mac├ędoine, basenji, numnah, chorion, nacarat, sinicize, hyphaeresis, taleggio & esclandre

In a spirit of truth-in-advertising, I have to say that this post was inspired by Monica's realization that her blog's readability (ranging from elementary school to genius) is not rated as highly as she would have hoped (I won't disclose her aspirations). I suggested that she include a list of spelling words that would up her score. I'm hoping this post does it because I can't keep reliving these painful memories. :)

9 comments:

Angie Larkin said...

I remember being in a spelling bee. I was shocked when I was eliminated on my second word, for I thought myself so smart I didn't even study. I was equally shocked when I didn't place in the Little Miss Nevada Pageant. I couldn't understand how the judges didn't appreciate my beauty. Ahh...nothing like childhood competition to impregnate your memory with simmering humiliation and failure!

Karen said...

I just watched a movie called "Akeelah and the Bee" about an inner city school girl that ended up at the National Spelling Bee. It is an excellent movie. There are only a couple of swear words, no sexual content or violence. Great family movie. As for Hans, we all know you are smart, you don't have to prove it. :)

Hans said...

An addendum to my post: I don't put myself on even the same playing field as those of the National competition. Those kids are truly amazing and even as an adult I could not compete.
As for the Akeelah and the Bee movie, it was exciting and I enjoyed it. I always like when it's based on a true story, but it wasn't. But it is realistic in the fact that these kind of achievements are not just due to individual intelligence. It takes that, combined with some serious time put in by others. I was just a novice (and even my little achievement would have been impossible without my Dad's help), but these kids have some serious training with the help of parents and family. I have to ask myself if I am willing to put as much time into helping my kids.

Jill Mennig said...

Great maiden voyage into the blogesphere, Hans.
As for Monicas's aspirations, she just has to test on the right day. I lucked out on the first try and now think of my pre-test blog entires as my professional career. I am now "retired" and blog only for fun, so any future testing is unnecessary. (By me or anyone else.) My record stands.(Man, I really wish these comment boxes had spellcheck. Heaven knows I need it. Did I mention I homeschool?)

Stacie Morris said...

I needed a good laugh today combined with absolute pity for the child in all of us and Hans, you succeeded in giving me both! I greatly admire anyone who even attempts such things as Spelling Bees so my hat's off to you and your secret relationship with the bee. As for upping the intelligence level of the family blog, it all sounds genius to me!

The Morris Fam said...

I think the blog test is rigged. Did you score higher after this blog??? I wonder if comments count in the test.

The Morris Fam said...

I added just those words to my blog...didn't help a bit! I'm still handing out in k-5

Perry Bunch said...

hey- how is Hannah doing? Are you guys going to Vegas this summer? Michael just left there to go to work. The kids and I will be there around the 4th and will stay for couple weeks. It would be great to see you guys.

Karen said...

I just looked at my Google reader and it says that you posted about the bunnies. When I actually go to your blog, it is not showing. Is there something wrong with your blog. Well anyway, the pictures are so cute. The boys look so tender!