Alternatively, this could be titled "Dealing with disappointment and losing graciously"...
It's been a busy week or two. I'm buried in assignment marking and preparation for the next couple of weeks of teaching. It's a bit intense. And in the middle of all of this, we've had to plough through hundreds of words on the Year 2 and 4 spelling lists.
One of our children has won the school spelling bee for his year level each year that he's been in it. This year he wasn't among the three finalists chosen from his class. This had a lot to do with lack of practice and preparation. Each time we tried to get him to spell words, there were tears and sulks. He wanted to read a book at the same time as we were asking him to spell "silhouette" and "lieutenant." It wasn't pretty.
I think he must have thought he would breeze into the year level final simply by turning up on the day. As we said to him afterwards, it was a bit like James Magnussen at the Olympics. Nothing's certain until you're wearing the medal around your neck. Consequently, he was pretty upset when he came home last Thursday about not having made the cut. It took a lot to get him to admit that it was entirely due to his lack of interest in practising and working hard to memorise the words. And lots of talk had to go on about saying thank you to the kind and caring kids from his class who came up to him at lunchtime in the playground last week to ask if he was okay, and to make sure he said congratulations to those who were chosen. And to the eventual winner of the year level final today, one of the girls in his class.
I'm not too sad that he didn't get any further. Last year, when he did get through to the regional level, the word list was frightening. There were literally thousands of words, some of which I hadn't even heard of. So I'm looking forward to sharing some sympathy with the winner's Mum, since I sometimes see her at the school gate when I do the afternoon school pick up. Glad I don't have to do all that again.
Meanwhile, our other spelling participant did make it through to his year level final. It was a weekend of torture going through the long list of new words that he had to learn (in just two days, since he was only chosen on Friday). The final was yesterday morning. He bowed out in the final round, on the word "tongue." I knew as soon as I heard the word that he was gone. Words with unusual non-phonetic spellings get him every time. There were three of them left, he and another boy spelled their words incorrectly and the little girl who was the last one to spell her word, got hers correct.
I thought he'd done really well, but his disappointment was highly obvious. As in full on head in the hand sulking posture happening up at the front of the school hall. He managed to pull it together to smile for the group photo, and then I had to drag him over to shake hands with the winner (and her Mum, one of the few Mums at school I know well enough to talk to...). So last night we had to have yet another conversation about how to lose graciously. About how he really enjoyed all the congratulations when he won last year, so it's highly likely that this year's winner would enjoy the same thing.
I'm a competitive type myself. I do get their disappointment. It's always a bit scary to see my kids reacting in almost the same way I'm tempted to when I don't win. But I think that learning to lose graciously and to handle disappointment are lessons that are probably best learned earlier rather than later. I think there are adults out there who are still learning them.
And I'm sincerely hoping that such lessons will be remembered this time next year when all this rolls around again....