Wednesday, April 7, 2010

8th grade spelling bee

When I was in the 8th grade, I was fortunate enough to qualify for the state, and ultimately the national, Scripps Howard Spelling Bee.  Now, having a certain amount of talent in the spelling area, I made it through my school and regional qualifiers without much effort.  Once I was qualified for state, I knew that I needed to put some work into learning new words to be more prepared for the contest.  I started going through old spelling lists and reading (yes, reading) the dictionary!  My mom quizzed me almost every day and my parents gave me my 8th grade graduation present early - a huge, electric typewriter (that kind of dates me, doesn't it?) so that I could type words as another way to learn them.  My teacher/principal would send me to the library during school to study.  Since my teacher/principal was also the school librarian (and she was teaching class), I often ended up falling asleep during this time.  After winning state, the local newspaper came out to do a story and take a picture.  The picture showed me sitting on the front lawn of the school with my teacher/principal, studying together and the news article quoted her as saying how much she had worked with me to achieve this accomplishment.  I always thought that was a little humorous...
So why am I telling this story?  There are several lessons we can pull out of this story:
1- Natural talent can only take you so far.  Once you hit a certain level, you must practice your skills to advance.
2- There are different ways to learn.  Some need visual, some verbal, some interactive learning and a combination of these is ideal.
3- You can't send a child into the library and expect them to stay awake.  Wait- that's not the lesson...
You can't just tell someone to do something and expect that they will actually do it.  There needs to be some monitoring and accountability.  Progress should be checked and sometimes additional instruction may be needed.
4- You don't have to know every word in the dictionary to coach or mentor someone else to greatness.  Parents are awesome.  Spelling is definitely not my dad's thing.  But he was there (mom, too) to support and encourage me in the challenge.
5- Be deserving of what you take credit for.  What is your perception of the teacher/principal in this story?  Insincere?  A bit of a weasel?  Do you know people like that?  Are you people like that?  Who really deserves the credit?
What kind of leader will you be today?

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