Ding When the bell rings after I misspelled tettigoniidI’m broken heart. After 15 exhausting spelling rounds, broadcast nationwide during prime time, one letter conquered me. Eight contestants left crowned as co-champion. I was declared runner-up. My mother asked me if I wanted to train another year until the next bee. I said yes. I want to try one last time. Now, my determination to win has been replaced by deep disappointment.
Covid-19 has changed everyone’s life. Health problems and tragedies are the headlines. Children go to school remotely. Until recently, I, like other eighth-grade spellers, at home studying continuously, prepared my last chance at Scripps National Spelling Bee. Scripps ends the dream when the dream ends cancel Bee 2020 and reject the extension of the eligibility of eighth graders.
My spelling trip has paid off, but it hasn’t finished yet. Like the trained athletes we admire, I work tirelessly in my expertise. I don’t hit the ball or run fast, but I spend hours every day working on language patterns and etymology – anything that can be a clue about how words are spelled.
My training schedule resembles most athletes’. I wake up at 5 am every day to study and endure until 11:30 at night sometimes, learning innumerable words and roots. I practice on holidays and weekends. I missed the party. I sacrifice most of my recreation time. Many other eighth-grade spellings do this too. We like to spell and pour our efforts into one more chance to win. Spelling has given me confidence, knowledge, and many celebrities.
I am not the most popular girl in school. But during last year’s final, people from all over the country tweeted about me! After Bee finished last year, people I didn’t know would recognize me in public. When I pass the small children at school, they will exclaim, “Look! Look! That’s Simone! “It’s very beautiful. I am an example to them. In the future, some of them might participate in Bees. Eighth-grade spelling like me shows young people that perseverance pays off.
Scripps’ decision was devastating. I hope that even if Bee is canceled, eligibility will be extended, as is the case with Olympic athletes and the NCAA. The International Olympic Committee and the NCAA decided that because Covid-19 had canceled athletes’ events because of no fault of the athlete, they had to be given another chance to compete.
Shouldn’t eighth graders have the same opportunity to train, compete, and show that academic pursuits are as important as athletics? Or are we taught that athletics will always beat other less popular activities, even at the age of Covid-19?
Scott Remer, Simone coach
As illustrated by Simone, the shipper seriously invested hundreds of hours in preparation. Spelling is “detective word” – they analyze the etymology and definition of words; assemble and evaluate possible spellings; and decide on their spelling. In our weekly session, I asked Simone the words I had chosen to test the pattern recognition and basic knowledge. When he makes a mistake, we examine him to understand what happened and what he can learn.
After Bee stings you, there is no turning back. This is an intoxicating combination – the sensation of competition, friendship with fellow logophiles, and the spirit of bringing together etymological puzzles. The night I placed fourth in 2008 was one of the happiest in my life to date. It is not fair to deny spelling as Simone had the opportunity to claim the trophy because of a crisis he did not endure.
Scripps doesn’t have to reject Simone and the other eighth graders one last blow. They can provide a one-time exception for eighth graders to compete as ninth graders. They can hold two bees next year – one for children who qualify in 2020, and one for 2021. Or they can hold a special bee for eighth grade 2020 students and a bee as usual for 2,021 spellcasters. Scripps has changed Bee before – the RSVBee invitation program for spelling in areas without local competition is one example of innovation to the contest format.
There will be logistical complexity – Scripps mentions “a complex mix of logistical factors” in their decision explanation. But Simone and I believe Scripps has the organizing flesh and bee love to overcome those obstacles. If you want to add your voice to a group of people asking Scripps to extend the eligibility of eighth grade students, please sign the petition here.
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