Guest column/Bravo to our academic athletes in spelling bees

“Where’s the vorschlaghammer?” “Look in the lagerschuppen!” It’s spelling bee time. While adults may not be able to spell those two words spelling bee children have not only spelled them correctly but have known their definitions: “Sledgehammer” and “storage shed.”

Spelling bees are immeasurably important. These electrifying childhood experiences contribute vitally to each participant’s academic and social exceptionality. Bees hone skill-development, sharpen analytic ability, cultivate bravura, instill poise and embed self-assurance.

Children will benefit incalculably in the future from this incomparable, invigorating, enriching learning-experience. The academic exposure and training provided by the Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee Presented by the Herald-Star each year inure significantly to a child’s evolving intellectual growth.

An eight-month training program lies ahead for their child. There is no comparable educational training or prestigious venue for a child, and it’s available only at the bee. The child’s language facility is of immeasurable value.

Following enrollment students are launched on an eight-month, mind-stretching, linguistic-epiphany and experiential-odyssey as they are trained, rehearsed and groomed for the national spelloff, all of which is tantamount to a “mini-doctoral program” in spelling, linguistics and grammar.

The bee cultivates a child’s social, literary and communicational sophistication — children acquire new friends, self-composure, elan, aplomb and panache simultaneously augmenting their knowledge, developing composure and sharpening their communicational skills.

By spelling bee time the children will communicate more effectively, present themselves more impressively and express themselves more persuasively. Spelling bees are one of the most important intellectual, self-growth, academic experiences schoolchildren can enjoy. The experience is not only memorable and motivating for children, the future rewards are character-building and life-enhancing.

The exhilarating Scripps National Spelling Bee dominates the nation’s spotlight each year around the Memorial Day holiday, culminating in an exciting telecast in Washington, D.C.

However, the bee actually begins around August of the preceding year when more than 26,000 schools across the country enroll more than 11 million students in the bee, some as young as 6. The Herald-Star is fully involved in that event.

The Herald-Star joined with the Jefferson County Educational Service Center in 1985 to create the Jefferson-Harrison Regional Spelling Bee and became part of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 2019 National Spelling Bee will be Scripps’ 92nd continuing contest.

In its mission statement Scripps writes: “We help children by giving them the words and enabling them to become speakers and writers of their dreams. We provide your child with powerful lessons about language, learning and life. The children gain valuable experience in public speaking. These experiences enable them to stand confidently at auditions, class presentations, interviews for scholarships and jobs in the future. All participants at every level come away winners.”

Shawn and Maura McKeegan of Steubenville attest to the Scripps message. Their daughter, Grace, a former eighth-grader at Buckeye North Elementary School, became one such “winner. Grace is a Winning Academic Athlete: The “intellectual training and requisite prowess” of every participating child is as vigorous, challenging and demanding as that of physical athletes. Grace McKeegan won two trips to compete in the national Bee.

What is often unappreciated or misunderstood about spelling bees is the important way they enlarge a child’s knowledge base.

Words encapsulate knowledge. When we learn to spell words we learn their definitions, thereby augmenting our learning, expanding our vocabulary and increasing our knowledge. When we are able to spell a word we simultaneously increase our knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

Irving Belz, 13, increased his knowledge by learning the word “insouciant” meant “indifference or unconcern” and won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1951. Henry Feldman won the Scripps National Bee in 1960 spelling “eudaeonic, learning it meant “producing happiness.” Jacques Bailly learned the word “elucubrate” meant “an expressly studious effort” and won the National Bee in 1980.

In 2002, Pratyush Buddiga learned “prospicience” meant “looking forward,” winning the National Bee; in 2005, Anurag Kashyap spelled “appoggiatura” to win the Bee, learning it was “an embellishing musical note” and in 2015, Kavya Shivashankar learned “Laodicean” meant “luke warm about politics and religion” and won the Bee.

National Spelling Bee champions win other things, including cash, a trophy, prizes and the chance to appear on national television.

The National Spelling Bee occasionally uses foreign words to challenge participants: “Bewusstseinslage,” German, meaning “devoid of sensory sensation;” “convincere,” Latin, meaning “to refute;” “miarolitic,” Italian, meaning “irregular cavities;” “assaisonnement,” and French, meaning seasoning.

Bee participants also learn exacting contemporary words: Absquatulation, “ignobly sneaking away;” bloviation, “a pompous, self-aggrandizing blowhard;” pasquinade, “a satirical characterization;” psychoneurological, “the psychological effect on the central and autonomic nervous systems.”

There is another major benefit with which spelling bee participants are endowed: They respect the importance of effective language-usage and self-expression. They become more judicious in selecting language, more syntactic in arranging language, and more discriminating in employing language, thereby projecting themselves more elegantly, eloquently and influentially in future endeavors and matters of importance.

Consequently, when bee participants present their case as future adults — whether interviewing for a position, voicing a meaningful opinion, eliciting a positive reception or garnering cooperation — they will have at their command an elaborate panoply of language, responsive language facility and an imperturbable self-confidence to undergird them.

Bee participants will cultivate the skill, acumen and presence to use language deftly to achieve, ascend and fulfill personal goals that might otherwise be impossible, but for their experience, training and grooming in spelling bees.

As adults they will be able to present themselves in an admirable, impressive and persuasive manner with which their experience in “the bee” equipped them, employing the rich language reservoir and expressive communicational efficacy they derived from their spelling-bee experience.

“Hey, Bronco, get me the vorschlaghammer.” “The what?” “The sledgehammer, you yutz!” (Bronco hadn’t enrolled in The Herald-Star’s Regional Spelling Bee.)

(Potts is a resident of Wintersvillle.)

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