Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spelling Bees CAN sting

Two weeks ago I completed my duties as spelling bee chairman at my children’s elementary school. I think the wounds from being "stung" are finally gone, so I thought I'd send you a bit of advice.  Don't shake a hive that's full of bees!

I didn't think the spelling bee would be too time consuming or stressful...what?...distribute a couple of lists, organize the pre- and final spelling hard could it be.  It ended up more stressful and painful than I ever expected.  Volunteer work shouldn't be this painful, right?

The cause of my pain and stress came from shaking up the past years' format. Normally I wouldn't have changed things, but I wasn't satisfied by some experiences that I had from past spelling bees. Now that the spelling bee was "mine", I wanted to facilitate some change.  Once the changes became obvious, that's when I started to get stung.  I soon learned that shaking the hive can be quite painful.  I was too stubborn to give up, so I forged ahead despite differing opinions.  

I figured that Scripp's National Spelling Bee knew what they were doing, so I decided to use their format.  Instead of a school-wide written pretest, we'd do classroom bees (leaving this task in the hands of the teachers and a fun activity for all the school's students).  The study lists would come prepared (no extra work or reinventing the "wheel" needed).  And the final spelling bee would utilize the national spelling bee's guide (again, no extra work, it is already done for you).  

Once the new plan was approved by the principal and PTA, I was good to go. It fulfilled my objective--involve every student by helping them expand their vocabulary in a fun, interactive way.  I learned from a few bumps (of my own making) in the road, but this new format took shape and it seemed like the best one.

By the end I felt the spelling bee was successful.  The parents of the winner were pleased by the length and fairness of the bee.  I got some negative feedback as well (that could have waited).  And you know, I think I prefer the positive feedback.  As you can imagine, I slept like a baby that night.

Next time (if there is a next time), I'll be a little more aware of how I'll except and digest feedback and criticism.  In the meantime I'll have to grow some thicker skin.  I also hope that with the next opportunity I'll be allowed to do some free flying.

Temporal lesson learned:


No matter how others choose to implement their ideas, we should respect them and exercise patience and faith in each other, and then trust that that person will do his/her best. 

Spiritual lesson learned:

Gentle guidance and leadership will help a person to see what lies ahead of them and how to apply their agency wisely.  It's never forced.


  1. Ah, yes, I have been there...not with a spelling bee, but something similar. I think you're a hero for taking it on- and everyone should be falling at your feet and thanking you for working so hard! Sounds like it was terrific. Not to sound too bitter, but it never fails to amaze me how those who aren't willing to volunteer themselves are often quite happy to criticize the efforts of those who DO jump in and take on a big project... Anyway, you have a very gracious and mature attitude about it all- I should try to emulate you! ;-)

  2. way to tackle something hard and try and improve it :)