Confessions of an Unknowlledgeable Spelling Bee Judge
posted by: Amber Johnson
This post is in honor of the Colorado State Spelling Bee that was recently held at the Colorado Convention Center.
A few weeks ago, I posted the following on Facebook:
“After spell-checking it several times, it appears I do not know how to spell ‘knowledgeable.’ The irony is not lost on me.”
Later that day, my friend Lisa asked me to be a judge at our elementary school’s Spelling Bee.
“Did you see my status update this morning?” I jokingly queried.
She hadn’t, which is a good thing because I might have disqualified myself before even entering.
Spelling Bees weren’t around when I was a kid and I was pleased to learn that my role as one of three judges was stress-free. All I had to do was ensure the announcer pronounced the word clearly and the student spelled it correctly.
Though I was disappointed buzzers weren’t involved. Or gongs.
As the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade kids filed into the gym their apprehension and excitement was palpable. We did a practice round before delving into the main event. The students were asked to first pronounce the word and were not permitted to go back and correct any errors. They were allowed to have one incorrect answer but if they got two wrong, they were disqualified.
Those first few rounds, I was a basket case as I willed each and every one of those burgeoning scholars to get the correct answer. Their triumphs were my triumphs, their sorrows my sorrows (a poker face has never been my strong suit).
By round three, I was ready for the heads to roll with some tougher words. Stalling was an often-used technique. “Umm, can you repeat the word?” “What is the definition of the word?” “Can you please use it in a sentence?”
Sometimes, the definitions were more mind-boggling than the word. For “formula,” it was explained as “a symbolic expression showing the composition or constitution of a chemical substances consisting of symbols for elements present and subscripts to indicate the relative or total number of atoms present in a molecule when the number exceeds one.”
Hey, Spelling Bee Definition Writing Geniuses, how about something like, “What babies drink” or a “single-seat racing car.”
The practical applications were much more amenable. For “contrary,” the explanation was, “Contrary to what she would have said last year, Shelby no longer believes Justin Bieber is the most handsome boy in the world.”
That elicited some giggles from the crowd, likely from The Bieber-haters.
Several rounds later, three winners were crowned out of a pool of thoroughly impressive students. Following the completion, Anna, a cute sixth grader from church came up to my friend Jenn (a fellow judge) and me.
“I was so nervous when I saw you were a judge because you’re the Bishop’s wife!” she said, pointing to Jenn. Her mom then divulged she was a basket case when she saw I was judging as well, for what reason I have no idea. I’ll chalk it up to my overwhelmingly good hair day.
And I assured her she was much more knowllegeabble about spelling than yours truly.