This week I find myself I’m intrigued with Spelling Bees. Mostly because my ten year old daughter just won the privilege to participate in her school wide Spelling Bee today.

As an educator, I honestly always had a bit of disdain around them. I really wondered their relevance, importance and meaning for my students and their learning. Because the reality was this: I already knew who could spell well and fast, who could sort of spell okay and which students were going to be too frustrated with the whole challenge, which just reinforced low self esteem for school even more.

So I asked my School Leaders who think BIG facebook group their take was on Spelling Bees and I found a lot of really reflective and insightful responses.

Most teachers were for them. They believed while they were a bit ‘old school’ they still saw their relevance for students.

One parent school leader shared this: …It takes a lot of courage and self confidence to be in front of a crowd of people especially doing something like spelling… It forces you to be vulnerable and accept that you may or may not succeed which is big. Giving our students opportunities to do this helps boosts their self esteem and gives them the opportunity to be role models for other students as well. Spelling bees, oral language fairs,talent shows all of the above!

One Parent Education Advocate and Coach shared her thoughts: Kids are becoming so dependent on autocorrect and spellcheck and the word predictor (I watched my daughter the other day and she waits for the words to come up and she picks the one she wants) that spelling bees seem almost irrelevant (confession: I just auto corrected the spelling of irrelevant, but the thing is I actually could spell it correctly if I had to.) Now, my son is a horrible speller and it would be demoralizing for him to compete in a spelling bee. Having said all of that, the competitive part of me says bring it on! So, if it is mandatory, it is a no for me. If it is something kids can enter of their own initiative (or are gently encouraged) then yes!

Finally, this school leader’s insight resonated with me most: I think they are a great opportunity for students to know it is okay to not always “get it right, know every answer”. Spelling bees are set up for failure, essentially, and failure is what many of these students (especially the students, like my eldest daughter that are terrified to ever be “wrong”) need to experience early in life. Failure is a part of every success. Those competing give it their best, but when they “get it wrong” I believe they may experience a lot of growth knowing life did go on.

Hearing these different insights shed a new light on spelling bees for me. I appreciate their value and place a bit more in the school experience. What are your thoughts on Spelling Bee’s? Do you find them meaningful? Relevant? I would love to know.

spelling bee

Update: My daughter competed in her school wide bee….and won!

So now she’s off to the Regional Spellling Bee. This is all new territory for us! Would love to hear any tips/strategies for my 10 year old daughter.

1 Comment

  1. A.M.

    I am very proud of A.B’s. accomplishment of doing so well in the spelling bee. But the biggest part was of her having the poise and confidence to participate in the contest. I think all of the students gained a lot by participating in the contest.
    At work at the pool at our local Y where they have swim meets, I was helping with organizing the ribbons and I found out that everyone got a ribbon. I thought what happen to placing 1, 2 or 3, and everyone else works hard at the next meet and they may win. Yes, maybe life was simpler for my generation.
    This is the first time I have read your blog, you are a great writer.

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