As longtime sponsors of the Fairfax County Spelling Bee, we’ve spent the past eight years admiring the brainpower, poise and grace our youngest residents possess.
With most headlines and news programs focused on tight budgets, program cuts and political bickering, this week’s spelling bee was both a breath of fresh air and validation that the future is not all gloomy.
For nearly three hours Thursday night, 57 spellers — some younger than 10 — calmly strolled up to a microphone at Sidney Lanier Middle School and pounded out four- and five-syllable words that might have made a seasoned English professor blush.
Prior to arriving at Lanier’s auditorium, we’re fairly confident most bee observers might have had a difficult time spelling tongue-twisters such as barabara, umlaut and lederhosen — which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “knee-length leather trousers worn especially in Bavaria.”
Preparing for a spelling bee — whether it involves a single classroom, a 1,000-student middle school or an entire county — helps students gain a deeper understanding of languages and the origin of words.
And, contrary to popular belief, that preparation involves more than hour upon hour of grueling memorization. The way children learn the words is not just by rote studying, but through etymology and learning roots, pronunciations, and multiple definitions—all invaluable assets on the way to building a world class vocabulary. Once kids become adept at breaking down words, they can decipher meanings of related words and become better readers and writers.
Each of those skills provide a solid foundation in achieving long-term education and career goals. The same can be said for geography bees, science fairs and any other endeavor that requires patience, preparation and discipline. Whether their futures involve medicine, law, marketing or media, those are skills that will serve students well.
Congratulations to the students who participated in this year’s event, as well as the dozens of parents, teachers and volunteers who made Thursday’s competition — and dozens of preliminary qualifying bees earlier this winter — a possibility. Spelling bee coordinators across the county, many of whom had to reschedule their school bees two or three times as a result of multiple school cancellations and delays, deserve a special round of gratitude. Your hard work and patience is greatly appreciated.