Skye was the final competitor to approach the microphone for the first round of the spelling bee. She nervously sood in front of a skinny microphone being steadied by her school’s principle, Mrs. Casados. “Display. D-I-S-P-L-A-Y. Display.” She spelled her first word correctly. The audience applauded and cheered as she walked away from the microphone and returned to her empty metal chair. She did it!
About a month ago Skye’s second grade teacher, Ms Manthey, asked Kirsten for her approval for Skye to participate in their school’s spelling bee. The bee at Griffith Elementary is for fourth and fifth graders. Skye is a first grader who spends the majority of her time in her second grade classroom. Being asked to participate was a big deal.
Skye passed a written qualification test two weeks ago to became the youngest–and smallest–spelling bee competitor. She has been studying every evening since to learn the words on the list provided. The probability that she’d get the first word correct, we thought, was pretty good. She could confidently spell the majority of them. What we couldn’t count on was her composure since she’s never been in a competitive contest or stood in front of a large audience. When she sat in her chair at the side of the auditorium it was obvious she was nervous. Her expression was of fear and concentration.
She had good reason to be nervous too. The auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, and students including her first and second grade classmates. I thought it was extremely thoughtful of her teachers to bring their students to the bee to support their friend and classmate. I knew it meant a lot to Skye.
After correctly spelling “display” Skye missed her next three; “independence”, “orchestra”, and “acre”. The rules stated that if a participant misspelled a word the next person would have an opportunity to spell the same word. If that person also missed the word they would both remain in the competition. A bright young girl eliminated Skye when she correctly spelled “acre”. Skye was devastated and visibly upset. She sat low in her chair and waited for the competition to be over.
When the bee was over the students in the audience shuffled back to their classrooms. I congratulated Skye on her tremendous accomplishment and embraced her tightly. She began to cry as soon as I held her. Skye isn’t used to losing at anything. The winner of the competition, an older boy, talked to Skye about being nervous, told her she had done a great job, and offered to be her friend. I applaud him and am grateful for his compassion and sportsmanship. His consideration meant a great deal to Skye.
I’m glad Skye had this opportunity to compete. She’ll never forget the hours of studying and the thrill of competition she experienced during her preparation for and participation in her first spelling bee at Griffith Elementary. The excitement and pride she felt as she walked back to her seat after correctly spelling “display” will fade slowly, I’m sure.