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Spelling bee

GAYS MILLS - Mid to waning February—what a great time of the year!  Really, I mean it. Winter is approximately 72 percent over (based on the heating degree day accumulation chart). The Super Bowl is in the rear view mirror. The Winter Olympics are winding down. And baseball pitchers and catchers have reported somewhere down south in our huge diverse and multi-climated country.  In other words: spring training has begun.

Another event that happens about this time every year is the Madison All-City Spelling Bee. The Wisconsin State Journal, sponsor of this annual sweaty palm crucible of a contest, does a good job of covering it, as you would expect.  

It’s always fun to look at the individual pictures of the contestants on the full-page spread devoted to them. The students range from third graders to eighth graders and all have won spelling bees in their own schools to advance to the All-City Contest. They all look bright and smart and proud of their spelling skills.

An interesting sidelight to this year’s contest was the back story of the winner. Sixth grader Frankie Bautista took her brother Martius’s place in the competition and she came out the winner. She was the runner-up to Martius at their school. Martius had won the contest for the past four years, an amazing feat, and was the odds-on favorite to win this year. However, his basketball team was playing the same day as the Bee. So he made a decision and his sister competed in his stead and won.

Spelling counts in so many things and we can all be found somewhere on the spelling skill continuum. Thanks to the advent of spell check on computers, we’ve got some help with spelling but their are pitfalls with that system two.   Like that last sentence, it passed the spell check but there are too misspells in it. Hour English language is complicated buy its spelling variations.

As a rationalization for pour or week spelling, one teacher friend of mine often said, “It takes a poor brain to know only one way to spell a word.”

In the recent past, there have been four movies based on spelling bees. I refer to “Akeelah and the Bee” (2006)  “Spellbound” (2002) “Bee Season” (2005) and “Bad Words” (2014). Good to see such a classic school activity memorialized in films.

I have to hand it to the spelling bee contestants. They all worked hard to get into the All-city Spelling Contest and had the courage to get up in front of a crowd to test their skill against their peers. Getting up in front of a crowd to speak is a very frightening thing for most people.  

It’s nice to see the kind of non-athletic competition that a spelling bee is. Academic activities like math contests, geography bees, quiz bowls, Spanish pronunciation contests, science fairs,  and problem solving meets should be more common, and more recognized and celebrated when they are.