My 4th Grade Spelling Bee

I thought I’d help you start your week off with a little humor. This absolutely true story is one of those experiences that you wish you could watch on demand later and laugh at yourself.

When I was in 4th Grade, I was so excited because I was finally old enough to participate in my school’s spelling bee. When the teachers passed out the word lists, I studied for hours every day after school.

I could all the words in the later rounds with ease.

Did I know what words like “plumbiferous” mean?

Not a clue.

But I could sure spell them!

But I didn’t study the first 3-4 rounds. The words seemed way too easy and I was arrogant enough to think pretty confident that I could spell those words without any problems.

The day of the spelling bee finally arrived.

I sat nervously in my cold, hard metal chair.

My palms were sweaty.

My knees were weak.

I didn’t throw up any spaghetti, but I was nervous.

This was my one shot.

We were arranged alphabetically. My maiden name was “Smith” so I was placed towards the end of the row of students.

When my turn came, I gingerly made my way to the microphone.

The teacher announcing the words asked me to spell, “lion.”

A Little Context:

I was an avid reader as a child, and, at the time, I was reading a popular American classic book that had a lot of regional dialects written into the dialogue. Characters used slang more often than not, and many letters were omitted at the end of words and replaced with that lovely piece of punctuation:

the apostrophe.

Back to the Story:

I don’t know if I’ve share this with you yet, but I am a little hard of hearing.

My close friends beg me to get a hearing aid so we can eat at a noisy restaurant and carry on a conversation.

Most of the time, I can get by with my poor hearing.

But on that day in 4th grade, I could not for the life of me comprehend what the announcer was saying.

I asked her to repeat the word.

“Lion,” she said.

I still couldn’t tell her what to say and was starting to panic.

I skipped asking for the definition and instead asked her to use the word in a sentence.

With the entire school watching and the echo in that large gymnasium, I had no idea what she said.

Feeling like I was throwing a Hail Mary in a desperate football game, I asked her one last time to repeat the word.

“LION!!” she nearly shouted.

Ahh…then I understood. The anxiety left me and I felt confident for the first time.

I stepped up close to the microphone and spelled my word:

“L-Y-I-N-apostrophe,” I said proudly. I smiled at the judges waiting their approval.


Silence like I’ve never experienced before permeated the gym.

The panel of teacher stared at me with mouths half-opened.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the judge said, “I’m sorry.”

I sat down in humiliation and confusion and fought back the tears.

A Happy Ending

Twenty-six years later, I find this absolutely hysterical.

While I never again competed in a spelling bee, I have learned to laugh at my 10-year-old self.

And I can also relate to those poor teachers who tried so hard to keep a straight face when they received a very unconventional spelling.

When have you had to keep a straight face during a class? I know you have stories! Crop a comment below; I’d love to hear them!

Until Next Time,

Brenna (Mrs. Nelson)

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