Consider it the academic Superbowl for elementary school children across the country. A room full of antsy, pre-pubescent brainiacs vying for over $30,000 in cash and prizes, but more importantly recess bragging rights as the National Spelling Bee Champion. It is literally a dream come true for ambitious, hard-working, pint-sized geniuses.
Consistent with parents projecting their dreams onto their children, if we have a kid, I will read the dictionary cover to cover non-stop to prepare our little one for beedom dominance. I won my school bee and went on to compete in regionals, coming in at #11 out of a couple hundred kids. Here’s the dealio, I came in 11th place not having studied a single word. Why? Because no one told me that winning spelling bees are all about memorization. If I had known that, I would have placed better. But no one told me jack crap! My immigrant parents had no idea. My podunk grammar school didn’t even say anything. They just told me the address of the regionals and what time to show up.
So to come in 11th totally sounding out the words and thinking them through with all the smarts I could muster, well that’s pretty damn good. I have to pat my 8th grade self on the back for being so dang wise.
For the first time ever, since its start in 1925, the poor kids have to know definitions in addition to spelling the words correctly. Wowee. Even more memorization! The finals go down tonight at 5pm Pacific Time. And if you haven’t seen the totally wonderful documentary Spellbound, it is a must see. The kids (who are all contenders for the National Spelling Bee) featured in the film are so incredibly smart and talented, it is mind-blowing.